Even under Obama, blacks still feel tremors of racism

Jimmy Blackwell has worked passionately for years to fight racism.

It's a task he hoped would not be as necessary after Jan. 20, when Barack Obama was sworn in as the nation's first black president.

But the Fort Worth activist with the Tarrant County Local Organizing Committee was in the national spotlight last week, helping lead a protest against alleged racial injustice in Paris, Texas.

"There is still a great deal of racism and injustice in this country, even though we have a black president," Blackwell said. "People think racism has gone away, but that is not true."

The Paris case, in which charges were dropped against two white men who had been accused of running over and dragging their black friend last year, is one of several recent racial incidents generating headlines.

Stoking passions right now is the controversy over the arrest of a black Harvard University professor in Cambridge, Mass., an incident that Obama escalated by saying the police "acted stupidly."

It happened during a pivotal week in Washington, when the president was trying to get his health care plan moving and his Supreme Court nominee confirmed. As the week ended, Obama's agenda had essentially stalled while he dealt with the fallout from the remark, trying to defuse the conflict by acknowledging that he helped ratchet up the debate and should have "calibrated" his words differently.

People on all sides of the racial divide say there's no question that tensions persist and that struggles will continue.

"We celebrate the president's election, but at the same time it obscures what's really going on," said the Rev. Michael Bell, a leader with the committee. "Even though things have changed at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., it hasn't changed much on Main Street of the black America community.

"We are still feeling the after-effects of years of injustice, lack of opportunity, lack of access," he said. "We are still feeling the tremors."


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