Barack Obama, showing the eloquence he’s famous for, makes the point in the light of the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case that America is not (yet) a post-racial society:
There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
This is something that many who haven’t experienced that side of society’s treatments perhaps don’t realise – those viewed this way notice. People might thing they’re being careful or subtle, but it’s noticeable. I’m not a black man in America, but I’ve seen shades of the same thing, and while 9 times out of 10 it’s easy to dismiss, there’s always the odd moment when you think to yourself that you’re paying for the original sin of appearance, something you can’t control at all.
And let me just leave you with a final thought: that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race.
It doesn’t mean that we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.
The underlying point here is: electing me – even twice – hasn’t resolved the race issue in America, and it’d be worthwhile to recognise this as a factor.