In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Racial Thaw

I have a few thoughts which aren't easily quantifiable but I think went a long way towards easing things. First, I think the drop in crime and teen pregnancy in the 90s helped ease some of the fear of whites. (Of course, there was plenty of racism before the spike in out-of-wedlock births among blacks and whites.) But if you read a book like Tom Edsall's very smart "Chain Reaction" or Joanathan Rieder's "Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism." you see how much of white atitudes and voting patters were driven by fears--exaggerated nonetheless but real--about black-on-white crime. When those problems eased, race relations, I think did. Some issues like court-ordered school busing vanished from the scene. Second, I think the wholesale absorption of hip-hop culture into the white culture helped. What once seemed menacing, became mainstream. (Flavor Flav is now a middle age, buffoonish figure.) I think Bill Clinton's ease with African-Americans helped and his appointment of large numbers of African Americans. I don't want to say anything nice about George W. Bush on my first day at TPM but I think appointing two African American secretaries of state, fifth in the line of succession, made it easier to envision a President Obama. Affirmative Action, still a contentious issue in American life, seems to have lost much of its divisive power as its become engrained. And the oft-remarked demographic changes in America, the surge of immigration especially, made the tableau more complicated.

When Barack Obama looks out from the Capitol tomorrow there will be endless commentary on how American changed since King spoke at the other end of the Mall. But what's less commented upon but still worth noting is how America changed in the last 25 years.