President Obama recently touted his record of “solving issues of racial inequality” on NBC News:
“One of the things that I've consistently said as president is that I'm the president of all people. I am very proud that my presidency can help to galvanize and mobilize America on behalf of issues of racial disparity and racial injustice.”
Appearing on “Hannity,” Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke responded that the President must be “hallucinating” and argued that Obama has simply contributed to a “false narrative” of racism by police against African-Americans:
“Race relations have always been tenuous in America. Slavery and discrimination have left an ugly scar on the soul of America. But that scar has been healing over the years. President Obama came along with sandpaper, rubbed it raw, and then poured salt in it to inflame it for political gain. He doesn't believe that and neither does anybody else.”
So, who's right? Have race relations improved under President Obama? Here are 9 cases which show the Obama administration's response to or involvement in race-related conflicts, followed by national polling on the issue.
1) Trayvon Martin:
President Obama was criticized by many for “ramping up racial tension” by saying, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” In the end, the Department of Justice announced it would not be prosecuting George Zimmerman for the shooting death.
2) Michael Brown:
President Obama was reminded of the judicial process in the United States after his comments regarding the “peaceful protests” that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri.
3) Cambridge, MA, Police:
The President issued an apology, acknowledging that he “helped contribute to ratcheting” up a controversy following the arrest of Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates, by saying that Cambridge police acted “stupidly” in arresting the man for disorderly conduct.
4) Grandmother comments:
During his 2008 campaign, Obama was slammed by then-opponent Hillary Clinton for calling his grandmother (who is white) a “typical white person” who has fears about black men.
5) Black Panther Voter Intimidation:
In 2010, the Obama administration came under fire for dropping federal voter intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther party who stalked the entrance to a voting station in Philadelphia.
6) Obama's Spanish Language TV Ad:
Then-Senator Obama was accused of factual misrepresentations which were included in a campaign ad seeking to paint his then-opponent, Sen. John McCain, as “anti-immigrant.”
7) Rev. Jeremiah Wright:
Said to be a mentor to Obama for 20 years, Rev. Wright has often made controversial comments surrounding race and religion in America. Apparently, the Rev's remarks were so vitriolic that the President paid Dr. Eric E. Whitaker to shut him up until after the 2008 election.
8) Interview with “Essence” magazine:
Although acknowledging that “racial attitudes have changed sufficiently in this country, that people are willing to vote for me for president,” Obama also addressed black youth by saying he does not believe it's “possible to transcend race in this country.”
9) Response to Police Shootings:
Sheriff Clarke, among others, accused the President of starting a “war on police” by politicizing acts of violence against African-Americans, while remaining relatively silent on the murder of police officers.
For comparison's sake, two-thirds of Americans had a positive view of race relations shortly after Obama took office in 2009.
Editor's Note: This article was edited after publication.