When the United States chose as a man whose father was African for president, it made history. Emotions among African-Americans soared to unseen heights.
At least nine out of ten of them voted for Barack Obama, but now many of their hopes have been dashed. Some pundits say Obama’s Democratic team may have flown too high.
David Gergen, a political analyst and advisor to several former presidents, said: “I believe it was one of the most inspirational campaigns in modern times. It would be hard for anybody to live up to those expectations — much less someone who has inherited such a very difficult recession. I think they got themselves into a situation where they raised expectations higher than they could deliver.”
Four years later, the wings of Obama’s campaign can still count on the lift of most black voters though perhaps not all of the segment of two million who, in 2008 cast a ballot for him, when they had never voted before.
Ever sensitive over racial dialogue, Obama recently underscored he was the president of all Americans.
Racism in politics was never likely to go away in the US; slavery was there when it was founded; it fought a civil war on abolition and was officially segregated for long afterwards.
Well, the fallout from today’s economic crisis has undermined the black population more than the general population.
African-American unemployment (14.4%) is around double the rate it is for whites (7.4%).
The even worse level of joblessness among young Americans in general (20.9%) is, again, twice as high for African Americans (40.0%).
Economists, sociologists and commentators say the survival of the fragile black middle class – already in free fall when the Obamas moved into the White House – is far from certain.
Independent researchers working with federal data say the country’s entire middle class has shrunk ten percent since the 1970s, and continues to regress in income and wealth, and to lose faith in the future. Further down the rungs of the economic ladder it is worse.
Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research at Pew Research Centre, said: “Many of the groups that were most critical to his success — African Americans, Latinos, young people, single women — these are the groups that have been hit the hardest by the recession and the sluggishness of the recovery.”
When Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, was killed by a white man in Florida earlier this year, and Obama spoke about it, Conservatives suggested his should not have.
Weeks of civil rights demonstrations followed the politicised shooting, and the case is on its third judge.
The nation’s first African-American president has consistently avoided racial issues – fielding criticism if he does and if he does not.