President Barack Obama‘s election in 2008 sparked countless debates and discussions concerning how race relations would be affected and changed in the United States. When Barack Obama became the United States’ 44th president in November 2008, sweeping into office with 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173, a whirlwind of hope spiraled across America and beyond – hopes that race relations in America would improve with the election of the country’s first black president. They have been dashed now, though- with figures showing that the situation has actually worsened in the past two years.
Relevance of Race
Race Relation Act was established in 1976 by the parliament of the United Kingdom to prevent discrimination. The law covered race, colour, nationality, cultural and national origin as basis for discrimination in the areas of employment, the provision of goods and services, education and public function. Race relations in composite societies, such as that of the United States, involve rules of behaviour between the people in a large number on the basis of their physical attributes, specifically skin color. Racial status is very predominant, exceeding all other symbols of status in social relations.
Race and Economy
Racial tensions are worsening- Barack Obama expressed in an interview with the New York Times. They may get worse because of the economic slowdown and resulting fall in opportunities for people, which will lead to increased competition as the size of the pie will get smaller with each passing month as a result of the downturn. While the problem of pie size is not much under consideration during a boom cycle; the discussion becomes far more complicated in case of a downturn. Barak Obama opines that race relationships are getting worse because of the economy. Recently, he warned the people that the race condition is likely to deteriorate if the economy of the nation does not improve. Yet in recent years, financial growth has further deteriorated. In 2000, the household income was 64% and in 2011 the income declined to 58%. The wealth of the people is decreasing day by day. Progress has been interrupted, and the number of minorities and poor people keeps increasing.
Perceptions of Racial Dynamics
A survey conducted recently by Newsweek reflects that only 32% of US citizens are positive about improvement in racial dynamics since the election of Obama as President. On the other hand, approximately 60% citizens believe that racial dynamics have not improved- they have either maintained the status quo or deteriorated. The numbers of negative viewers about the race relations have increased considerably since the presidential election. In recent weeks, America has again raised the debate on race relations after a black teenager was shot dead while he was returning from a sweet shop in a neighbourhood in Florida. The President expressed his personal views about racism following this incidence, speaking at the White House about his own experience of being a black man and hearing car doors locking as he walked past.
According to the survey, only 52 percent of whites and 38 percent of blacks now have a favourable opinion of race relations in the U.S. In just four-and-a-half years, since the election of President Obama, those numbers have dropped sharply. In the month of Obama’s inauguration, January 2009, 79 percent of whites and 63 percent of blacks held a favourable view of race relations. The data show a decline of 27 points for whites and 25 points for blacks today.
There are several points that make people think the conditions get worsened only because of the Barack Obama. For one, throughout his Presidency, even Barack Obama has been chased by the rumour that he was not born in America. Some people believe that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya. This is because, Obama’s mother was a white American, and his father was a black Kenyan. His parents met and married in the US. That is why the birth point always rises and this is an indirect jibe Obama always had to face- many Americans refused to believe that Obama could come from such an exotic community and still be American.
The Living Conditions of the Blacks
In addition to these instances, our hearts flinched when we got to know about how American school children define their colours. A research study on kids of age group 5-8 years wherein eight schools participated- four from greater New York City and Georgia, showed a very disturbing pattern. Almost all white children though that white was associated with smartness, beauty and goodness whereas black kids associated black with the dumbness, ugliness and meanness. But why do highly experienced and qualified people also do the same activities like these American school kids? In addition, Arizona State passed a law that banned the teaching of ethnic Studies in public schools to avoid these kinds of situations.
Furthermore, there have been many problems associated with black groups, including some that may be self imposed- like teenage pregnancy, drug addiction and low rates of high school completion. But there are other traditional issues which have never been adequately answered, not even by Obama. The criminal law should be equal for both the white and the blacks. Nationally, black males are jailed 8.2 times more as compared to the whites. Illegal drug practices, export-import plays a very important role in racial discrimination in prison.
The fair Housing Act was established in 1968; it seeks to prevent discrimination in housing provisions, but it did not work well. This is a major issue as sales and rental agents hesitate from selling or renting their houses to black people. This also leads to a discrimination problem. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has conducted three surveys nationwide on housing in 1977, 1988 and 2000. But all the three survey find considerable discrimination against Blacks.
Health care is another issue of racial discrimination. American studies show that black people suffer from more diseases and sickness as compared to the white. But when they go for the treatment, they are not getting equally treated as whites. These studies reveal that racial and ethnic minorities, particularly Black people experience low quality medical procedures.
Black people have struggled through the decades to be treated as equal to the whites in terms of having same rights and equal opportunities. Because of the racial discrimination, black people make a community together, and Obama being a part of that gets their votes, thinking that he is the only person that bridge the racial gap and get them equal rights. But, it has worked in the opposite way and the situation is getting worsened.
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By Chhavi Chaudhary