An Obama Win Will Improve Race Relations

Racial tensions might have increased in his first term, but history shows that's just temporary.

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With the dawn of the modern-day civil rights movement in the mid-20th century, again we saw our country step forward, but there were some painful steps back along the way to bring us where we are today. Among them was the re-emergence of the Klan as a powerful and intimidating force, resulting in the deaths of four little girls in a church bombing; and the killing of three teenage civil rights workers, which would inspire a federal investigation and the film Mississippi Burning. The list goes on.

But when it was all said and done, not only was our nation left with the Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended legalized school segregation, but the man who litigated that case before the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall, became the first black man to occupy a seat on the high court. Just three years ago the first black mayor was elected in Philadelphia, Miss., the town in which those three civil rights workers were murdered and whose leaders helped cover it up.

The Next Step Forward

This is all to say that none of us should be surprised that race relations appear to have gotten worse since President Obama's election. What would be surprising is if they had not. But history has shown us that in the long run, as long as our nation is willing to risk taking that first step and has the collective courage to try to keep moving forward, we will progress.

Today, in many ways, race relations are better than they have ever been. Unlike 100 years ago, today most young people are growing up to see those of different races not only as not so different but also as potential mates, and therefore potential family members. According to a Pew Research Center study in 2010, nearly 100 percent of millennials approve of interracial relationships. According to Census Bureau data, biracial children are the fastest-growing demographic in America.

And if Barack Obama gets a second term, there will be a whole new generation of kids whose formative years and entire childhood have been shaped by the presence of a black man from a multiracial family in the White House. It will officially be the "new normal" and the only America they know. Such a step forward in race relations may just be too big for anyone to pull back.

Keli Goff is The Root's political correspondent.

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