NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 86

Race and the Presidency The French historian and commentator, Alexis de Tocqueville, l visited the new United States almost 200 years ago. At that time he observed that the single most critical and divisive issue in this country was race. The stark contrast between the stated ideals of America — liberty, the recognition and protection of rights — and the brutal and inhumane reality of legalized race-based slavery was always irreconcilable. 84 It took the most violent war in the history of the nation just to abolish slavery. It took several amendments to the Constitution, multiple Supreme Court decisions and countless national, state and local laws to establish even partial recognition of the rights and humanity of black Americans. And, as you are reading this, the status of black Americans in this country is too often characterized by poverty, incarceration and huge canyons of despair and hopelessness. By WALLACE FORD