Green Room

Poll Shows Race Relations Unchanged Under Obama; New “Old” WH Painting May Hold Clue

posted at 2:34 pm on August 24, 2011 by

The bloom is off the rose when it comes to the perception of improved race relations under Barack Obama, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The poll, jointly conducted by USA Today/Gallup organization, found that only 35% of Americans say they believe race relations have gotten better, while 23% claim they have gotten worse. Those numbers contrast sharply with the optimism expressed immediately after the 2008 election, when 70% of respondents predicted that a black man in the Oval Office would positively impact race relations.

Among the more interesting findings in the poll was that 48% of blacks and 46% of Democrats claimed that race relations had improved. These numbers are a far remove from the 70% high in November of 2008, but they still paint a far rosier picture than the 19% of Republicans who profess to see an improvement.

I suspect that the answer given by black and Democratic respondents is predicated on wishful thinking rather than on reality. The level of unrest in the black community, which has been manifest this summer in the rise of vicious flash mobs in urban areas, hardly meshes with a view of improved race relations. Ditto for the almost incessant and unsupportable accusations of racism by white liberals leveled at anyone who disagrees with the president’s policies, a tendency that began troublingly early in his presidency.

Some of the factors responsible for the poll findings hark back to the president himself. Take his troubling knee-jerk reaction to the run-in between Cambridge, Massachusetts, police and his personal friend, Henry Louis Gates in July of 2009. Without a command of the facts in the case, Obama appeared in front of a national TV audience to announce that the police had “acted stupidly.”

Another is his decision not to engage the nation on the topic of race relations despite his insistence in a long-winded speech in March of 2008 that such a national conversation was long overdue.

And then there are the subtleties that suggest Obama is not quite the post-racial leader he once presented himself to be. Consider his newest edition to the White House art collection. For a change, the artist is not black. In fact, the work was painted by one of the most famous white artists of the twentieth century—Norman Rockwell. Titled The Problem We All Live With, it depicts U.S. marshals escorting Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old black child, into a New Orleans elementary school that was ordered integrated by the courts. The N-word has been scrawled on the wall behind the girl and the traces of a hurled tomato remain on the ground beneath.

What is most relevant about the work is the year it was completed, 1963. Much has happened since then to advance the cause of racial equality, including the establishment of federal programs that, in the words of Star Parker, do not promote “just equal treatment under the law, but special treatment under the law” for blacks. Why is the president still mired in the past?

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From the article:

“The N-word there — it sure stops you,” said William Kloss, an art historian and expert on the White House collections. “There’s a realistic reason for having the graffiti as a slur, [but] it’s also right in the middle of the painting. … It’s a painting that could not be hung even for a brief time in the public spaces [of the White House], I’m pretty sure of that.”

Considering that the First Lady invited the rapper Common, who uses that word freely, to the WH for a poetry reading, I’m pretty sure that the Rockwell painting could in fact be hung in the public spaces of the White House.

Laura Curtis on August 24, 2011 at 2:59 PM

IMO, bho has done very little to help the darker skin shade since elected. In fact, bho and team have made it worse by trying to plow up snakes between shades of people. You can see this with the black flash mobs, the way holder is dealing with the bp, and now the black gals in dc are going after the Tea Party and all r’s here in America. There is no reason what-so-ever for this to be happening. We are ALL American’s no matter our skin shade. I fear things are not going to get better buy worse in the next year’s campaign by bho!

letget on August 24, 2011 at 3:08 PM

The jerk sees himself as the little girl in the painting when in reality he’s the phony blowhard behind the curtain in “The Wizard of Oz.”

erp on August 24, 2011 at 3:41 PM

We are ALL American’s no matter our skin shade.

letget on August 24, 2011 at 3:08 PM

You think that, I think that, but it’s pretty clear that there are a lot of people, including Obama, Waters, Holder, and other elected and appointed officials, who don’t.

We got close to legal equality, but that effort has now been sabotaged pretty badly. To some extent we have to fight the Civil Rights movement all over again, because some people could not live with “equal.”

Merovign on August 24, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Certainly our hearts are touched by the young girl in the painting. It was an excellent political statement in 1963 and it is a great remembrance of how things were in our country not that many years ago. Perhaps an artwork can be found which depicts how things are presently at the school this child was entering. Just a comparison to see how race relations have done in that district. For every white racist hurling epithets at black children, there were thousands behind the scenes changing, growing, loving, reaching out in a Christian, caring way. That is what Obama does NOT want us to remember.

Mae on August 24, 2011 at 4:08 PM

Perhaps an artwork can be found which depicts how things are presently at the school this child was entering.

Perhaps a phalanx of purple-shirted union thugs blocking the door to a charter school?

Or a mob of scruffily-dressed and poorly groomed Greens cutting the power to her home?

Crawford on August 24, 2011 at 4:40 PM

Soooooh, Huckleberry Finn is Bowlderized because it contains the N word, but it’s okay to have a painting with the N word in the West Wing of the White House. Where’s the outrage!/

Buy Danish on August 24, 2011 at 7:44 PM

Why is the president still mired in the past?

Because the things he heard (not experienced) about the U.S.’s racist past shaped his entire worldview as a child, and as an adult, he has sought out people who would confirm and support that worldview (e.g., Rev. Wright’s: “white man’s greed runs a world in need”). Barry sees himself as some sort of great moral avenger of the evil white man’s wrongs. The irony is, Barry Obama is one of the most corrupt individuals — of any color — ever to be president of this nation.

AZCoyote on August 25, 2011 at 6:08 AM