A recent news poll conducted by the Washington Post has suggested that there may be a steady decline in optimism among Americans when it comes to President Obama and his impact on the improvement race relations during his first year in office.
Barack Obama’s election in 2008 as President of the United States was a sign to the world that significant progress had finally been made in this nation for people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
But that is all that his election represented – a sign. It was a giant step in the right direction – it was not the solution.
The idea that many people in our nation now feel that President Obama has done very little to improve race relations in this country during his brief time in office (with a few people claiming that he has made race relations worse) only exposes our short-sightedness as a country and highlights the reality of how most Americans actually voted.
The world was consumed by the historical significance of the 2008 Presidential Election. As a result, most people did not choose to vote according to the issues.
Instead, most people cast their vote according to race.
Our high expectations of President Obama and the perceived impact we thought he would have on race relations in this country were sorely misplaced. It seems that we would have learned by now that there is not any expectation that we can have of any person that should be higher than the expectations we have of ourselves.
So who is responsible?
It is President Obama’s responsibility as the leader of our nation to at some point during his presidency outline a clear plan for what can be done to improve race relations in America (that is, if race relations in America is truly an issue he and his administration want to resolve).
However, any real improvement in race relations here will only occur through our actions as individuals.
We each have to see ourselves as the solution to improving race relations in America. Each one of us has to understand that we are in control of what we like and what we don’t like – who we get along with and who we don’t get along with.
No one has a magic potion or pill (including President Obama) that you can take that will transform you into a person who can suddenly get along with any and everybody who does not look, speak, dress, or think like you.
On the other hand, if such a thing did exist, you would have to worry about keeping enough of the material available for consumption to ensure that your true feelings toward others who are not like you remained suppressed.
Thus, our ability (or inability) to agree and cooperate with one another across racial lines is a matter of choice. All we truly need to resolve this issue is to begin exercising the courage necessary to make a different (or better) choice.
Each one of us has to make the decision that dislike or hatred for one another as a result of a person’s race, religion, gender, or ethnic background is unacceptable.
If it is our true desire to see the improvement of race relations in this country, we also must understand that we are all responsible for insuring that our actions and efforts as individuals are geared toward helping develop a healthy and productive system of cross-cultural interaction; interaction that supports social education, stimulates personal growth, and eliminates division.
President Obama has to lay out the plan – plain and simple, but it is up to each of us to implement it.