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The Lingering Problem of Race Relations
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Race relations have returned to the forefront of our national discussion over the last several years. Unless one refers to illegal immigration, relations in question almost always pertain to blacks and whites.
Perhaps the opening bell, so to speak, was when Hurricane Katrina devastated mostly-black New Orleans ten years ago. The city’s more affluent white minority generally escaped the storm. News crews recorded the plight of poor blacks left in third-world squalor. Repulsion occurred regardless of race, but blacks felt profoundly aggrieved.
Tensions simmered and gradually reduced during Barack Obama’s first presidential election, when throngs of starry-eyed idealists came into fits of joy at the prospect of a post-racial America. Exactly what this meant remains elusive; presumably it denotes a nation not only free of race-based animus, but featuring equality of condition for all. Human nature being exactly that, the prophesied utopia never developed into reality.
Interestingly enough, our country’s black population has grown more destitute over the last seven-or-so years. Violence in majority-black urban locales is soaring. Out-of-wedlock birthrates and the dysfunctional families they produce have not turned around. In short, the situation is awful.
It was not until the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, however, that racial rage burst at the seams. Since George Zimmerman’s acquittal the next year, an already dismal situation has continually been made worse. Now, police-related shootings of black men receive national attention, and an entire movement - Black Lives Matter - stands devoted to twisting the legal system for black Americans’ advantage.
So much for “equality”.
Of course, no shortage of social action groups, politicians, lawyers, and celebrities have zero problems with this since they view it as a means of remedying historical anti-black prejudices. Others claim that most modern problems faced by the black community are, essentially, the product of its own actions.
Whichever side an individual should favor, a poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos, shortly after Zimmerman walked in 2013, revealed something quite interesting.
“About 40 percent of white Americans and about 25 percent of non-white Americans are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race,” wrote Lindsay Dunsmuir of Reuters.
Just remember how scores of those in the political realm and mass media so confidently emphasized a new era in race relations. While the presidential election of 2008 profoundly influenced them, there was considerable solemnity by 2012. Indeed, that campaign was won on the basis of fear; far a cry as one can shout from just four years earlier.
In retrospect, just how many of those utopians have a virtually racially homogeneous social circle and live in like neighborhoods?
Dunsmuir had more to report about the poll: “There are regions and groups where mixing with people of other races is more common....About half of Hispanics who have a spouse or partner are in a relationship with non-Hispanics, compared to one tenth of whites and blacks in relationships.”
A New York Times/CBS survey from this summer found that almost 60 percent of Americans believe race relations are heading south. Both blacks and whites agreed heavily on this point. However, Kevin Sack and Megan Thee-Brenan of the Times mentioned that negative sentiment from blacks “soared to 68 percent, the highest level of discontent among blacks during the Obama years and close to the numbers recorded in the aftermath of the riots that followed the 1992 acquittal of Los Angeles police officers charged in the beating of Rodney King.”
What does this all mean?
It is fair to say that white Americans are less conscious of their racial status than in previous generations. This grew to mainstream stature so racial minorities would not be judged as members of a group, but unique human beings. If one is not enamored with his or her race, then it is easy to ignore the race of others and focus on content of character.
Unfortunately, for a new generation of public figures within the black community, racial-centrism is fashionable to the hilt. This would be negligible if they did not influence the minds of far less notable people, many of whom are young and impressionable. Our country’s racial breakdown is the present result.
Heaven knows what the future might hold.
Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at