By Wil Haygood and DeNeen L. Brown
The Washington Post
President Barack Obama’s re-election — in a ferocious campaign dotted by charges of racial anger and minority-voter suppression — has provided what many blacks say will surely deepen his legacy: irrefutable evidence that his presidency is hardly a historical fluke as he has now won two national campaigns with overwhelming white support.
Obama, the nation’s first black president, was already soaked in history, a figure seen in the aftermath of his 2008 victory as the culmination of a decades-long civil rights crusade that suffered the assassination of beloved figures who fought and marched for the right to vote and freely pursue the American dream.
But Obama’s first term as president also saw him pelted with racially charged denunciations — some from politicians — that reopened festering wounds and even fears in the African American community for his safety. At times it felt as if the W.E.B. Du Bois prophecy — the problem of the 20th century would be the color line, he famously opined — had leapt right into the 21st century.
“In many ways,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “Obama’s reelection can be seen as resilience on the part of the African American community.”
But Bunch admitted that he felt, as did many blacks in the waning weeks of the campaign, that Obama — despite accomplishments in the war on terrorism, a strengthening economy and passage of a universal-health-care law — had been mercilessly castigated.
“You want to hope it’s a smaller minority with that real racial hatred,” he said. “You see the vitriolic comments, and you realize the first election of Obama didn’t change the pain and hatred. In some ways that election magnified some of it.”