You have to wonder sometimes what planet the President of the United States is living on.
Earlier this month, the president told BET that race relations were better because we’ve made progress over the last 50 years.
“If you talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles, they’ll tell you that things are better — not good, in some cases, but better,” he continued. “And the reason it’s important for us to understand progress has been made is that then gives us hope that we can make even more progress.”
This is true, and it’s something we rarely hear from the Al Sharpton’s of the so-called civil rights movement.
But yesterday, President Obama told NPR that progress has actually been made since he took office — that the nation is less racially divided today than it was in 2008.
President Obama says the United States is less racially divided despite the tensions raging from deadly police shootings and emotional protests.
Compared to six years ago when he made history as the first black president, Obama says American race relations are on the upswing.
“I actually think that it’s probably in its day-to-day interactions less racially divided,” Obama told National Public Radio.
Americans, however, seem to disagree.
A Bloomberg Politics survey out this month found a majority of Americans – 53 percent – feel interactions between white and black communities have deteriorated since Obama took office.
The choke-hold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island and fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. sparked nationwide outrage when the white officers in both cases were not criminally charged. Obama has sought to channel the frustration into a national campaign for better police relations.
Americans have been divided by race over the outcome. The majority of white Americans agreed with the decision not to charge Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death, while nearly all blacks disagreed.
A slight majority of whites, however, disagreed with a grand jury’s decision not to charge Office Daniel Pantaleo in New York, according to Bloomberg’s survey.
My own personal observation is that I haven’t seen the racial divide this bad since the early 1970’s. I don’t know what kind of metrics you can use to measure the racial divide, but polls are only a small part of the equation. Two recent Pew Polls — one following the grand jury decision in Ferguson not to indict Officer Wilson and another that measured the reaction following both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions, show a deep divide between blacks and whites.
Whites viewed the grand juries as acting correctly in the Ferguson and Staten Island cases by 64% and 47% respectively.
The numbers of black Americans who saw the grand juries come to incorrect decisions was 80% and 90%.
How much of this is President Obama to blame for?
Clearly, the president had nothing to do with the incidents that set off the latest round of protests. But his attorney general, Eric Holder, has federalized both cases, and is investigating both officers for violating the dead men’s civil rights. Also, statements made by both Obama and Holder leaves no doubt that they have taken sides in both cases and that their sympathies lie with the protestors.
If both Obama and Holder would look behind the activist leaders of these protests and see the cadres of Communists, anarchists, and cop haters filling the ranks, they would see the damage their advocacy has caused.
The country is a tinderbox right now with another cop killing or shooting of an unarmed kid for whatever reason threatening to act as a catalyst for widespread unrest. The racial divide has not narrowed in the president’s six years in office. In fact, Barack Obama’s legacy will be to hand a deeply embittered nation, cleaved in two by racial misunderstanding and mistrust, to his successor.
And he will leave office with the knowledge that he not only did nothing to heal the divide, but actually made it worse.