The Obama Presidency Has Not Helped the Cause of Black People In America

Far from ushering in a new post-racial age, say studies, historic election did not lead to advancement of civil rights

Barack Obama's election win in 2008 was hailed by some as ushering in a post-racial age in the US. However, recent books and surveys have shown that black American progress has often either halted or declined.

From increasing segregation in the workplace, to hundreds of thousands of young black men in prison, to stuttering levels of black voting and a black middle class sent into reverse by the recession, the election of America's first black president - and his fight to win a second term - seem to have had little impact on any of this.

Some of the most shocking revelations are detailed in a new book called Invisible Men by sociology professor Becky Pettit from the University of Washington. Pettit realised that many surveys conducted by government agencies exclude people in the prison population from their research and findings. When Pettit added them in, she found that it dramatically altered the picture of the status of black America, as the number of black Americans in jail is disproportionately high. About half of the 2.3 million people in US prisons are black.

The results of Pettit's work, some argue, have exploded what she calls "the myth of black progress" since the civil rights era of the 1960s.

"This work dispels the notion that we live in a post-racial society. It not only deconstructs the myth of black progress, but also the myth of American progress overall," said Inimai Chettiar, a director at the Brennan Centre for Justice at New York University's school of law.

For example, adding the prison population to the voting statistics shows that black voter turnout in 2008 - believed to have been a historic high as Obama was elected - was overestimated by 13%. A greater percentage of young black high school dropouts turned out to vote in the 1980 election, when Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan, than when Obama beat John McCain in 2008.

Far from ushering in a new post-racial age, say studies, historic election did not lead to advancement of civil rights

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SOURCE: The Guardian
Paul Harris
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