Why do we expect Barack Obama to fix race relations?

While most African-Americans and many white Americans saw Obama’s election as a milestone for the country, a look at the broader picture suggests that race relations appear to have worsened slightly during Obama’s presidency. An August 2014 survey by Pew Research showed that 69 percent of Americans believed blacks and whites got along well, a 7 percent drop since 2009. Black responders had a dimmer view than whites, with 12 percent believing things were worse compared with 5 percent of whites.

Theories as to why this has happened range from blame for Obama for openly siding with ethnic minorities to a backlash from whites who fear they are losing their majority in this country.

Lecia Brooks, outreach director of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, said that many whites, from working class to quite wealthy, have come to see themselves as victims under Obama.

She said she was jubilant when Obama won in 2008. “And the backlash began immediately. It reminded me that racism is alive and well,” she said, adding that Obama has actually been constrained in speaking about race because of it. “Say this, and you’re wrong to one side. Say this, and you’re wrong to the other. It’s a no-win situation.”

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