On Monday the New York Times reported that the percentage of black Americans who believe race relations in America are generally good has doubled since July. This statistic forces me to ask: why are African Americans feeling so good about our country in a time of economic crisis and international conflict?
It is not just the fact of a black president. Instead, with everyone analyzing the 100-day mark of Obama’s administration, I think the answer lies in understanding this historic moment through a black cultural lens. I believe African Americans are feeling racially optimistic because they respect how our first Brother President is handling his business. Not all black people of course; there is a group clamoring for "accountability." But the polls are clear that most black people remain enthusiastic supporters of this president.
In January Obama kicked things off with the ultimate political party. African Americans stood with numb fingers and toes on the National Mall to watch a day we never thought would come. Obama had Mary J. Blige singing on the weekend, Aretha in her Sunday-going-to-meeting-hat celebrating on Tuesday morning, and Beyonce serenading on Tuesday night. It was an unrivaled R&B trifecta, challenging even the Essence festival.
But the best part of January 20th was that Barack and Michelle got out of the bulletproof, blac Cadillac and walked the streets…and no one shot at them. I know we are not allowed to say it, but one reason black people believe that race relations have improved in America is because Barack lived through the primaries, the election, the inauguration, and now through 100 days.
Not only has he survived it; this man has been busy. Obama immediately threw open the doors to the federal government creating the most transparent and internet searchable administration in our history. He quickly ordered the closure of Guantanamo. Both acts resonated with black Americans who have often been most brutally impacted by unfair criminal practices and covert, domestic, government surveillance. Obama signed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and imposed a cap on executive pay for banks receiving TARP funds. These policies of wage fairness were immediate signals of substantive change for black Americans who continue to experience enormous income and wealth disadvantage relative to whites.