When Barack Obama became America’s first black president, optimistic pundits pondered the prospect of a ‘post-racial’ society – colour blind, egalitarian and free of racial prejudice. A poll taken a few days after he won elections in November 2008 found that 70 per cent of Americans thought race relations would improve under his presidency. By most measures, they did not.
The notion that the United States was moving towards a ‘post-racial’ state has been laid to rest by a string of mass protests and riots triggered by the killing of black men by white police officers and, in July, the retaliatory killing of five white policemen by a black army veteran in Dallas. Only 12 days later, a black ex-Marine murdered three policemen in Baton Rouge. He left a note saying the shootings were aimed at forcing ‘substantial change in America’s police forces’.
Surveys after the mass killings showed that six out of 10 Americans thought race relations were getting worse.