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Have race relations improved?



Published: Mon, July 30, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA

Ask Americans how race relations have changed under their first black president, and they are ready with answers.

Ashley Ray, a white woman, hears more people debating racial issues. “I know a lot of people who really thought we were OK as a nation, a culture, and now they understand that we’re not,” she says.

Karl Douglass, a black man, sees stereotypes easing. “White people deal with me and my family differently,” he says.

Jose Lozano, who is Hispanic by way of Puerto Rico, believes prejudice is emerging from the shadows. “Now the racism is coming out,” he says.

In the afterglow of Barack Obama’s historic victory, most people in the United States believed that race relations would improve. Nearly four years later, has that dream come true? Americans have no shortage of thoughtful opinions, and no consensus.

As the nation moves toward the multiracial future heralded by this son of an African father and white mother, the events of Obama’s first term, and what people make of them, help trace the racial arc of his presidency.

Shortly before the 2008 election, 56 percent of Americans surveyed by the Gallup organization said that race relations would improve if Obama were elected. One day after his victory, 70 percent said race relations would improve, and only 10 percent predicted they would get worse.

Just weeks after taking office, Obama said, “There was justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination.”

Then he joked, “But that lasted about a day.”

Or, rather, three months.

By July 2009, the black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested for yelling at a white police officer who questioned whether Gates had broken into his own home. Asked to comment, Obama said he didn’t know all the facts, but Gates was a personal friend and the officer had acted “stupidly.”

The uproar was immediate. Obama acknowledged afterward, “I could’ve calibrated those words differently.”

Ed Cattaneo, a retired computer training manager from Cape May, N.J., points to that episode as evidence of how Obama has hurt race relations.

“He’s made them terrible,” says Cattaneo, who is white. He also sees Obama as siding against white people through actions such as his Justice Department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation charges against New Black Panthers and in a program to turn out the black vote called “African-Americans for Obama.”

Larry Sharkey, also white, draws different conclusions from the past four years.

“Attitudes are much better,” Sharkey says as he slices raw meat in a Philadelphia butcher shop. He remembers welcoming a black family that moved next door to him 20 years ago in Claymont, Del. A white neighbor advised him not to associate with the new arrivals, warning, “Your property values are going to go down.”

That kind of thing would never happen today, Sharkey says.

As Obama dealt with fallout from the Gates affair during the summer of 2009, the tea party coalesced out of opposition to Obama’s stimulus and health care proposals. The vast majority of tea partyers were white. A small number of them displayed racist signs or were connected to white supremacist groups, prompting the question: Are Obama’s opponents motivated by dislike of the president’s policies, his race — or both?

The president has discussed race in occasional speeches to groups such as the National Urban League or the National Council of La Raza, and in interviews with Hispanic and African-American media outlets. But he usually walks a careful line, allowing the nation to get used to the idea of a black president without doing things to make race seem a central aspect of his governance.


Comments

1cambridge(3027 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

It depends where you live. Some parts of the the country are more progressive than others. Some parts of the country live in the future (comparatively) and parts live in the past.

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2redeye1(4560 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

toycannon i agree totally with you. cambridge Maybe out there in the land of fruits and nuts, things seemed to have improve to you. But my relatives tell me differently. If anything ,they say it getting worse..

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3cambridge(3027 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Since only 13% of Americans are black and Obama was elected in 2008 and will win by a bigger margin in 2012 "I don't agree with you at all."

I do know that where I live people are "closer, friendlier, less combative, or less divided" than the people that post on this board, or some who live in mississippi for that matter.

http://xfinity.comcast.net/articles/n...

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4300(561 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Obama can't be blamed for the reaction of uncivilized Conservatives. It's the fault of people like toycannon that they simply can't fathom that a non-white became President.

Now, they'll point to people like Congressman West or Herman Cain as proof that they're not racist, all the while not even cognizant of the fact that they like those 2 guys because they're both self-loathing blacks.

This country's reaction was natural because it's a change that many older Americans never thought they would see. The resident Conservatives on this forum will always blame others for their own uneducated reactions, but that blame falls on deaf ears for all the non-racists. In other words, it's not Obama who is divisive, it's the Conservatives who can't accept the fact that a black guy won the election.

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5AnotherAverageCitizen(1175 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Obama becoming President will only have a small factor in race relations in this country. It takes generations. Think 1960 and what race relations were like. Then 1980 they improved. By 2000 many more interracial marraiges are taking place. By 2020, things will be even better. As each generation is less prejudice then the previous generation.

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6Jerry(500 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

@300
"uncivilized Conservatives"
"simply can't fathom that a non-white became President"
"they're both self-loathing blacks"
"uneducated reactions"

It's just too bad we can't all be as civil, tolerant, and inclusive as 300

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7redvert(2075 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Obama became president because more and more people saw that they could survive very well by becoming leaches on society. Racism did not enter into it.

The following is a supposed quote from a Alexander Tyler who some say did not exist but the words sure fit what is happening in America especially under obowser.

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."

Our leaches on society see obowser as their guide to all the freebees.

Now a good example of a collapse that is taking place is what is happening to a number of our cities, and that is going bankrupt. Our California poster, cambridge should understand this very well but probably thinks that just a little more taxes from the wealthy (employers) will fix all. Good luck on that.

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8One_Who_Stayed(237 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I agree with AnotherAverageCitizen.

The sort of bigotry that has plagued this country since its founding (both black and white) will progressively go away as each older generation dies off.

Right now, the black "leadership" if you will, are the folks that marched with Martin Luther King. They remember having police dogs let loose on them and fire hoses turned on them. They accomplished much in the 60's and 70's - but not much since. They have very bitter memories of hard fought political battles. They struggle with the fact that they are largely irrelevant today, so they make things seem as though they are still very bad between the races.

An unfortunate side effect of the gains they made, were the entitlement programs (Affirmative action for example) that most white folk see as blacks being "given" things that they haven't earned and organizations that, if white people started them, would be branded "hate groups" (the NAACP, the United Negro College Fund and so forth).

Fact is that both sides are being led by older folk whose views are formed more from the past than the future,

As far as the younger generations are concerned, race relations are quite good. These kids work, play, study and party together with very few problems. As entitlement programs go away and young blacks accomplish things that aren't looked upon as being "give aways", their peers (white and black) will look upon them as true equals and the more that happens, the better race relations will get in a natural progression.

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9300(561 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Jerry, I'm never inclusive nor tolerant of ignorance. The typical Conservative is uncivilized and uneducated. This has been proven by the demographic data from past elections. I'm not saying that the Democratic party doesn't have its own segments that are uncivilized, but they're definitely not Liberals (blacks, hispanics, blue-collar unions). They may vote Democratic, but they also tend to be quite conservative in their beliefs. But, since they're not white, or own the company, they'll never have a place in the GOP.

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10cambridge(3027 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I think this video explains the reason for the bigots among us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWHwxI...

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11Jerry(500 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if 300 managed to maintain a straight face while typing his comments.

I'll bet he actually did.

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