Friday, November 14, 2008

Will a Black President Heal America's Race Wounds?

Will a Black President Heal America’s Race Wounds?
by Joel Hilliker

Seventy percent of Americans think Barack Obama’s presidency is going to help race relations, according to Gallup.

The majority, among all races, see this as a milestone worth celebrating—a true victory for civil rights. And after all the pre-election warnings about potential rioting in the streets in the event of an Obama loss, that concern went untested. The election came off smoother than any in recent memory. It produced a clear winner and a graceful loser. No lingering question marks. No violence.

Does the fact that America elected a black president end the argument that this is a racist nation? Everybody seems to have an opinion. Mr. Obama garnered more support from white voters than any Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter. Still, some are convinced his victory would have been much larger if not for those whites who voted against him simply because of his skin pigmentation.

The idea that Mr. Obama’s victory represents the end of racism in America has also been loudly shouted down by some blacks. Their view is essentially, Why should whites get to decide that there’s no more racism?

While there were undoubtedly some whites who voted against black, this election also saw an opposite and more powerful trend: white people embracing Mr. Obama because of his race. His candidacy represented a promise to some whites that they could wash away the stigma of racism. Supporting him was a way to prove that they were not racist. Of course, there is a contradiction in such thinking, as black author Shelby Steele points out: “When whites—especially today’s younger generation—proudly support Obama for his post-racialism, they unwittingly embrace race as their primary motivation,” he wrote. “They think and act racially, not post-racially.”

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