Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28, 2015--The Way We Were

Just the other day the New York Times reported about a survey of Americans' racial views. In spite of having an African-American president, about 60 percent of whites and blacks indicated that they feel relations between the races is not good and 40 percent said in recent years it has gotten worse.

In contrast, shortly after Barack Obama was elected, two-thirds felt that race relations were "generally good."

The title of the article says it all--"Poll Finds Most in U.S. Hold Dim View of Race Relations."

The shift in numbers may, sadly, be a reflection of the fact that we do have a black president. He has been so demonologized that that would not be a surprise.

By coincidence I was finishing H.W. Brands' excellent American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism 1865-1900 in which he reported about a dinner hosted by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 shortly after he assumed the presidency because of the assassination of William McKinley, a small dinner party for Negro educator Booker T. Washington. This was the first time in history that a black person had dinner with an American president in the White House.

The dinner, attended by Roosevelt's wife, four of his children, and one close friend of TR's was, in Brands' phrase "objectively innocuous." But there was a firestorm of outrage, all of it deeply and openly racist.

One example--

The Raleigh Post put its outrage in doggerel:
Booker Washington holds the boards--
The President dines a nigger.
Precedents are cast aside--
Put aside with vigor.
Black and white sit side by side,
As Roosevelt dines a nigger.
We may have our racial problems, but looking back suggests that we've come a long way.

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