Did Hell Just Freeze Over?

Really. That’s the question that I’m asking myself right now.

Why? Because I just read that a CNN poll from last week found that 69 percent of blacks in America currently believe that MLK’s vision “has been fulfilled.” This is quantum levels of optimism beyond a mere majority. Say what? Black people? You mean the very people who for as long as we’ve been doing opinion polls have been the quintessential pessimists? Yes…those people.

I know you’re thinking that if black people are so effusive, then white people must practically unanimously agree that we have reached the promise land. And in this case, you would be wrong…because only 46 percent of them do.

Yes, we have suddenly turned the world upside down.

Let me give you some context. When asked if this country had fulfilled Martin Luther King’s vision in March 2008, the poll numbers were as unnewsworthy as they were predictable: 34 percent of black respondents said “yes,” compared with 35 percent of white respondents. If we go back several years, before Barack Obama entered the public limelight, those numbers were more like 20 percent for blacks and 40 percent for whites.

This just might be the first time ever in our history that African Americans are more optimistic than white Americans with respect to the position of black people in the United States racial hierarchy.

OK, so what’s going on? That’s what I want to know. What’s this mean?

I have a few thoughts. Black people are riding a spiritual high that crescendoed right after the election when, for the first time ever, a majority said that we would eventually find a solution to our race conundrum. And now on the eve of a (half) black president, the glee is too much to contain. Sure, the enthusiasm will wane, but for the moment how can the world not look rosy and cheerful — as long as people with brown skin refrain from riding the subway in Oakland. (OK, I’m being cynical here; I’ll return to that story in a future posting.)

The white celebrations, by contrast, do not have the momentum of 400 years of mistreatment and second (or third) class citizenship. Maybe white people are feeling a bit nervous about having their racial universe turned on its head. Sure, there are positives to the transformation — like the prospect of being able to have normalized relationships and straightforward conversations with black and brown people. But on the negative side, there is a visible crack in the foundation of white privilege and I can only imagine that it’s weakening the support beams holding up the house of normal — and white people are feeling the stress.

But really, I feel like I’m shooting plastic ducks floating past at one of those midway stands at a carnival — and it’s highly unlikely that I’ve tagged the one with the star on the bottom. In other words, I’m at a loss on this one. Someone tell me what these poll numbers mean.


  • Anonymous says:

    Journal 2
    “Did Hell Just Freeze Over?”

    The poll numbers, blacks becoming more optimistic while white people are becoming less optimistic… it all has to do with the fact that our new president is “half” black. In the past, I feel that there was really no reason why the black community should have felt so pessimistic towards where the world was going. Granted we all have our opinions and I am sure some white people have felt the same way, but I think the reason that black people are much more pessimistic when it come to politics is because up until now, our presidents, and the people running for president, have all been white. Meaning I simply think the reason most black people were so negative was due to the race of our president, they did not think a white man can do it. However, now that there is a man I office that is now “half” black, the black community feels more optimistic. Is this simply based on race? I think so. Guaranteed Obama was more suited for the job, but would he have gotten as many voted from the black community if he were white? I honestly do not think so, I think most just jumped on the band wagon when they found out that the United Stated can have it first black president, even before they really got to know the other candidates and what both stood for. Do not get me wrong, I voted for Obama too because he was the more qualified for the job, I just feel that most of his success from the black community was due to his race. A friend once said to me, “I think Obama got the most support form both sides because he is the perfect color. He is not too black to scare off the white community, but he is black enough to get the support of the black community.” This statement is very true, and once again, it just relates back to race.
    When it comes to the question whether or not Martin Luther King Jr. vision “has been fulfilled,” I partially agree with 69 percent of the back community. I feel that it somewhat has. Martin Luther King wished that one day we could all live in a peaceful world that was equal, and were race was not an issue. There is still race in the world which is why his dream is not fully fulfilled and which is why it probably never will be. However, due to the fact that there is a “half” black man as president proves just how far we have come. Years ago, no one would think such a thing would happen, but it has. And to tell you the truth, I am happy it has. It is about time that people stop looking as soon as they see ones color, and keep looking until they see one’s true self.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was recently watching The Patriot, you know, that wonderful movie with Mel Gibson about the American Revolution. As I was watching this very long movie I couldn’t help but notice how stupid their fighting style was. The Red Coats and the Americans would both stand in this huge, open field facing each other. The drums of war would be beating on both sides and men would be waving flags to help remind each other what they were fighting for. The rest of the men would be caring one shot bayonets and preparing themselves to take a life. The Patriot does a great job of depicting how much all these men want to shit there pants because they know someone on the other line is aiming a gun at them. I can only imagine what it would really be like to be in there position. To hear the drums stop and know its time to be a man and kill someone who is the same age as me. To kill someone who has a family that loves them and is waiting for them to return home. So many lives would have been saved had everyone just tucked their tails and run, but obviously that didn’t happen. They killed each other from long range by blowing huge holes in each other with their massive bayonet bullets. My thought is that maybe if we still fought this way, out in the open starring out opponent down and seeing all the fear and life in their face, wars would be fought a little less. In today’s world, you can kill someone from miles away, never seeing their face, never hearing their screams of pain. Today, killing has become so removed. The person who is pressing the button to drop the bomb from the plane above a family’s house will never know who they actually killed.
    I know its unrealistic to think that just because you are standing in front of someone and can see their face and all the fear in their eyes that killing would stop. As much as we all hate it, it’s a kill or be killed world when conflict arrives. However, the reality is that the people who actually suffer the most from the fighting are the innocents who get caught in the cross fire, like Doctor Abuelaish’s young daughters and niece who were tragically killed by a bomb. Why can’t we all just make love not war! The only pain in the world would be broken hearts, not lost limbs and dead bodies. I hope one day that conflict can be resolved in a peaceful way and we can make amends for all the lives that have been killed in the quest for power.
    Christine McMeekin

  • Sarah Moore says:

    Do I think that Obama’s campaign has been widely successful in bringing “everyone to the table”? Yes, I would say so. This does not mean, however, that Obama will be successful at keeping the peace or appeasing everyone, or even following through on everything that he has promised throughout his campaign. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction. Already, he has proven that he is willing to at least try to follow through on his promises. That, I believe is something that this country is in desperate need of and something that will definitely change how America is perceived (both by her own citizens and by others throughout the world).
    That being said, and in light of the differing of opinion on marriage, I pose a different view, when it comes to the questioning of its past morality of the previous 5000 years. Of course many of us today would agree with the fact that we think it immoral that an older man should marry a young child, yet “back in the day,” young girls were often married off by the age of ten. And, to be honest, that was culturally acceptable at the time and is only a minor detail to the overall aura of marriage. That did not threaten, nonetheless, the very essence of marriage (and thus, families): they consist of a covenant between a man and woman and their offspring.
    This nuclear societal construct, then builds upon itself to create our societies, our nations, our culture, etc. The homosexual movement to consecrate same-sex marriages changes this, does it not? A family, then, would no longer be constituted as a man and a woman who come together to raise children. It stands to reason that changing this simple view of marriage would thus change society in drastic ways. Our entire understanding would have to be molded again into something new.
    Unfortunately, the homosexual debate generates much controversy and has witnessed a mishandling of the subject from both the purporting and opposing sides of the argument. Just because someone does not agree with the sanctioning of homosexuality, does not make him or her a homophobe. I do think that the church has widely mishandled the issue though. It is much simpler to just fear something and condemn things than to show someone, that although you may not agree with what they are doing (or how they are living), you still care for them and are willing to witness God’s love to them. There are misconceptions on both sides of the fence and there are many people who have misrepresented both Christians and homosexuals. Regardless, someone must seriously contemplate and question the societal implications of such a radical change on the construct of marriage and not just simply on the war between the opposing sides.

  • Mike S says:

    Since the election, the up rise of enthusiasm in the black community has been tremendous. There has been celebration, after all the history there has been between blacks and whites, we are finally equal. I personally do not see it that way. Though this is an extremely historic time in our country, I do not believe that there is equilibrium in our society.
    I believe that the poll results are promising, and exciting for our country. We are in uncharted territory for our nation, and after 8 years dealing with something that’s broken and unfixable we are now allowed to feel hope for our country. The black populace has made a giant step forward in our society as a whole; they broke though a wall that many thought would never fall. They did it with a man who is intelligent beyond all reaches of the word. President Obama has a plan of action for this country and is giving us all hope.
    There are many areas in this country where black people are not welcome what so ever. I’m from a small town on the east side of Pennsylvania, and go line dancing on a pretty regular basis when I am home, I went to a tavern on a night they had line dancing while I was in high school. That is when saw a group of people kick a black person out of the tavern because they were black and were quote “Not welcomed here”. I could not believe my eyes when I had seen this. Many people may say they know that there is ‘backwoods racists’ in America, but when you actually see someone get kicked out of an establishment just because they are black, it helps force the point that there are many people who are ignorant to the fact that we are all the same and everyone should be treated equally.
    The poll results are promising, and we can only move up from here. Yes a black man has reached the highest level in our government, but when I look at it, I see a man who was the most qualified for the position. MLK, though he would be ecstatic over the forward progress our country has just taken, would see that we as a people, still need to move forward. We still see President Obama as a black man; MLK would want us to see him an American, a man with no color, a man that is the same as you and I. We need to stop the narrow mindedness of those “backwoods racists”, prove to them that we are all the same, and that our society is moving forward with or without them. The future is extremely promising for me and my generation and even my own children, and hopefully our first black president, Obama will allow us to live in a country with no color barriers, a nation of one.

    Mike Sands

  • Jeremy says:

    Hell is still warm. Dr. King’s dream of racial equality hasn’t been fulfilled. Some 40 years ago when Martin Luther King Jr. gave that now famous “I Have a Dream” speech he was looking for something more. First, things first, the fact that we finally have an African-American President now in the Oval Office is great. Mind you that Barack Obama is half-black and half-white, the time for change could only happen now. We’re living in a time where the racial divide is almost nowhere to be found. Let’s take a closer look at the world at large. The majority of top stars in Hollywood are still white but that is slowly changing. The top athletes in the NBA and NFL are black but even that is changing. I grew up in an all-black neighborhood. For most of my life, went to all-black schools but there were times where I had to experience life in different aspects. When I was in the fourth grade, I went to an all-white school. I’ll be honest. It sucked. At such a young age I had to experience something totally different from my normal life. For the first time, I was a minority. For the first time I was out of place but that didn’t stop me. I made some really close friends but I hated the teacher. In the eighth grade I attended an all Latino school and things really changed for me. I really fell in love with everything around me at the time and it was a great experience. My family has pretty much expected that if I do get married than it probably will be outside of my race mainly because I love my mamacitas. Now I’m here at Penn State where once again I’m a minority and this time I was prepared for it. The campus is 83 percent white and five percent Caucasian. My roommate freshman year was Asian and this year he’s white. Dr. King’s dream is coming true. People are friendlier and are really breaking barriers everyday. The fact that we now live in a nation racism really won’t be tolerated is a great thing. To think that with Barack Obama being in the White House is what Dr. King was striving for and looking for is ridiculous. It’s a step in the right direction but we can always strive to do bigger and better things. Our lives are changing on a daily basis. I think a big step was Bill Clinton becoming President. I’ve never seen a white man become so embraced by many people of different colors. He was nicknamed the first black president. I call him that all of the time. Dr. King’s dream is still alive and kicking. It’s still out there, but I’ll tell you one thing; it’s far from being a nightmare.

  • Anonymous says:

    For the United States and its entire people, the 2008 Presidential Election is a monumental event that will stand beside George Washington, the Constitution, and the Civil War, in history books. This event has dawned a new day in terms of equality and open-mindedness for not only America, but for the world. To say the least, having the first African American president in the White House is a groundbreaking occasion in the history of the world, which undoubtedly stirs emotion in everyone. Whether one is happy or sad, excited or mad, emotion is pumping and influencing thoughts and ideas. The CNN pole stating that 69 percent of blacks in America believe that Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream “has been fulfilled”, is a perfect example of emotions influencing judgment. Although everyone is being affected by emotion right now, blacks are especially susceptible to their emotions. It is something that whites can only begin to understand. Going from a segregated and oppressive country to having a black president in less than forty years is astonishing, and blacks particularly must be beside themselves. It is very silly to have a poll asking if King’s dream “has been fulfilled”, so soon after the election, since people’s minds are clearly clouded by emotion. If this same pole were given a year later, the results would most likely differ by a significant amount. Although it is rather surprising that the percentage of white’s who feel King’s dream “has been fulfilled”, was nowhere near as inflated, with 46 percent agreeing. Especially when before the elections the percentages agreeing with the statement were 34 percent of blacks and 35 percent for whites. This could be explained by an exuberant amount of positive emotion being expressed by blacks, or possibly that blacks and whites feel very different regarding the association between a black president and King’s dream. Either way, it will be interesting to see the same pole a year from now. It would be especially interesting if the percentage of blacks that feel King’s dream “has been fulfilled” remained the same. A strong majority of the population did obviously vote for Barack Obama, which doesn’t necessarily mean racism is extinct, but it means a whole lot of white people are comfortable voting for a black man. An excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream” reads, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”. The 2008 Presidential election shows that Barack Obama was clearly not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of” his character. So what does this mean? If King’s dream hasn’t been fulfilled it is undoubtedly well on its way and nearing completion.

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