Obama did nothing for blacks but prompting white supremacism
William A. Darity Jr.
American economist at Duke University
1. Historically speaking, racism has been a serious issue on both sides of the Atlantic. In terms of the current condition of racism, what is the difference between the US and Europe?
The histories of the manifestation of white supremacy are different on each side of the Atlantic in large part because the black population in the Americas is largely (although not exclusively) a product of the transatlantic slave trade via forced migration. It is important, therefore, to consider when and how slavery came to an end in each of the countries of the Americas and what steps were taken, if any, to boost the lives of the formerly enslaved and their descendants. In fact, there was no “boost”, but, especially in the United States, there was anti-black violence and genocidal practices (given the general definition of genocide used by the United Nations). Blacks who moved to Europe were, for the most part, conventional immigrants coming out of the colonial possessions of the imperial powers. So racism has operated in very different ways on each side of the Atlantic.
2. It is almost impossible to talk about racism in the US without mentioning President Obama. Did election of the first African American president have any actual impact on the African American community?
I personally don’t think Obama’s election was a “win” of any sort for the black community. In fact, it is especially sad to see the extent of the backlash confronting black Americans from a presidency that did nothing for black people. In fact, symbolism of Obama’s presidency was partly responsible for the rise of white supremacism, which helped Trump win presidency in 2016.
3. With President Trump gone, how do you assess the impact of his presidency, in both symbolic and actual terms, on the conditions of African American communities?
Trump is not gone. In fact, his followers came very close to conducting a successful coup d’état to return him to power on January 6, 2021. He is poised to run for the presidency again in 2024 and could win. I fear that he and his family will never leave office if he wins that race.
4. In the context of the US, could you please elaborate on the lingering discriminatory effects of racism on the black community?
Discriminatory effects primarily affect black incomes. And discrimination still has the effect of depressing black earnings, educational attainment, access to credit, health outcomes, etc. However, it’s the cumulative effects of all dimensions of American racism that are embodied in the black-white wealth disparity. And closing the racial education gap will not close the racial wealth gap as the connection is weak. As an example, black heads of household with a college degree have a lower level of wealth than white heads of household who never finished high school.