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With Obama as president have race relations improved in America?

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By July 2009, the black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested for yelling at a white police officer who questioned whether Gates had broken into his own home. Asked to comment, Obama said he didn't know all the facts, but Gates was a personal friend and the officer had acted "stupidly."

The uproar was immediate. Obama acknowledged afterward, "I could've calibrated those words differently."

Ed Cattaneo, a retired computer training manager from Cape May, N.J., points to that episode as evidence of how Obama has hurt race relations.

"He's made them terrible," says Cattaneo, who is white. He also sees Obama as siding against white people through actions such as his Justice Department's decision to drop voter intimidation charges against New Black Panthers and in a program to turn out the black vote called "African-Americans for Obama."

Larry Sharkey, also white, draws different conclusions from the past four years.

"Attitudes are much better," Sharkey says as he slices raw meat in a Philadelphia butcher shop. He remembers welcoming a black family that moved next door to him 20 years ago in Claymont, Del. A white neighbor advised him not to associate with the new arrivals, warning, "Your property values are going to go down."

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