As the nation’s first African-American president concludes his tenure as leader of the free world, he has been met with a wide variety of critiques and praises. Center to the critiques are none more than the continued presence of race in America, an issue that has left us more racially vulnerable than ever under his presidency. Many argue the election of America’s first African-American president will fuel the debate around much needed racial tolerance, discord and reconciliation that has engulfed our nation during his presidency. As long as we are reminded about the president’s words on racial reconciliation:
One of the things that I’ve consistently said as president is that I’m the president of all people. I am very proud that my presidency can help to galvanize and mobilize America on behalf of issues of racial disparity and racial injustice...
We are reminded that we must be vigilant and the fact that we still live in a society that still continues to exacerbate racial bigotry and hatred.
The election of the nation’s first African-American president led to the increased expectations that America will put our ugly racial past behind and move forward into a more racially sensitive and tolerant society, which has enlightened all of us. The promise that America would transcend race and that both white and black racial attitude would undergo a fundamental positive and formative change, has NOT been fulfilled. The words of our president-elect in 2008, “Change has come to America,” has not materialized nor has it come to fruition. The President has not elevated any racial tensions and misconceptions, but has perpetuated the continued racial divide that continue to define us and who we are. The dream that America would transcend race, and that racial attitude would undergo a fundamental change, has not been fulfilled. In fact, the nation’s first African-American President and his family have NOT alleviated racial stereotypes nor have they engaged in any constructive dialogue on race in America. The fact, that we all had great expectations and optimism that our president would ease the racial hatred after the 1950s and 1960s and promote a more racially tolerant society has NOT proven successful. Despite this increased expectation, under Obama’s administration there has been more racial protest by African-Americans and others for justice and equality than the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Continued racial events in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, Orlando, Florida, Charleston, South Carolina and other parts of the country only reinforce America’s immense racial hatred and the continued distrust in many African-American communities.
The persistent continuing of race riots throughout the country has left many questions that continue to haunt our society: Civil Rights, bigotry, hatred, but none more so important; the continuing significance of race in America. Racial hatred under Obama’s administration has permeated our society in ways we don’t even realize. It has continued to define who we are and what we stand for as nation that leads the free world and preaches democracy, rights and respect. The series of seemingly constant, mostly non-violent Black Lives Matter protests under President Obama’s tenure has raised uncertainty on the rage, race, and rebellion that continue to plague many African-American communities. Race riots throughout Obama’s administration have left many questions that continue to haunt our society: none more important than the continuing significance of race. The riots that surrounded the deaths of Michael Brown and others continue to open the debates about the discussions on race, profiling, bigotry, hatred, criminal justice and America’s post racial society. Unfortunately, this debate has neither materialized nor even blossomed, and any discussion on race takes away the best of who we are as Americans.
Thus, this continued dilemma, what we call race, can only be solved by the following steps despite who is or becomes the next leader of the free world: The need for America to have a more constructive dialogue on race has neither the past nor the future come to fruition for several factors. Any discussion of race among Americans elicits a very cautious and complicated reaction; many whites shy away from any racial dialogue. Second, the fact we need to admit we have a problem; a nation that is in denial and sleepwalking will never wake up. Third, Americans have refused to acknowledge that racism is a societal problem which can only be resolved by having more open dialogue on race, and discussions on diversity in America. Having an African-American president showed our ability to move beyond race and achieve racial reconciliation, but that will not solve, heel our racial past, nor resolve America’s greatest social cancer ― RACE.
In spite of the unquestioned greatness of America, there must be a conscious effort by all Americans to achieve some sought of racial reconciliation; we must acknowledge our past wrongdoings, and engage in conversations that can lead to a more racially tolerant society where America can be enjoyed by all.
Stephen Balkaran, is an Instructor of African-American Studies at Central CT State University.