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Changing Everything? Obama Sparks Conversations on Race


Stephen Colbert doesn't see race — people tell him he's white and he believes them because he watches Antique Roadshow — but he does talk about it, which is half the battle. But some black people perceive strategic colorblindness, or avoiding talking about race, as evidence of prejudice.

Thankfully Obama has become an icebreaker into the murky waters of race relations. And white and black people are noticing an ease in what psychologists call "interracial anxiety." A black medical student from Birmingham, AL, said “Before Obama, there was always this thing — ‘He’s a black doctor,' but now I’m going to be a physician who also happens to be black."

Considering there's long been a link between interracial anxiety and previous exposure to race, it's not surprising that a black soon-to-be president is easing conversation. However, as recently as last Summer there was still a divide between how blacks and whites perceive race relations — whites perceive them as better. In a study, nearly 60 percent of blacks said race relations were bad while only 34 percent of whites said the same.

In addition, there's a concern that Obama transcends race, like Oprah, and that many people see him as "not that black." So while his star quality may ease everyday relations for him and his family, it could do nothing for the everyday lives of other black Americans.

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