When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, slightly more than half of U.S. blacks said they believed they would soon enjoy equality, University of Chicago Professor Michael Dawson writes in the just-published "Not in Our Lifetimes: The Future of Black Politics."
This compares with barely 20 percent of blacks in 2005 who said "racial equality for blacks would be achieved either in their lifetimes or at all in the United States," Dawson says.
His 2005 surveys were conducted shortly after the Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina disaster, when blacks were 64 percent more likely than whites to think Washington would have moved faster if the victims of the hurricane were white.
At the time, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin blamed racism and government bureaucracy for hamstringing his heavily black city's ability to weather Katrina and recover from the Gulf Coast disaster.
"And I, to this day, believe that if that would have happened in Orange County, Calif. -- if that would have happened in South Beach, Miami -- it would have been a different response," Nagin later told the National Association of Black Journalists.
Blacks were 50 percent more likely than whites to think Katrina exposed U.S. racial-inequality problems, Dawson says.
After Obama's election, whites were even more optimistic about racial harmony than blacks, with nearly 80 percent feeling blacks would soon achieve equality, Dawson found in opinion surveys he conducted while researching the book.
But Obama's election led to no resurgence of black political effectiveness and no reduction in racial conflict, Dawson's book argues.
Poverty among African-Americans has continued to rise as the national economy has struggled and black politics remains weak, he said.
Achieving racial and economic equality will require coalition-building and reaching across racial divides, Dawson says.
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