On MLK Day, Washington Post Holds Obama Personally Responsible For Not Ushering In Post-Racial Society

Human Rights

Actual Headline:Fewer Americans think Obama has advanced race relations, poll shows.

My first reaction, upon reading this headline, was that it's rather spectacularly unfair to suggest it's President Obama's personal responsibility to "advance race relations." Silly me, I was under the impression that the problem of racism lies with privileged people who express and/or act on unexamined or proudly-held racist views, and thus racism is their responsibility, not the president's.

I read further, to see if, perhaps, the headline was not truly representative of the content of the article. And it wasn't -- insomuch as the article didn't merely lay the responsibility for "advancing race relations" at Obama's feet, but also endeavored to underline that the only role white people have to play in race relations is commenting on them via poll.

On the eve of President Obama's inauguration a year ago, nearly six in 10 Americans said his presidency would advance cross-racial ties. Now, about four in 10 say it has done so.

The falloff has been highest among African Americans. Last January, three-quarters of blacks said they expected Obama's presidency to help. In the new poll, 51 percent of African Americans say he has helped, a wider gap between expectations and performance than among whites.

Note how the article starts out talking about "Obama's presidency" -- about which it was eminently reasonable for people, of any color, to hope, wish, believe would mark a change in American race relations -- and then casually veers back to talking about Obama himself: "In the new poll, 51 percent of African Americans say he has helped, a wider gap between expectations and performance than among whites." Expectations and performance: It's one thing to note expectations related to his presidency (which firmly and quite rightly places the responsibility of reactions to that presidency with other people), but performance is about the man doing the job. A lazy and selfish man who refuses to wave his magic wand and eradicate racism!

Why won't he give us the post-racial society that the media mendaciously suggested he promised us during the campaign?!

African Americans' views on achieving racial equality have become more pessimistic since the inauguration, returning to their preelection levels. The share saying blacks have reached racial equality dropped 9 percentage points, to 11 percent, and the percentage saying equality will not be achieved in their lifetimes climbed 9 points, to 32 percent. About one in five blacks say they will never achieve racial equality. Among whites, four in 10 say African Americans already have it and 31 percent say it will happen soon.
Well, that's a relief!

Noting that nearly one-third of the white majority believe racial equality "will happen soon" would make an excellent segue into a discussion of their role in that process, but -- spoiler warning! -- the WaPo doesn't go there. In fact, the closest staff writers Jennifer Agiesta and Jon Cohen ever come to talking about the responsibility of the dominant race class is right in the opening paragraph:

Soaring expectations about the effect of the first black president on U.S. race relations have collided with a more mundane reality, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
That "mundane reality" is called privilege.

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