How Race Relations Got Worse
Hope was infectious. Most whites voted against Obama, but on the eve of his inauguration, 55 percent of whites, as well as 75 percent of blacks, thought his presidency would improve race relations. The profound symbolism of a black man in the nation's highest office could hardly be overstated.
"Even in polls taken earlier this year, a majority of African-Americans said that a solution to the country's racial problems would never be found," CNN reported shortly after the election. "Now blacks and whites agree that racial tensions may end." One African-American told CNN, "I've seen this country vindicate itself."
When urban crime declined significantly in Obama's first term, some experts attributed it to the psychological impact of his election. Urban blacks had a new confidence, wrote Ohio State University historian Randolph Roth, and "their greater trust in the political process and their positive feelings about the new president led to lower rates of urban violence."