When Barack Obama became the nation’s first black president, many people saw proof the United States had entered a post-racial age. They argued the old struggles over racial bias, prejudice and inequality had been put to rest, consigned to the 20th century.
But while that 2008 election was undoubtedly a high point in the country’s long, jagged, sometimes violent, racial experience, it also marked, for many, a resurgence of racial hatred more intense than had been seen in decades.
Now, two years into the administration of President Donald Trump, some Americans argue the country has taken a step back in race relations.
So where are we, which vision of race in America is correct, as far as rank-and-file Americans are concerned?
The Daily News sought to illuminate that question through a series of interviews of Galveston County residents representing as many races and political camps as we could find willing to talk.
Here’s part two of what we learned.
ROBERT M. QUINTERO
Growing up in Galveston, Robert M. Quintero, embraced his Mexican heritage and was proud to be an American, he said.
A member of the League of United Latin-American Citizens Council No. 151, Quintero is deputy district director for District VII, which covers 32 counties in Southeast Texas.
Quintero, 56, said he thinks race relations are better in Galveston than on the mainland.
“When the tragedy in Santa Fe happened in May, several of my friends from LULAC in Houston assisted with a charitable event after the high school shooting,” Quintero said.
“My friends said they were mistreated by residents in Santa Fe. I was asked why didn’t I tell them about this community. I replied that after this tragedy that shocked the entire country, I’d hoped that some people would use this event to heal and come together as a community and forget overt feelings of the past. I guess I was wrong.”
The experience left Quintero wondering about race relations in America, he said.
“Race relations have gotten worse,” Quintero said. “During the Obama administration, people who previously hid behind their prejudice came out overtly with their preconceived notions.”
Quintero said it was hard to understand why Americans seem afraid to sit down and simply talk about race face to face.
Quintero, who lives and works in racially diverse areas, argues the key to mending the racial climate in America is to talk about race, he said.
“Racial division isn’t taught in the schools,” Quintero said. “It’s taught in the homes and in the streets. We need to learn that we pray to the same God, breathe the same air, drink the same water and cheer for the same teams. So, why can’t we sit and talk about racial fear?”
MATTIE Margaret MUSE
Mattie Margaret Muse, 73, was born and raised in Galveston.
Muse, who has been retired for 14 years, hasn’t dealt with any overt racism in her lifetime, she said.
“Race relations in Galveston County are basically good,” Muse said. “Even when I was in the working sector, the racial climate was status quo in most cases.”
Muse and her family and friends discuss race often, especially such issues as the deaths of black boys and men in encounters with police, she said.
“I do feel as though they’ve gotten worse since Trump’s administration has taken helm,” Muse said. “However, I truly believe race issues can be fixed by Americans exercising their right to vote by putting the people who believe in America in office.”
Muse, a member of Galveston’s NAACP chapter, argues the racial climate is worse now than what she experienced as a child.
“In today’s racial climate in America, there’s no love for one another anymore,” Muse said. “I feel that in this day and time, America isn’t the America that I grew up in. Moving forward, I believe we, as Americans, can look forward to a nation which will embrace each other — no matter the color of our skin.”
James Jones, 29, was born and raised in Galveston.
Jones, the youngest of four, and son of James Sr. and Deborah Jones, of Texas City, was taught early on that education would allow him to get further in life, despite the odds being stacked against him, he said.
Race, or African issues, are old issues, and race relations have been bad since the beginning, he said.
“For us, as African people, we’re fooled by how things look, rather than what they are,” Jones said. “The things that were happening under Obama and are happening under Trump are the same things that were happening under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. These issues aren’t new.”
Jones and his family and friends discuss race issues every time they’re together, he said.
Jones sees race relations in Galveston County as the same as race relations everywhere else in the country, he said.
“We live in a caste system similar to that in India,” Jones said. “We don’t live in a safe environment similar to that in Flint, Michigan. We’re harassed and mistreated by police and the judicial system similar to that in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland, and Waller County, Texas.”
With the current racial climate in America, overt and covert racism is always there, said Jones, who expresses his ethnicity boldly in his community, as well as at his place of employment.
Jones doesn’t see a way for America to improve its racial issues, which have been a part of this country since its inception, he said.
“This (race) isn’t to be fixed because this isn’t supposed to work (benefit) anyone else other than the European elite,” Jones said. “What needs to be fixed is the perception we have of what America is — and always has been. That way, we can ‘fix’ ourselves. To quote John H. Clarke: ‘Being African people we have to learn the art of selfishness and put race first.’ After we do this, then we can work with other races to live more peacefully; but I don’t believe that this can be fixed.”
April Haynes and her husband, Andrew, met in high school in Galveston.
Haynes, who’s white, and her husband, who’s black, have seen their fair share of racism when it comes to their interracial relationship, she said.
However, Haynes, 30, believes that race relations in Galveston County mirror the same pattern of race relations currently across the United States, she said.
“I believe silent racists have gotten more comfortable with our current president/government and have become more outspoken than prior to 2016,” Haynes said. “It feels like we’re living in 1955. People are turning against each other every day because of race, religion and politics. However, if you were just speaking of Galveston (the city) and not the county, I would say that Galveston is an island of its own where we have a laid-back, agree to disagree type of culture.
“Growing up in Galveston and attending Ball High School gave me experiences and perspectives I will never forget. If you went to Ball High, you know what I’m talking about. It really taught us that we can all get along and work together regardless of race, religion or gender.”
The Haynes, unfortunately, have had to deal with racial profiling, and often, with family and friends, have discussions on race issues three to four times a week, she said.
Haynes, who’s a mother of two sons, Andrew Jr. and Anderson, believes that race relations in America has gotten worse in the past two years, she said.
“I believe under Trump’s administration racists have found it easier and gotten more comfortable to speak about hate and their racist views more openly,” Haynes said. “We need a strong president and government that supports equality and is committed to bringing the country together instead of apart.”
Haynes believes America can become an example of racial harmony, she said.
“For those who have racist beliefs that have been passed down from generation to generation, they will need a complete change of heart,” Haynes said. “We should spread love, not hate. Pay it forward. At a minimum, try to put the shoe on the other foot before judging a person or stereotyping anyone. Let’s all live and teach the golden rule.”