Racial divisions in Obama's America

February 11, 2014 by Jason Kornwitz

In March, Northeastern University professors Amílcar Barreto and Richard D. O'Bryant will convene a score of scholars for a daylong conference on gender and identity in the age of Obama. The experts will present scholarly papers on topics ranging from feminism to family, the best of which will be co-edited by Barreto and O'Bryant and then compiled into the second volume of their series on American identity in the age of Obama. The first volume, published in December by Routledge, derived from their 2011 conference on race and identity, which focused on the role of race, ethnicity, and immigration status in shaping conceptions of what it means to be American. Here, Barreto, an associate professor of political science and an affiliated faculty member of the International Affairs and African American Studies departments, and O'Bryant, the director of the African American Institute and a lecturer of political science, explain why Obama's election has opened a new chapter in American history.

It's now been more than five years since Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. Since then, how have his presidency and his policies shaped the public's view of race and ethnicity in America?

Rather than ameliorate public views on race, Obama's presidency has actually polarized them. Despite the prevalence of a public discourse of a post-racial society, a sizeable portion of the public was not ready to contemplate substantial change. Their goal was to maintain the racial status quo while flaunting the rhetoric of a post-racial America. Obama's optimism on racial matters was fueled, no doubt, by his experiences in a multiracial Hawaii and Chicago. He failed to adequately take into account a vast swath of the country where interracial harmony was never desired or even resisted. Hence this reality and the racial resistance caused much of Obama's message of racial parity, social redirection, and racial tolerance to reach an imbalanced listening audience. For some it fell on a collective deaf ear. Ultimately, the country seems to be at a stalemate when it comes to even discussing the issue of race in America. The election of Barak Obama, the first African American president, does not seem to have been enough to thaw the deep seeded racial polarization.

In the introduction to the first volume of your series, you write: "Such persistent assertions about Obama's origins suggest that racial tensions endure in the American body politic alongside an unhealthy dose of xenophobia." In your view, what are the biggest keys to achieving racial equality in America?

Promoting racial equality will always depend first on dialogue. There is a great deal of truth to the suggestion posited by various scholars that there is a permanence to racism. Even in the wake of Obama's reelection, race remains a taboo subject. Racism denial, in a myriad of forms, has become a habitual practice in day-to-day affairs. In the words of the eminent sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, we live in a society of "racism without racists." Attempts to engage in civil conversations on this topic by both the Clinton and Obama administrations have been met with benign neglect and summarily withered on the vine. Perhaps Obama will be in a better position to address these issues as part of his post-presidential agenda. Regardless of his future actions, however, we have an obligation to keep the matter in the forefront of America's conscience and address this matter now. And we see no better place to start and continue the difficult conversation about the issue of race in America than institutions of higher education.

In a 1996 questionnaire for a Chicago gay and lesbian newspaper, Obama, then a candidate for the Illinois state senate, wrote, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." Yet it took him until the spring of 2012 to publicly endorse same-sex marriage, telling ABC News, "I think same-sex couples should be able to get married." Has an endorsement from one of the world's most powerful people made it easier for politicians to publicly favor marriage equality? If not, what would?

Those aspiring to attain and hold public office must always be cautious when promoting highly polarizing issues. And Barak Obama's presidency has certainly thrust into the public spotlight the contentious issue of LGBT rights—the great civil rights battle of our day—more than any of his predecessors. As a shrewd political operator, President Obama calculated that it was safer to push for LGBT rights after his reelection. The advantage for future officeholders is that Obama's policies will make it harder to put the genie back in the bottle. Although some may not look at it as easier, what has unquestionably occurred is a dramatic shift in mainstream America's attitude toward marriage equality. Having it firmly posited in the discussion of equal rights of all Americans has made resistance to issue much less contentious.

Explore further: The Obamas and the new politics of race

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2 / 5 (4) Feb 12, 2014
The fact that Obama is a complete idiot and failure makes everyone who listens to the criticism think you are a racists for speaking the truth. His blundering buffoonery on the international stage plus his bungling of the economy begs criticism, but when you make any kind of accurate account of his activity you are automatically called a racist for telling the truth. There is not a black person on the planet that does not use race to its maximum when necessary. They are like muslims who either support, condone, encourage, or are terrorists. The same with blacks, they are racists, or support, condone or encourage it. A sad world. And every white person is to blame. Sound familiar.
not rated yet Feb 12, 2014
Given the speed of financial crisis, which did escalate at the end of Bush era, the Obama governement is one huge island of economical stability. Apparently some people do want to return into tents like at the times of subprime mortgage crisis. Of course, every stability is dissipative by its very nature like the overdampened PID regulator. The economy of socialism is overregulated - therefore it's stable, but permanently of a bad shape. But what you're paying for is not the Bush or Obama, but the ignorance of cold fusion finding. The price of fossil fuels can only to rise - and the USA can do nothing against it this time. The contemporary economical crisis is actually just an energetic crisis.
5 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2014
There is not a black person on the planet that does not use race to its maximum when necessary

Seriously? Do you mean to say that white people never used racial biases to their advantage throughout history and in the present?
not rated yet Feb 12, 2014
When the economy of society goes down, then the gender and racial differences escalate and vice-versa: the rich times of 60's (when the oil was dirty cheap and the people did travel at the Moon with surprising ease) did bring the unisex, hippie style and the fast and piecefull end of racial segregation in the USA. The contemporary people apparently don't realize, that their society is the subject of the same physical laws, like the condensing fluid or mixture, which is separating phases under low energy state. They just seek the source of their troubles in some particular people or politics, but the actual reason of these problems remains hidden for them. If you really want to get rid of racial problems, just adopt the cold fusion.
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 12, 2014
Exactly correct, porgie. The entire "racial issue" is nothing more than a scam by political race baiters to seek one advantage over whites or another. They even claim that American society itself is intrinsically racist,.. so by virtue of being while and existing as you are, you're a racist. This is idiot liberalism at its worst.

Blacks have been victimized only by the racism of lowered expectations of the democrats and the welfare state is there gift. The deplorable condition that blacks find themselves in now are due purely to their own failed separtist anti-white-society thuggish culture, and the perpetual victimization culture breed into generations of them by intellectually corrupt politics. All the pathetic statistics concerning education, crime, welfare, kids born out of marriage,... are all cultural issues that are always somehow the white man's fault.

Obama, the first black president, incredibly has not done one thing for race relations.
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 12, 2014
Clarence Thomas:
"The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated, the worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, [were] by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia."

"He failed to adequately take into account a vast swath of the country where interracial harmony was never desired or even resisted."
Yes he did take this into account by hiring staff that reflect his racist views, like Eric Holder who refuses to prosecute blacks for the same crimes he prosecuted non-blacks.

Another exercise for the 'progressives' to blame everyone but themselves and their messiah for their failures.

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 12, 2014
From 2010:
"Taken together with the actions and comments of other Obama appointees, including especially Attorney General Eric Holder, they reveal the deep-seated racism that informs the president's every policy and pronouncement and threatens to turn the United States into a 21st-century version of pre-Civil Rights America."
"By appointing a racist as his Attorney General, Obama effectively cemented history's judgment of his administration's racialist policies. Eric Holder, who called Americans "cowards" because they were unwilling to engage in a public debate about "race," has proven himself to be both a coward and a racist. "
"it is the leftists who have used and continue to use blacks unmercifully to disrupt "establishment events," and it is blacks who are rightfully insulted -- not to mention demeaned -- by the left's shameless use of them to promote not racial understanding, but the advancement of their anti-capitalist agenda."
3 / 5 (2) Feb 12, 2014
the first black president, incredibly has not done one thing for race relations
IMO the USA citizens, who did vote him, did it instead. The black people are still minority and if Obama would help them openly, he would face the undeniable suspiciousness at both sides. Obama tried to reconcile the Muslims with traditional perception of USA instead. I admit, he wasn't very successful with it - but could he ever expect something different?
2 / 5 (4) Feb 12, 2014
"A black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon rejected plans to build a Trader Joe's, fearing that the store would result in further gentrification and residents being priced out. Or, as several conservative blogs argue, black activists wanted to keep out whites, and if the races were reversed the mainstream liberal media would be shouting "racists" from the hilltops. "
if Obama would help them openly,

BHO is destroying the black community. Black unemployment is high and getting worse.
But that issue won't be discussed by the 'progressives'.
1 / 5 (3) Feb 12, 2014
In case you missed this:
"The former mayor of New Orleans – once the public face of a city battered by Hurricane Katrina – could be headed to prison.

A jury has just returned guilty verdicts on 20 of the 21 counts of corruption and bribery that Ray Nagin faced in a nine-day trial."
3 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2014
In case you missed this:
"The former mayor of New Orleans – once the public face of a city battered by Hurricane Katrina – could be headed to prison.

A jury has just returned guilty verdicts on 20 of the 21 counts of corruption and bribery that Ray Nagin faced in a nine-day trial."

I wonder if he claimed in court that "it was Bush's fault".
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2014
"Alabama State Rep. Alvin Holmes, a Democrat and black man, derogatorily referred to Thomas as an "Uncle Tom," and said he doesn't like the esteemed justice because Thomas is married to a white woman.

Read more: http://dailycalle...tEHRI69V

The democrat is referring to Supreme Court Justice Clarance Thomas.

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