A new poll tells an unhappy story about race relations in America since President Obama’s election. When Obama was elected, the United States — at least the most visible parts of it — basked in the ludicrous but hopeful idea that a “post-racial” age was imminent. A poll taken after Obama’s inauguration showed 2/3 of Americans thought race relations in America were good. This optimism and naivete ignored facts on the ground in inner cities and elsewhere, where an underclass populated largely by minorities continued to cycle through poverty and social stasis — sadly invisible to many Americans proudly celebrating the country’s achievement in electing a black president.
Those cities and their outskirts, like Baltimore and Ferguson, have since erupted — with events there proving beyond any doubt that post-racism is a long way off. Obama’s election also shined light on another contingent that had been less visible before his ascent — angry white supremacists, who have been emboldened by Obama’s election — and given fuel by Obama’s political enemies. Now a New York Times/CBS News poll tells that six in 10 Americans, black and white, believe race relations are bad and 40% believe it’s getting even worse. That’s a big reversal from the 66% who, just after Obama took office, thought things were looking good.