Well, it depends on how you look at it. Perhaps race relations have improved in the sense that in-your-face racism is back in vogue, with people of the Tea Party stripe and general ignorant bigots feeling it’s A-OK for them to post pics of the President and the First Lady as apes, or to place a noose by the President’s head. This AP story by Jesse Washington doesn’t go into any depth about the question, but speaks to people who have the sense that we’re seeing more visible racism that was formerly underground.
Ashley Ray, a white woman, hears more people debating racial issues. “I know a lot of people who really thought we were OK as a nation, a culture, and now they understand that we’re not,” she says.
…Jose Lozano, who is Hispanic by way of Puerto Rico, believes prejudice is emerging from the shadows. “Now the racism is coming out,” he says.
One interviewee must have some serious rose-colored glasses on.
Larry Sharkey, also white, draws different conclusions from the past four years. “Attitudes are much better,” Sharkey says. He remembers welcoming a black family that moved next door to him 20 years ago in Claymont, Del. A white neighbor advised him not to associate with the new arrivals, warning, “Your property values are going to go down.” That kind of thing would never happen today, Sharkey says.
::Blink:: He must be high. After the Trayvon Martin gundown, my brother had this experience in his own neighborhood while heading to teach class at the University of Delaware this year:
My brother and his family came for a visit over the weekend and we talked about the Trayvon Martin case. It led him to share a recent experience that he had that was both enraging and depressing. He’s 43, and a professor at UD. On a recent walk to campus, in jeans (no hoodie!) and a knapsack slung over his shoulder, he was stopped by a white woman and asked what he was doing there. In his own neighborhood. Naturally, he did nothing to inflame the situation (recalling, no doubt, the training our late mom gave him years ago), and went on his way, but what does that say about the woman who perceived him as an outsider — enough so to actually approach and challenge his very presence? Is the good news that she didn’t automatically dial 911? Hey, the KKK was doing recruiting door-to-door in his countyin 2011. It makes me sick because I know this is what young men (and apparently not-so-young) men of color face on a regular basis. Soul-draining.
Which brings me to another interviewee in the article, a a retired computer training manager from Cape May, N.J. Ed Cattaneo, who had this view of Obama in the wake of what happened to Trayvon.
This time, when asked about the case, Obama delivered a carefully calibrated message. He said all the facts were not known, the legal system should take its course — and that “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” The comment was factual, but it still strikes Cattaneo as a coded message to black people that Obama is on their side. “A lot of people I talk to can’t understand why a man who’s half-white and half-black is so anti-white.”
About all I can see that has improved is more Americans are learning just how many of their relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives hold racist beliefs — and most will still deny to the end of the earth that they are racist — and those folks inhabit the entire political spectrum, it’s not just the domain of the right. Paternalistic race based bile among progressives is onerous as well. These are the folks that can point to the rancid rants of Rush Limbaugh, or any off-the-wall teabagger or right winger that is all-but-calling the President of the United States a n*gger and feel better about their “racism-lite,” color-aroused beliefs they’ve held the whole time.
If people stepped outside their comfort zones and sought deep friendships with people unlike themselves, we’d see less bigotry, period. Humans are generally lazy about acknowledging and accepting difference unless confronted with their own bias. And even then, it’s still a herculean effort to effect lasting change. What a sorry lot we are.