It's touching to hear an older relative, who just last spring was saying she couldn't possibly vote for Barack Obama because of the color of his skin, now express such great hope for his presidency. Despite her early protests, she did manage to vote for him, and now she thinks he has the potential to become one of the best presidents, especially if he draws inspiration from Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. "It's so refreshing to have a president who can speak in complete sentences," she says, echoing Andy Borowitz's funny column, "Obama's Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controvery."
Obama's election required growth on the part of white Americans, particularly those over 60 who grew up in segregation and were taught that black people were not their equals. Such growth was NOT a foregone conclusion. One need only examine the electoral map where Obama did worse that John Kerry did in 2004, Al Gore did in 2000 and Bill Clinton did in 1996 to realize that racism is still strong in certain parts of this country.
I'm sure it's true that for some white voters, Obama's race was a "bonus" -- they saw their votes as atonement for past sins. But given the state of the U.S. economy, and the record of the Bush administration, race was most likely NOT a primary consideration for the vast majority of voters.
Early public evaluations of Obama's performance reveal a high percentage of good will towards him. A high percentage of Americans are open-minded and want him to succeed: On December 1, 2008, 78% approved of the way he was handling his transition, according to USA TODAY, with 13% disapproving. This compares to a 65% approval for George W. Bush in early 2001, with 26% disapproving.
It's fascinating to read media reports on dramatic changes in perception of and by African Americans as a result of Obama's victory.
- Election of Obama Recasts National Conversation on Race
- William Raspberry: For African Americans, Obama's Election Means A Path Beyond Grievance
- Obama Lifts Ceiling of Dreams for Young Black Men
- A 'Mutt ' As President Makes Ideal of Melting Pot Real
- Election seen attracting more blacks to markets
- Black Men Hope Obama Presidency Shatters Racial Stereotypes
- Obama’s Election Has Black Nationalist Revisiting Stance
- Obamas Reinforce Traditional Family Among African Americans
- NEWSWEEK Cover: The Meaning of Michelle
- Racial disparities persist despite Obama election
(The Associated Press)
- Obama Is Not Black By Maria Arana, Washington Post
- Is Obama Black? Man on the Street interviews by Washington Post