Poll Shows Race Relations Unchanged Under Obama; New “Old” WH Painting May Hold Clue
posted at 2:34 pm on August 24, 2011 by Howard Portnoy
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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