Has Obama's election changed race relations?

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"'The election of Obama reflected a great deal of change in attitudes, but change hasn’t lasted,' says William P. Jones, an associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 'And I don’t think we should expect to see much change, both because of who Obama is as a politician and because of who we are as a nation.'

Race is inextricably tied to economics, because racial inequality in the United States was forged in the economic institution of slavery, says Jones. Obama’s success in winning the election, and in effectively governing, rests on his ability to convince white voters that he puts their interests first and black voters that they will benefit even more than whites from his policies, Jones says. But the economic crisis of Obama’s first year as president has done nothing if not challenge the effectiveness of his programs — especially for blacks.

'For the first time in 30 years, the gap between black and white income is increasing,' says Jones, who was part of a discussion panel called 'Taking Stock of Race and Racism: A Year after Obama’s Inauguration' presented last week by the UW-Madison Center for Humanities.

Jones’ observation is supported by a new report on economic inequality, 'State of the Dream 2010: Drained,' that concludes people of color are suffering more in the economic downturn than whites. In 2009, the unemployment rate for whites rose 2.4 percentage points, compared to 4.3 points for African-Americans and 3.7 for Latinos, according to the report released on Jan. 18 by United for a Fair Economy, a Boston-based nonprofit research and advocacy group. The disparity was particularly pronounced in five states, including Wisconsin, where the unemployment rate for blacks was at least three times that of whites.

Read the full article by Pat Schneider in The Cap Times of Madison, WI.

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