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If you look at the following chart from Gallup, you can get a kind of thumbnail picture of what has happened to us in the past ten years.
Recall, here, that Obama took office in 2009. One would expect that if the left’s narrative was correct, and that Obama was bitterly opposed by racist white voters for being black, you’d see a downturn in white optimism in 2009. Instead, white optimism bumps up, with three-quarters of whites surveyed saying that relations between black and white people are pretty darned good.
If we consider that the country was and remains divided, 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans, this means that both white Democrats and Republicans expressed optimism.
Black optimism declined slightly in the run-up to Obama’s election, but the general sense of forward progress held steady all the way until … 2013-14.
At which point, optimism basically falls off a cliff, with Americans of both races feeling far gloomier about race relations than they had for decades.
Trump wasn’t on stage yet, so we can’t blame it on him. Obama was in his second term and Hillary Clinton was predicted to be his successor (something that held true, incidentally, all the way up until Trump actually won in November 2016).
So what did change in 2013/14?
Two things, and I believe they’re interconnected. The first is the change in the technology and use of social media. As Jonathan Haidt points out: “Instagram was founded in 2010. The iPhone 4 was released then too—the first smartphone with a front-facing camera. In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram, and that’s the year that its user base exploded.” Haidt convincingly links the change in social media to the sudden surge of mental illnesses (primarily depression and anxiety) in young people that began at the same time.
Second, in 2013, a couple of self-described “Trained Marxists” launched a social-media-dependent organization called #BlackLivesMatter in response to the shooting death of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson in early August of 2014, at which point protests and riots broke out (coordinated and inflamed by social media) and continued throughout the summer and well into the following year, then merging with further protests and riots as additional officer-involved deaths took place and were publicized in other cities.
Again, all of this took place while Obama was president, and it was widely assumed that Hillary Clinton would be his successor. (Donald Trump did not announce his candidacy until the following summer, 2015, and did not become the Republican nominee until the summer of 2016.)Published in Policing
Kate, good post and good information.
To what extent to do you think that President Obama was responsible? I’m inclined to put most of the blame on him, frankly. I thought that he was pretty clearly a race-baiter from the beginning, but he was pretty cagey about it, and what he said in the early years gave him plausible deniability. I think that a great many Americans, in both parties, really wanted to believe that his election demonstrated that most of our racial conflict was in the rear-view mirror.
The graph that you post demonstrates that the opposite was true. Racial conflict increased substantially during Obama’s Presidency, but apparently not until around 2014, at least in this polling.
I think that you are correct to focus on BLM, and particularly on the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases. However, while BLM was founded at that time, I don’t think that it accomplished much. The BLM break-out was the death of George Floyd in 2020, right?
President Obama’s position on both the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases was very bad, I think. I recall him saying something like: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” When the facts came out, I think that it was clear that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor, the shooting was justified. Martin was also portrayed falsely in the media, which used a cute picture of him from several years earlier — he looked like a cute middle-school kid — instead of the current pictures in which he looked like a thuggish gangbanger.
He also expressed sympathy for Michael Brown and his family. When the facts came out, once again, it was clear that Brown was the aggressor and the shooting was justified. This was shown in the FBI report, which appeared to have been delayed so that the FBI could release some other silly report about supposedly racist police policies in Ferguson relating to . . . parking tickets and the like. Not kidding. “Hands up, don’t shoot” turned out to be a lie — and most of the black witnesses interviewed by the FBI gave demonstrably false, and often fantastical, statements.
I do agree that BLM played a part, but I think that President Obama was more responsible.
I agree with the conclusion, maybe more harshly. I think O and Michele were very much race-baiters. But I don’t think they were cagey at all – I think he was a consistently obnoxious, angry, hostile and passive aggressive guy in public. Criminy – he never said anything nice about anyone, even his girls. She just griped about how awful it was to be the President’s wife and how poorly she was treated and how little they were being paid. I don’t think either of them could be subtle about their hatred if you paid them.
He put all of the racist policies in place and the equally ideological people to execute. Never forget Eric Holder’s wrecking ball policies at Justice. Many are still in place, having not left when Trump was President, and continue the program, knowing what they are supposed to do.
Without his imprimatur and active commitment, certainly BLM would never have gotten off the ground. I also think he could not have gotten into the office on his own efforts and drive – I think he was a handy, well suited body to continue the radical left work at weakening the Republic. He’s not smart enough to do all he did – but he was and is angry enough to implement someone else’s strategy.
I think this is important. My sense is that Obama—who lost some of his share of the black vote in 2012—was aware that the Dem Brand was losing some of its luster, basically because the economy wasn’t recovering and black Americans (who may, to be fair, have had unrealistic expectations) weren’t doing particularly well under the First Black President.
Since Obama wasn’t actually interested in making life better for Americans, including black ones, his (and his party’s) options were limited. Race baiting, which Hillary continued throughout her campaign, ramped up. Seriously: What else did he have?
I think he and his people made a calculated decision to use #BLM as a wedge to split the electorate and ensure that Hillary, who didn’t have Obama’s charisma or his cachet, would keep the black vote in spite of the dismal results of 8 years of a Democratic administration.
And yes, I absolutely blame Obama.
And the media and all the other wretched cynical/stupid opportunists who fed and profited by an extraordinarily destructive moral panic.
What is appalling about that graph, for me, is that it maps a kind of despair that was wholly unwarranted—there was nothing about black American life circa 2013 that was different, let alone worse, than it had been in 2001. And yet, black Americans were encouraged–even, in some ways, required—to feel needlessly awful. And then, of course, the Defund pigeons came home to roost in the form of more murdered, maimed, traumatized, demoralized black people, which is simply used to confirm the despair. Really, Obama has a lot to answer for.
No. BLM was front-and-center during the last two years or so of Obama’s presidency, with its leaders repeatedly invited to the White House and its talking points validated in multiple ways.
I was present at the annual National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on May 15 of 2016. It’s always held on the 15th, and widows and orphans of fallen officers are honored by, among other personages, either the president or the vice-president of the United States. Every year, year after year…until 2016.
That year…no president. No vice President. Not even Michelle, or maybe Dr. Jill? Nope. The sorrow and compassion of the Obama Administration was represented by a deputy attorney general. (Sally Yates, as it happens).
It was sick-making. (I think I wrote about it here at Ricochet, come to think of it).
Later that summer, when Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed, in two completely different circumstances at opposite ends of the country, Obama interrupted the European NATO meeting to hold a press conference. “These were not isolated incidents…” He said. “This is a systemic problem.” And thus put a target on the back of every police officer in America: Within 36 hours, following a peaceful #BLM protest, five police officers in Dallas had been murdered by a #BLM-inspired lunatic, and six others maimed. A week later, three more were gunned down in Baton Rouge, again by a #BLM-inspired killer.
In other words, Obama lied…and people died.
Absolutely. No one wanted black women to remember or know that before the Civil Rights Act black families were largely intact and men worked to support their families and owned businesses. Illegitimacy among blacks was not common and education was valued. LBJ and Ted Kennedy used blacks horribly, as do the radicals to this day. Who would want their citizens to be as degraded as black neighborhoods are now? And now it’s spread to white and others’ communities where intact families are rare.
Not so silly, the city of Ferguson was using ticket writing to fund their city budget. That gets oppressive fast. The state of Missouri put a cap on the % of revenue a city can extract by writing tickets.
Steven Hayward has his take on Powerline.
Writing too many traffic tickets is not what BLM was rioting about. In fact, the DOJ more or less had to come up with something to ding the Ferguson PD for, and that was what they found. They did not find that Ferguson P.D. was using excessive force, “hunting black men in the streets” or otherwise violently mistreating black citizens. Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, was not personally accused of writing too many tickets—he was accused (even after he was cleared) of racist murder.
And I agree with him, generally. I think disappointment in Obama among Democrats generally and black Democrats in particular —the fact that the economic recovery primarily benefited his elite pals—led to the Democrats realizing that Hillary really didn’t have positives to campaign on. She couldn’t point to the achievements of the administration she’d been part of.
Racial division, fear, discouragement, anger…what else was there? #BLM was a godsend from their point of view, riots, cop-murders and all.
My response to this is to ask why you are blaming white people for the actions of black people.
Also, even before the Civil Rights Act, the black family was breaking down. The Moynihan report came out in March 1965. In 1963, the black illegitimacy rate was already 23.8%. The white rate was 3.07%.
The report said, among other things, that “the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling” and that “the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated” outside the middle-class black group. This was written the year after the Civil Rights Act, and was based on data before passage of that act.
Of course, it’s become much worse, and is very bad among whites now, too. You may or may not be right about family breakdown having “spread” from blacks to whites. There may be similar underlying trends that affected both groups.
I do think that public objections to the rise of illegitimacy and other family breakdown were undermined by claims of racism, because these problems were worse among black Americans.
Kate already made the point that this claim has nothing to do with the allegations of racism.
In addition, even your objection seems silly. I understand that it’s possible for a city to place excessive fines on traffic violations in order to raise revenue, though the voters could change such policies if they wished. However, it’s also possible for there to be so much flaunting of traffic regulations that a city would be able to make a profit on ticketing violators, thereby doing well by doing good.
The mere fact that a city makes a profit from traffic tickets doesn’t tell us whether there is a problem with excessive fines, or a problem with excessive lawbreaking.
I disagree a little, though not much. Personally, I thought that Obama was a race-baiter from the start. My impression, though, is that he hid this better than most. He wasn’t as obvious as an Al Sharpton or a Maxine Waters.
Here’s the text of his Father’s Day speech from 2008, during the campaign, which I vaguely recalled. Among other things, he said:
So he had some good rhetoric. I think that this fooled a lot of people, for several years.
Statistically speaking, by the way, once you control for suspects who are actively and violently resisting arrest, the risk of an unarmed person being shot and killed by the police declines to essentially zero. An American is far more likely to be struck by lightning (or given the wrong deadly drug in the E.R.) than to be killed by the cops. But the perception of risk doesn’t have to be accurate to have a real effect. For example, a woman named Shawn Adeoye, a participant in a sleep study, reported to researchers that it wasn’t until the racial justice protests of 2020 that she really started having trouble sleeping. “My mind is constantly worried about things around me when my daughter is gone. I’m worried that she’s going to be pulled over by the police,” said Adeoye, a single mom. “I suddenly have high blood pressure and I know that is due to the anxiety, I know that it has a sleep component. It all goes together.” Ms. Adeoye, who is black, would have slept peacefully through the night in 2005, when officer-involved shootings, though still relatively rare, were more common. She is not sleepless and sick in 2023 because her world has been altered, but because her mind has.
I’d be interested in comparisons, if these exist, that disaggregate race and social class?
The sexual revolution was part of the one-two punch. The Pill, for instance, was approved by the FDA in June of 1960, although it had been in use already for about three years. According to Wikipedia, “by conservative estimate, at least half a million women had used it.” And it proved immensely popular, giving it enormous and almost instantaneous social impact. (By 1967, the Pill was on the cover of TIME Magazine!)
As Charles Murray has pointed out, even small shifts in social mores can have large effects on behavior, while social changes that are tolerable, or at least survivable, for the solid middle class can be disastrous for lower classes. Since more black Americans occupied those lower classes (and this was the result, ultimately, of slavery and racism!) they were more vulnerable to both blows: The Pill and the Great Society.
I should think that the rest of the cultural changes that took place in the sixties and seventies—for short: drugs, sexual liberation/free love, Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Club, the violent social justice groups that competed effectively with the non-violent ones (Black Panthers, Symbionese Liberation Army) more women going into the workforce and to some degree devaluing male roles and male work, soft-on-crime policies, Roe v. Wade….all of it would have a larger and more injurious impact on those with fewer resources and less social resiliency.
For instance, one interesting result of Roe was, paradoxically, more illegitimate babies born to teenaged girls. With abortion as a backstop to birth control, sex began to be seen as consequence-free and therefore something one could be sloppy about. When, as inevitably happened, birth control methods failed, at least some of the resulting pregnancies would be accepted and continued. This was especially true once it was understood that having a baby was a way to achieve what was beginning to pass for female adulthood in inner-city subculture: A welfare check, an apartment. When I was in high school, I remember thinking that one reason the middle-class (mostly white) girls didn’t have babies was because they had other plans. Delaying sex, or at least delaying childbearing, meant college, marriage, interesting work, a proper, nuclear family. The inner-city (mostly black) girls prospects surely appeared far more limited: “I can have an illegitimate baby and go on welfare now. Or I can have an illegitimate baby and go on welfare later.” Already, at least some of these were second-generation welfare-dependent; by now, we’re looking at third and fourth generations.
In which year did George Soros’ campaign to elect hand-picked prosecutors begin? The earliest date I can find online is 2015.
A Justice Department civil rights investigation has concluded that the Ferguson Police Department and the city’s municipal court engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against African-Americans, targeting them disproportionately for traffic stops, use of force, and jail sentences.
By 2015, the city anticipated that fines and fees would account for 23% of the budget, or $3.09 million of $13.26 million in general fund expenses, the Justice Department found.
I am betting if your city got 23% of the city budget from policing, you would feel put-upon.
Maybe so – I’ll admit bias: I know smart people and he isn’t one. I know liars and he is one.
He started with secretaries of state (then change state voting rules) way back. I remember it coming up when we lived in CA – 1980’s. He’s been at it, methodically, for a long time.
It goes back earlier; somehow in Missouri (and particular in St Louis County) — a builder could create a subdivision and get it incorporated into a tiny city. Then the city could incorporate the prejudices of the era into their local real estate laws. The result was a patchwork quilt of tiny towns, many of which attempted to fund a full city infrastructure with not enough population. Later on, after civil rights laws invalidated all those covenants, the smaller and aging parts of the county near the City border became more racially diverse but the tax base went down relative to more attractive and still growing areas further from St. Louis.
That’s when the idea of writing lots of traffic tickets and issuing lots of zoning infractions became the way to get the bills paid. Poor people of any race living in those old suburbs caught the worst of it. But the part that was most noticeable was white cops doing things to take money from poor black people.
How many of the targeted for traffic tickets were city residents compared to folks passing through town?
It’s a whole network of tiny towns, all doing the same thing. It’s a huge mess.
I would say that the entire economic shambles, which resulted in 12 million households being foreclosed on, might well have contributed to black angst.
That catastrophe was at its worst, 2009 thru to 2013.
Often it had nothing at all to do with whether or not someone bought a home using the sub prime mortgage scam.
In my community, one fourth of all households were evicted or else had lost their home due to foreclosure. Most of those people had been depending on the husband’s job as a tradesman, or else involved people who were teachers, cafe owners, barbers, hair dressers, accountants and other occupations. (For instance our county school district cut its budget from over 15 million to 9 million, due to how much of Calif went bankrupt after the economic collapse.)
Although our household had moved into being self employed, and we did well because of the Chinese liking our products, we still took note of the fact that the entire division of county and state social work for “unemployment to jobs” programs became defunct, despite jobs and counseling being needed more than ever. (This division of social services was where Mark worked before becoming self employed in 2007.)
Such departments were heavily manned by people of color, who now joined the unemployed population that they once had counseled.
These are excellent points, but I wonder what you think about this assertion: BLM had it’s roots planted in the 60’s and 70’s as an outgrowth of the civil rights movement. I grew up in this period and I remember hearing about black kids who achieved academic success being accused of “acting white.” Whiteness became a negative attribute, even when it was (wrongly, if exclusive) associated with academic, artistic, and moral excellence. “Dead white men” became a smear of the achievements of western civilization, generally.
I’m an admirer of the method of non-violence used during the civil rights era (and, really, I think it’s the only way to make peace between the tribes), but the “rights” movement had the effect of negating people’s sense of obligation. It encouraged blacks to a sense of entitlement for having suffered the effects of slavery and discrimination. Ultimately, it’s the entitlement and victimhood that is character destroying and socially divisive. What do you think?
I don’t think the entitlement and victimhood were caused by the civil rights movement as much as the leaders of the movement needed to keep leading and politicians needed to buy votes.
I agree with that, but don’t you think the “rights” movement(s) gives the power-and-money-mad the opportunity to exploit the situation? And the false promise people are tempted by is the avoidance of suffering (meeting obligations is self-sacrificial) by pinning the blame on others for their situation?
The sexual revolution brought on by the Pill is full of the false promise that you can have all the illicit sex you want without consequences, and abortion “solves” the problem of the consequences of sex anyway (incoherence is a feature of the Left, not a bug). As if there is no psycho-spiritual, let alone physical, suffering with abortion. Sufferings those making the false promises scrupulously avoid mentioning so as to exploit people’s weakest points.
I think that describes the Left in a nutshell. It exploits people’s weaknesses to gain power and money (they tend to go together). And people like Barak Obama (and BLM founders living in multi-million dollar mansions) are just unscrupulous enough to do it to their own “tribe.”
These people can’t possibly be fearful of a just God. Their “Christian faith” is just another falsehood they exploit for money and power.
So the tickets are a form of tax on non-residents?
Residents and non-residents both.
The power-and-money-mad will find situations to exploit whatever we do. Such situations draw them like moths to a flame. Thwarting them is a task that never ends.