The election of the first black president in U.S. history was supposed to usher in a post-racial era in America.
But a series of controversies since then, from the White House “Beer Summit” to the conflicts between the tea party and NAACP, shows that race is still a hot-button issue.
“As a society, clearly we’re not over race,” said Hettie V. Williams, lecturer in the African American History Department at Monmouth University.
To what extent race figures into the backlash against Obama is difficult to assess, scholars say.
“When we listen to the vocabulary, where people are talking about ‘taking our country back,’ it does sound like a veiled reference to race,” said Wayne Glasker, director of the African American Studies Program at Rutgers University, Camden.
Yet the broader context of Obama’s presidency is that Americans are deeply unhappy about the state of the U.S. economy and many are understandably resentful about the bailout of the big banks that helped cause the recession in the first place, he said.
“Race is in the mix, but it isn’t all about race,” Glasker said. “There’s a whole lot of populist anger out there, and unfortunately for him, he’s at the center of that vortex, all of that is whirling around him.”