Has the historical election of President Obama taken us back in race relations?

By: Amanda Anderson

During the presidential election of the nation’s first black president, we all hoped that not only would Obama’s presidency make history, but we also hoped it would initiate progress when it comes to race matters in the country. For most, the election was a very emotional one, and so many believed Obama’s election was the fulfillment of Martin Luther King’s dream he historically spoke about over forty years ago. While it may have appeared that we were finally moving forward as a country regarding thoughts on race, Obama’s first year in office has also invoked an unsettling rage within the country that always seems to lead back to race. As we closely watch politics within the first year of the Obama Administration, the racism in politics has become blatant and more intense than it has been since days of segregation.

Republican Kentucky senate candidate Rand Paul’s recent remarks is just another of a string of right-winged politicians who are not in support of ending discrimination against minorities. When asked about his views on anti-discrimination laws on private businesses, he stated the following:

“Well, what it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says, ‘Well, no, we don’t want to have guns in here,’ the bar says, ‘We don’t want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each other’?” Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant?”

Then there are the recent laws that were passed in Arizona regarding immigration and the curriculum of public schools. Arizona not only moved forward to obtain the right to question any non-white resident on their citizenship, they also put an end to ethnic studies in the public school systems. Supporters of the racist changes to the curriculum believe that ethnic studies teaches students to view the white race in a negative light, and therefore should be taken out of the studies.

Obama even invoked racial debates among his own political party. Vice President Joe Biden even made remarks that the President had a fair chance of winning since he was a light skinned Negro who also happened to be eloquent. Shortly after, Senator Harry Reed made similar remarks and later apologized for it.

Even the sudden rise of The Party is indication that discussions of race have become more intense since Obama’s election. While there may be some members who are focused solely on the issues and smaller government, it doesn’t change the fact that most Tea Party rallies echo a sentiment of racial prejudice and hate for the president that exceed his policies, but more so the color of his skin.

Some will say this was to be expected since Obama has made history as the first African American President of the United States. Amidst the negatives and racial division, the election of Obama has caused us to face the one thing that we as a nation have been running away from since the Civil Rights Movement: Race. No longer can we act as if we see every American equally, and no longer can we hide behind our political parties and state that we have gotten past race.

If anything, these sudden happenings in politics should encourage you to follow politicians more closely than you ever have before. With each policy passed, we are all affected. Be informed, and know how the policies affect you and your people.

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