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Is it accurate to say that race relations in the USA have improved since the election...

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edilove | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted April 26, 2013 at 10:59 AM via web

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Is it accurate to say that race relations in the USA have improved since the election of a black president to the White House? 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 26, 2013 at 1:24 PM (Answer #1)

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On the whole, it is too early to tell if this is an accurate statement.  Changes in social attitudes do not typically become obvious over the space of four or five years.

On the one hand, there is evidence that Obama’s election has helped race relations.  Polls taken in 2012 showed that the number of Americans who believed that Obama’s election had helped race relations was larger than the number that believed his election had been harmful to race relations.  There are also anecdotal statements by various African Americans who argue that they are seen differently than they once were or that they feel more confident than they once did.  These things can be seen as evidence that Obama’s election has helped.

On the other hand, there is evidence that it has not.  For one thing, the number of people showing optimism has dropped as time has passed.  Right after Obama’s election, 58% of Americans thought his election would help race relations while only 7% thought it would hurt.  By 2012, polls found that about 35% felt it had helped and 23% felt it had been harmful.  This shows that A) optimism is declining and B) the plurality of people (about 42%) feel that nothing has changed.  Anecdotally, we can see this in the amount of anti-Obama rhetoric that focuses on how he is not a “real American.”  We can also perceive problems in race relations in things like the Trayvon Martin case or the rhetoric surrounding illegal immigration.

So, it is by no means clear that President Obama’s election has helped race relations, but it is also too early to know for sure. 

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