By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
The more optimistic pundits hoped that the historic advent of the first African American president of the United States would be a game changer on race relations in the U.S. In the waning months of the Barack Obama administration, we can safely conclude they were wrong.
Now comes the argument that a Black presidency has deepened the divide – that the races are more separate than they were when President Obama took the oath of office in 2009. That may or may not be true.
There is no solid evidence of a break in racial animosity in the U.S. There have been some landmark developments – cases in which people confuse progress with solutions. Even when those events occurred, there was substantial angry non-Black backlash.
So things weren’t great when the Obama family moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and as the movers begin to crate their personal belongings for the January 2017 transition, the nation still wrestles with challenges that preceded his term.
One of the most significant issues, of course, was the fact that Republicans made it their mission, duty, and sacred vow to fight every single measure submitted for their consideration from President Obama. Lawmakers relished their adversarial vow.
Lack of cooperation was unprecedented. Aside from that revolting reality, most came to realize that racism is more pervasive than government; that there were deeply-rooted systemic roots of bigotry and discrimination that no one man – even with the total cooperation of Congress – could turn around in eight years.
Consider the outcome of “Black, White and Blue: A Spotlight on Race in America,” research led by Radio One, TVI, Interactive One, in cooperation with Edison Research of Somerville, N.J. Sobering statistics place a finger on the pulse of race in America. These are some of the findings:
- Ninety-one percent of all Americans believe there is discrimination against Blacks
- Regarding recent police shootings, 72 percent of African Americans are very concerned – virtually matching 77 percent of whites who express the same
- But when it comes to Blacks shot by police, 78 percent of Blacks but only 43 percent of whites were concerned about the Alton Sterling (Baton Route) shooting and, similarly, 78 percent of Blacks and only 44 percent of whites were concerned about the Philando Castille (Minneapolis) shooting
- Blacks and whites agree (84 percent) that since 2008, the relationship between police and the Black community has been the same or worsened
One of the most contentious debates in the nation is the emergence of Black Lives Matter (BLM); viewed by some as a conscious-raising metaphor responding to a society replete with disregard for African Americans while others view it as a hate organization promoting violence. The study unveils:
- 70 percent of Blacks think Black Lives Matter brought positive change, compared to only 32 percent of whites with a similar perspective
- 72 percent of whites who responded to the survey feel BLM is dividing the nation while only 37 percent of Blacks agree
- Violence is encouraged by BLM, insists 68 percent of white respondents while only 20 percent of Blacks concur
- The name of the movement infers that Black lives matter more than others say 57 percent of whites – a contention with which only 26 percent of Blacks agree
“Black, White and Blue” confirms that African Americans are three times more likely to feel afraid or threatened during a police stop; are three times more likely to accuse cops of racial profiling, and are three times more likely to believe people of color will be treated differently than whites stopped by the police.
Neither Blacks nor whites seem to think either of the presidential candidates will get much more accomplished than Mr. Obama. Regarding the 2016 presidential race, a modest 56 percent of Blacks surveyed believed Hillary Clinton is the most likely one to bring improved police relations with the African American community.
One thing that virtually everyone agrees on is that the flames of bigotry and hatred have been stoked through the rhetoric of the Republican candidate. Some sixty-one percent of those surveyed, Black and white, believe that Donald Trump has contributed significantly to racial tension in America.
The need for raising the level of serious dialogue on race in America is indisputable. Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans rarely reference race with the same level of seriousness as the economy, national security, world affairs, or the military. As long as resolving racial matters remains a low priority in the U.S. – racism will continue to thrive.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].