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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Americans Still See Racial Inequality, Doubt That Obama Can Solve It

As the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial dedication on Aug. 28 approaches, people have begun to wonder the extent to which Dr. King’s dream of racial equality has become reality. Recent studies suggest that Americans have seen advances in civil rights but that the goal of full equality is not yet accomplished.

While a USA Today/Gallup poll from early this month found that 90 percent of whites and 85 percent of blacks think civil rights for minorities have improved during their lifetime, only 51 percent of those surveyed said they think there is full racial equality in the United States.

And three years into the term of America’s first black president, people are feeling less optimistic about race relations with time. Another USA Today/Gallup poll found,

By 35 percent to 23 percent, more Americans believe U.S. race relations have gotten better rather than worse with Barack Obama’s election as president. However, this positive tilt is not as strong as what Gallup found in October 2009, when 41 percent said relations had improved and 22 percent said they had gotten worse. Currently, the plurality of Americans, 41 percent, say race relations have not changed as a result of Obama’s presidency.

This contrasts with a poll from November 2008, when 70 percent of Americans predicted that race relations would improve as a result of Obama’s presidency. That optimism has faded as the presidency continued, and the most recent figures suggest that many are losing faith that Obama will be a racial panacea.

But in the end, the polls merely represent people’s perceptions of racial issues — one need only examine hard data to see that Obama’s presidency has not miraculously created racial equality. An analysis of Census data found that the wealth gaps between whites and minorities have risen to their widest levels in a quarter century, since the economic recession exacerbated existing inequality. In fact, whites average about 20 times the median net wealth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics.

Given this information, perhaps Americans should view the new MLK memorial not as a symbol of victory, but as a challenge to continue the fight for greater equality.

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Copyright 2011 The National Memo
  • jams

    Racism cannot be legislated away. People are people and laws can’t alter people’s opinions or beliefs – they can only punish them. It seems to me, particularly when reading comments on news stories in major papers, that racism did not necessarily get worse, I believe it was always there as evidenced by the high unemployment and poverty rate that still plagues the black community, but that it again became highly visible – and Obama’s election made that somehow socially acceptable.

  • kurt.lorentzen

    I agree 90% with “jams” in that you can’t end racism through legislation. But laws and policies have had a major influence on the rate of change in racial equality. How a country who’s creed is “ALL men are endowed by their creator….” could ever tolerate anything contrary to that ideal is unthinkable to most of us in the 21st century. But education gaps, financial gaps (mostly as a result of that education gap), and cultural models (from black gangs to white skinheads) that perpetuate racism are a tough problem. I don’t know what any President can do to end the cycle. Education is the biggest thing in my view, and that means revamping our system to permit people who have natural talents and who excel in specific areas to pursue their passions, doing away with “no child left behind” (AKA “no child gets ahead”).

  • BettyDoolittleTuininga

    Racism is going to be a ongoing campaign. It isn’t just about our black population, it includes the relations with all races: Black, Asian, Moslem, Native American,NearEast, etc. As one who works closely with my Native American brothers and sisters, and I can bear witness to the racist remarks and attacks which occur on a daily basis. The statue of MLK in Washington is a symbol of the BEGINNING of change. We have to keep working to make sure that the Dream stay alive for all people.