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January 14, 2009


Times determines America pretty much just as racist as ever

Obama surrounded by other, white Senators

What will race relations look like in Obama's America? The Times explores this eternally tricky issue by asking a bunch of people if they have noticed any change in how people of different races deal with each other in the Age of Obama. And by "different races" they apparently mean "black or white", because that's all that gets mentioned.

A few good passages:

"All this exposure to this very counterstereotypical African-American has actually changed — at least temporarily — what is on the tip of the tongue," said E. Ashby Plant, a psychologist at Florida State University and an author of a new study examining the impact of Mr. Obama on the attitudes of whites. "It may have very important implications."

In Dr. Plant's study, 400 white college students in Wisconsin and Florida were asked, between Mr. Obama’s nomination and his election, questions like, "What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of African-Americans?"

The unpublished study found that the answers revealed little evidence of antiblack bias, in sharp contrast to many earlier studies (including one by Dr. Plant) showing that roughly 80 percent of whites have some degree of bias.

Sounds pretty good, but white college students learning not to come out with an obviously racist remark when asked to think about African-Americans doesn't necessarily mean that perceptions are changing.

As one black women interviewed for the article says, "I remember people saying Michael Jordan's 'not really black,' " said Gilda Squire, 39. "It's like Obama supersedes race." And not in a good way. Other people in the article note that white people often deal with their discomfort about race by just ignoring it or pretending that they "don't see color," like Colbert does as a joke.

Some of those interviewed for the article are hopeful that race is becoming an easier topic to talk about, which is a good sign. For white people, anyway. Most white people seem to think things aren't so bad to begin with. The article refers to a survey from July: "Nearly 60 percent of black respondents said race relations were generally bad, while only 34 percent of whites agreed."

The article ends with the weirdest story I've seen all day:

On the morning after the election, Kristin Rothballer, 36, who lives in San Francisco, kissed her female partner goodbye on the train while commuting to work. A black woman who sat down next to her turned and said she was sorry that Proposition 8, the amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, looked like it was going to pass.

"We grabbed hands," Ms. Rothballer recalled. "And I said, 'Well, I really want to congratulate you because we have a black president and that's amazing.' "

"Our conversation then almost became about the fact that we were having the conversation," she said.

Something moved her to apologize to the black woman for slavery.


So here's the upshot of the article:

  • You will experience more open and comfortable race relations, but only if you actually are Barack Obama,
  • Watch out for white-guilt-afflicted ladies on the BART.

categories: Politics, Race
posted by amy at 5:01 PM | #

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That second bit is good advice everywhere in San Francisco. They come up to you on the street looking all helpless and sad and the next thing you know your wallet is empty and you're locked into an empty yoga salon in the Mission.

Posted by: T-Rock at January 24, 2009 4:36 PM

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