When America elected her first black president in 2008 many people thought that it would usher in a new era of racial healing. With Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s protégé in the White House what could possibly go wrong?
According to a New York Times poll, a lot has gone wrong. Most people, especially blacks, believe that race relations have deteriorated during the Obama years. Most blacks appear to blame it on white racism. Apparently, they do not believe that the president himself, by his actions and his inactions could have aggravated and exploited America’s racial divide. They did not seem to see any significance to the fact that Obama kept inviting Rev. Al Sharpton to the White House.
The New York Times has done the poll and it presents the story:
Seven years ago, in the gauzy afterglow of a stirring election night in Chicago, commentators dared ask whether the United States had finally begun to heal its divisions over race and atone for the original sin of slavery by electing its first black president. It has not. Not even close.
A New York Times/CBS News pollconducted last week reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans, including heavy majorities of both whites and blacks, think race relations are generally bad, and that nearly four in 10 think the situation is getting worse. By comparison, two-thirds of Americans surveyed shortly after President Obama took office said they believed that race relations were generally good.
The Times being the Times, it does not ask whether Obama has been a divisive president. It notes the prevalence of white-on-black violence, and especially of white police-on-black violence, but ignores black-on-black and black-on-white violence. Events that fit the narrative gain pride of place. Everything else is ignored or repressed.
Over the past five years more people have concluded that the Obama administration favors one race over another, a fair and rational conclusion. One need but compare administration reaction to the death of Michael Brown to its reaction to the death of Kate Steinle.
Unsurprisingly, only 15% of those surveyed believed that race relations had improved under the Obama administration. Nearly half believed that they had no effect while a third believed that the administration had made things worse:
Two-thirds of those surveyed said his administration’s policies treated whites and blacks the same. Yet in 2010, 83 percent of Americans said the administration did not favor one race over the other.
Still, almost half of those questioned said the Obama presidency had had no effect on bringing the races together, while about a third said it had driven them further apart. Only 15 percent said race relations had improved. Seventy-two percent of blacks said they approved of the way Mr. Obama is handling race relations, compared with 40 percent of whites.
According to the poll, blacks recognize that race relations have deteriorated and that their own circumstances had gotten worse. And yet, they tend to blame it all on white racism. It’s a neat bit of moral sophistry: if I succeed, I get the credit; if I fail, you get the blame.
It is noteworthy that American blacks and whites seem to have very little personal interaction:
In large measure, the poll found that blacks and whites live in separate societies. Most whites say they do not live (79 percent), work (81 percent), or come in regular contact (68 percent) with more than a few blacks. While the numbers have not changed among whites in the past 15 years, the poll suggested some erosion in residential segregation among blacks. Only a third of blacks surveyed said that almost all of the people who lived near their homes were of the same race, compared with half who said so in a 2000 Times poll.
Since one does not know the particulars behind this statistic, one hesitates to conclude anything. Surely, it is possible that neighborhoods are becoming more integrated. And yet, in New York City, for example, increased gentrification in many previously all-minority neighborhoods might well have influenced the statistics.