HOW FAR WE’VE COME: President Barack Obama, Ruby Bridges, and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum view Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With,” hanging in a West Wing hallway near the Oval Office, July 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The past week reminded us once again (as if we needed reminding) how racialized American politics has become since Barack Obama became our first African American president four years ago.
For many, President Obama’s historic victory signaled an evident shift toward what some called a “post-racial America.” Even those who rejected such talk conceded that Obama’s election was proof that our nation has grown in a positive direction.
In July, Associated Press reporter Jesse Washington examined the effect that President Obama’s election has had on the nation. According to Washington, shortly before the 2008 election, 56 percent of Americans surveyed by the Gallup organization poll said that race relations would improve if Obama were elected. One day after his victory, 70 percent said race relations would improve and only 10 percent predicted they would get worse.
But once Obama settled into the White House, it became clear that the president’s race — instead of becoming a nonissue in a post-racial era — would become a subtext of his every move and lead many of his opponents to level racially tinged charges against him (e.g., “He was born in Africa,” “He’s a closet Muslim,” “He’s a socialist,” “He’s hates America,” “He hates white people”).
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Barack Obama, America’s first black president, speaks near a portrait of George Washington, America’s first white president. (Pete Souza/Official White House Photo)
Just this past week alone, the president was described as “a retard” by one high-profile pundit, and accused of “shucking and jiving” by a former vice presidential candidate. Then, after respected Republican statesman Colin Powell again endorsed Obama for president, John Sununu, a surrogate for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, suggested Powell supports Obama because they share the same race. This adds juice to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Wednesday that found the 2012 election is turning out to be the most racially polarized presidential contest since 1988.
Now comes word today of a new Associated Press poll that finds racial attitudes have not improved during the four years of Barack Obama’s presidency. In fact, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey.
This leads us to wonder how racial progress might fare under a second term for President Obama. Or, whether things would improve or get worse under a Mitt Romney presidency that, presumably, would not be as haunted by the specter of race the way that President Obama’s has.
What do you think? Has President Obama’s time in office improved or worsened race relations in America?
Faced with a Democratic candidate who supports same-sex marriage and a Republican candidate with a dubious religous affliation, will Black voters sit out this year’s presidential election. A wave of news reports over the past few weeks have raised that question.
“Some black clergy see no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports same-sex marriage, so they are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day,” observed a widely circulated Associated Press report. It continues: “The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as President Barack Obama did in May. As for Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.”
A separate report from NPR’s All Things Considered homed in on African American Christians in the all-important swing state of Ohio. In the Youngstown area, where Obama won the majority of Black votes handily in 2008, reporter Allison Keyes spoke to parishioners at Friendship Baptist Church about their mixed feelings regarding the election. “I’m really in prayer as to what to do, whether to vote,” said Betty Washington. “I’ve never not voted. But it’s very disheartening to me to hear some of the things that are going on.” She worries about President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. Brian Hughes is conflicted about the president’s gay marriage stance as well, but as an employee at the local GM plant, he gives Obama credit for saving hundreds of jobs in the area. Friendship’s pastor Julius Davis believes Preisdent Obama is undermining the impact of Christian churches. He adds, “If I were to vote today, I’d vote for Romney.”
In the Associated Press report, the Rev. George Nelson Jr., senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, registered dissatisfaction with Obama’s gay marriage decision, but appeared even more put off by the prospect of voting for Romney, whose religion is looked upon as a cult in his Southern Baptist circles.
The Rev. Floyd James of Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago wonders why Romney’s religous affiliation hasn’t been put under the same scrutiny as that of Obama’s church during the 2008 campaign. “Obama was supposed to answer for the things that Rev. Wright said,” remarked Floyd. “Yet here’s a guy (Romney) who was a leader in his own church that has that kind of history, and he isn’t held to some kind of account? I have a problem with that.”
Will lingering ambivalence about both candidates keep Black voters away from the polls come November 6? A recent survey suggested Mitt Romney might receive less than 1 percent of the Black vote, but with tight races in key states, Barack Obama still needs every bit of the Black support he received in 2008. If Black Christians who supported him last time stay away, will that leave an opening for Romney to prevail?
Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report today on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage. The report summarizes data for 2010 and compared it to earlier statistics to issue a gloomy economic forecast.
Here are the facts, as summarized by the Associated Press:
“The ranks of the nation’s poor swelled to nearly 1 in 6 people last year, reaching a new high as long-term unemployment woes left millions of Americans struggling and out of work. The number of uninsured edged up to 49.9 million, the biggest in over two decades.”
“The U.S. poverty rate from 2007-2010 has now risen faster than any three-year period since the early 1980s. …Measured by total numbers, the 46 million now living in poverty is the largest on record dating back to when the census began tracking poverty in 1959. Based on percentages, it tied the poverty level in 1993 and was the highest since 1983.”
“The share of Americans without health coverage rose from 16.1 percent to 16.3 percent — or 49.9 million people. … That is due mostly because of continued losses of employer-provided health insurance in the weakened economy.”
“Poverty rose among all race and ethnic groups except Asians. The number of Hispanics in poverty increased from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent; for blacks it increased from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent, and Asians it was flat at 12.1 percent. The number of whites in poverty rose from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent.”
“The median — or midpoint — household income was $49,445, down 2.3 percent from 2009.”
In light of this news, we offer Psalms of deliverance from the NIV:
Psalm 12:5: “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD.“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
Psalm 15:5: “Who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”
Psalm 35:10: “My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.’ ”
Psalm 113:7: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.”
Where do you find hope when the economic forecast seems to grow gloomier by the day?
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