Obama promised better race relations latest poll says he made them worse

deteriorated

President Barack Obama had hoped his historic election would ease race relations, yet a majority of Americans, 53 percent, say the interactions between the white and black communities have deteriorated since he took office, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll. Those divisions are laid bare in the split reactions to the decisions by two grand juries not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.

Both times, protesters responded with outrage and politicians called for federal investigations. Yet Americans don’t think of the cases as a matched set of injustices, the poll found. A majority agreed with the Ferguson decision, while most objected to the conclusion in the Staten Island death, which was captured on video. The divergent opinions—52 percent agreed on Ferguson compared with 25 percent who approved of the Staten Island outcome—add to an ongoing discussion that was inflamed when Officer Daniel Pantaleo was seen in the July video putting what appeared to be a chokehold on Eric Garner, a 43-year-old man suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” and died of a heart attack in what a medical examiner ruled a homicide. The grand jury decision not to charge Pantaleo came just 12 days after a similar panel in Ferguson declined to charge Officer Darren Wilson, who in August shot to death 18-year-old Michael Brown. That altercation was not captured on video, and the prosecutor presented evidence of a physical confrontation between the two men before the fatal shots were fired.

 

 

To Dania Wilson, 49, a Northern Virginia white woman, the cases shouldn’t be lumped together. “I think sometimes the media likes to put upon people a theme that’s political in nature,” she said in an interview.

VIDEO: Are Race Relations Better or Worse Under Obama? 

The Bloomberg survey shows a gulf between how whites and blacks view the incidents. Ninety percent of African Americans thought the grand jury should have indicted in the Staten Island death. Just over half of the white people polled felt that way. On Ferguson, 89 percent of blacks disagreed with the grand jury, while just 25 percent of whites did. The smaller sample size of black adults changes the margin of error of their response on the grand jury questions to plus or minus 6.5 percentage points.

 

 

“I am going to trust our grand juries until there’s proof that they’re not being honest,” said Dale Griessel, 80, a white retiree in Columbia, Mo., who agrees with both jury decisions. “None of us has seen the forensic evidence. They have.”

Delarno Wilson, 28, a black Georgia resident who objects to both jury outcomes, said he wasn’t surprised that there is division based on race. “Your background is what makes you,” he said. “If you don’t understand the struggle that a person went through, you never truly get it.” Wilson is in the U.S. Coast Guard and said many of his assignments are in overwhelmingly white towns. “I constantly have to worry about how to relate to people. That’s something white people don’t have to think about.”

The poll of 1,001 U.S. adults was conducted Dec. 3-5 by Selzer & Company of Des Moines, Iowa, and the poll for the full sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

In the six years since his election as the nation’s first black president, Obama has addressed race just a handful of times. He delivered his most personal remarks after an unarmed 17-year-old boy was gunned down in Florida by a man who found him to be suspicious, and then again when that man, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of any crime. “You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

Obama has also weighed in on the deaths of both Brown and Garner. And the Justice Department is reviewing the two incidents, as well. Yet Obama has not gone to Missouri or New York. To Griessel, that’s a problem. “He should have gone to Ferguson and very bluntly said, ‘I don’t want any violence here. Let’s show people that we can accept verdicts we don’t like,’” he said. “The destruction just makes people more prejudice than they already are.”

Obama also nodded to the symbolic power of his rise to the presidency in the opening line of his victory speech on Nov. 4, 2008. “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of democracy, tonight is your answer.”

Elizabeth White, an African American Democrat, remembered vividly that speech and the elation she felt. “I was thinking of the Negro National Anthem, that line ‘Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,’ and thinking, ‘suddenly I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.’”

“Now I wonder, were people looking for a real change, or was the change that was coming a bit too much to take?” the Maryland school principal asked. “Was it too bold, too radical for the time?”

Michael C. Bender contributed to this report.

Why are we still listening to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson?

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

 

 

There’s No Such Thing as ‘Black America’

The concept of a ‘black community’ or ‘black America’ led by figures like Al Sharpton is counterproductive and, at best, outdated. It’s time we spent more time concentrating on what unites us.
In light of the tragic shooting of Michael Brown, I’ve been troubled by the notion that a monolithic entity called “Black America” or “the black community” still exists in the 21st century—if it ever existed at all. Moreover, I think that it is simply dangerous for the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to be allowed to act as if they speak for all black Americans. They don’t, but the media and our first black president perpetuate this insidious myth.America has obviously made tremendous progress since the days of Jim Crow, Bull Connor, and voter intimidation at the polls. We have our first black president in Barack Obama, who immediately chose Eric Holder to be our top law enforcement officer. People of color serve at the highest levels of business, academia and politics. Still, without question, there is inequality in our country today. And does racism still exist in certain aspects of our society? Unfortunately, of course, the answer is yes.

But the civil rights era is over, and the idea that there’s still some separate Black America out there is as unproductive as it is inaccurate. The tragedy that took place in Ferguson should have allowed for a meaningful opportunity for everyone in this country to talk about race from an individual perspective. Instead, people who inflame racial tensions to suit their own political ends have helped polarize this nation further, leading to a continued “us” versus “them” idea of race that doesn’t do justice to our more complicated reality.

Case in point: the spectacle of Brown’s funeral on Monday. The day the young man should have been laid to rest in peace and dignity served as a political pep rally that underscored the false narrative that something called the black community is crying out for justice in light of the shooting. NBC News was happy to play into this fantasy in their coverage of Brown’s funeral by offering: “The crowd of 4,500 was brought to its feet by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the activist…who said Brown’s killing was a wakeup call for the black community and the entire nation.”

In his remarks, Sharpton noted: “All of us are required to respond to this. We can’t have a fit. We have to have a movement.” A movement? We need to have an impartial call for calm minds to search for the facts, not a kangaroo media court looking to convict a white police officer. We need to take a deep breath and push back on the destructive idea that white police officers hate blacks and want to shoot them.

Those in the grievance industry are always looking to make a buck off racial strife, and it’s time we stopped listening to them. Be honest: When you first heard about the tragic shooting, did you not think to yourself that the likes of Jackson and Sharpton would be along shortly with a bullhorn in one hand and a collection jar in the other?

We will never live up to our national motto of E Pluribus Unum until we stop hyphenating Americans and seeking to classify our fellow citizens based on race, ethnicity and gender. Six years into the much-ballyhooed presidency of our first post-racial president, race relations in America seem more polarized than they have in decades. Why is this the case?

Those in the grievance industry are always looking to make a buck off racial strife, and it’s time we stopped listening to them.

For a president who made his race a defining (and admirable) aspect of his run for the Oval Office, Obama has shied away when he could have led on matters of race, while injecting himself in ways that have been divisive rather than helpful. Think: “Cambridge Police acted stupidly,” or “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.” In the case of Ferguson, the president sat on the sidelines for too long as rioters and other criminals descended on the community, looking for “justice” as they stole and damaged the property of local residents.

And then of course there’s the company that Obama keeps and, by extension, legitimizes. That he and his senior advisers would turn to Sharpton—perhaps the most racially inflammatory figure in contemporary America—for  Politico reported over the weekend that Sharpton is the de facto liaison for the White House regarding the shooting in Ferguson. Couldn’t they have found a less polarizing figure?

We will continue to make strides forward in the United States on matters of race by focusing on what brings us together rather than what divides us. So it’s time to reject the notion of the existence of a Black America or White America. There’s one America, and it functions best as a melting pot. Likewise, it’s time to extinguish the flames of racial animosity by turning away figures like Sharpton and Jackson, who claim to speak for every black American and profit from the idea that we are two countries divided by race. Instead, let’s start listening to people who want to bring us together, and try to speak for all of us.