Black lawmakers lament the flaring of racial tensions under Obama

Asked whether the overall trajectory of race relations has been positive or negative in recent years, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) paused for a moment.

“Right after the election of the president, I would have thought it was going in a positive direction, but I am not so sure anymore,” she said.

“I think we have lost ground as it relates to our tolerance of people who are different or people who we believe have not worked hard enough. You hear the language all the time on talk radio — the buzzwords, often primarily directed at low-income people and communities of color.”

Fudge’s party colleague and fellow CBC member Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) suggested that the presence of the first black president has sparked more open conversation about racial issues. This, she suggested, could be seen as a positive development overall, yet one that has also led to bruised feelings.

In the past, “so much was swept under the rug,” Lee said. “The country for whatever reason has not confronted race in the way that it should. With stop-and-frisk and all the issues around income inequality, you really have to wonder [how much things have improved.] But I think a lot of it is to do with the idea that race has been an issue that we can talk about.”