By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
When then-Sen. Barack Obama began his historic campaign for president, I remember wondering to myself whether America was ready for a black president. I grew up in Manhattan, which has been diverse and multicultural (purposefully so) since I went to grade school in the '60s. I attended a private school in Harlem that was proudly diverse. I remember reading in horror about Southern racism and failing to understand how it could have survived for so long in my own beloved country.
But since then I have spent time in other parts of the country where racism still runs rampant and where I have had to ask people not to use racist terms in my presence.
Now comes news of a poll showing that Americans believe President Obama's historic, color-barrier-breaking presidency has done less to improve race relations than they had hoped when he took office one year ago. This is especially true among African-Americans.
Of all things, that does not surprise me. His youth, his vigor, his promises of "change" and "hope" fell on an American audience in desperate need of that message and reeling from the complete incompetence of eight years of a disastrous presidency. ABC News reports:
While the sense of a positive change has faded across racial lines, the biggest drop has occurred among blacks. As he took office a year ago, 58 percent of Americans said Obama's presidency had helped race relations; fewer today, 41 percent say so. It's fallen by 15 points among whites--but more steeply, by 24 points, among blacks.
But the promises and the reality of the Obama presidency have proven to be two completely different things. And they have brought to the fore racist factions that do still exist and in some cases thrive in this nation.
Personally, I believe racism is far from over in the United States. But this I believe as well: If Hillary Clinton had won the nomination and the presidency instead of Barack Obama, Americans would almost universally agree that sexism was over and done with. And they would have been just as wrong as are those who say Obama's election ended racism.