Blacks, Whites and race relations in the age of Obama

Gallup just put out a poll which surveyed whether Americans though race relations had improved, diminished, or stayed the same since the election of Obama. It found that fewer Americans thought Obama’s election had improved racial relations than thought so in 2009 when an identical poll was taken. But the thing that struck  me the most about the poll was the difference in how people of different races  answered the question. It wasn’t what I had expected.

On the whole Americans were more likely to say racial relations had  gotten better than had gotten worse since Obama took office. But 48 percent of blacks thought things were better, while only 31 percent of whites thought so. Keeping in mind that black are obviously the more disadvantaged party in racial relations, what does this mean?

Do blacks now see themselves as more equal to and more accepted by their white neighbors, while whites tend to think that nothing has changed? Are blacks seeing more avenues for success in society because a black man has reached  the White House, while whites see society the same since Obama took office? Are whites dismayed by the growing minority populations in America while blacks see their dawn just around the corner? Do blacks see their position in society rising while whites see a relative decline for themselves?

Its fascinating to speculate about what the causes of this disparity might be. And of course its important to remember that people answer questions like this in different ways for different reasons, so there is no one answer to the question I’ve posed. It could be as simple as saying that blacks are more likely to approve of Obama’s job as President while white are more likely to disapprove, so this dynamic spills over into any broad questions that mention his name. I don’t know. Feel free to leave a comment with any ideas you have on the subject.

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