About this time four years ago, many people did not believe Barack Obama would be the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States over his formidable rival, Hillary Clinton. But disbelief slowly gave way to belief, and ultimate seminal hope and euphoria when he ultimately became President Barack Obama. At least for some….
There were those who optimistically believed that America had truly turned a page in history in terms of improving race relations, finally putting to rest many ugly bigoted beliefs, prejudicial practices, and decades of discrimination that had persisted despite the laws and policies that had been passed. But there were also those equally determined to hang on the racial divides and they have played out in one way since President Barack Obama took office.
A new Newsweek poll confirms that since the election of Barack Obama, many people believe that not only has his election not helped race relations, but may have done more to widen the racial divide. According to the poll, “nearly 60 percent of Americans are now convinced that race relations have either deteriorated or stagnated” since President Obama took office.
This opinion is prevalent among whites and blacks.
But should we be surprised. The vestiges of racism and the conditions that bred and continue to breed its perennial presence were implanted and nurtured in every aspect of American society long before Barack Obama was elected president. One could argue, based upon history and the rancor that has played out during his presidency, that his election was an aberration. That electing a black person will be a “norm” that will continue to elude us for generations to come.
The divides and perceptions of them among blacks and whites run deep.
The poll confirms that given the same scenarios, blacks and whites come away with different conclusions. For example, while both black and whites can agree that racial stereotyping still occur, they disagree how it affects black people’s lives. When it comes to affordable housing, 70 percent of whites think that blacks have an equal chance of buying one compared to only 35 percent of blacks believing the same. Only 25 percent of blacks believe that they receive equal treatment in the job market compared to 70 percent of whites. And when it comes to police and the court system, 84 percent of whites believe that blacks receive the same treatment as whites compared to 52 percent of blacks.
With such opposite views based upon life experience, how do we hope to ever get to a place where we work together to achieve meaningful and lasting improvement in relations among the races?
If President Obama gets re-elected, should improving race relations be high among his priorities to address during the next four years?