Top 10 Events in Race Relations This Decade (2000-2009)

Top 10 Events in Race Relations This Decade (2000-2009)

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The first decade of the new millennium saw extraordinary strides in race relations. New ground was broken in film, television and politics, to name a few. Just because accomplishments have been made in race relations doesn't mean there's no room for improvement, though. Tensions continue to run high over issues such as illegal immigration and racial profiling. And a natural disaster--Hurricane Katrina--revealed that racial divisions remain strong in the United States. So, what's in store for race relations between 2010 and 2020? Judging from the events on the race relations timeline of this decade, the sky's the limit. After all, who in 1999 could've guessed that the new decade would see America's first black president ushering in, what some have called, "post-racial" America?

"Dora the Explorer" (2000)

Which cartoon characters did you grew up watching? Were they part of the Peanuts gang, the Looney Tunes crew or the Hanna-Barbera family? If so, perhaps Pepe Le Pew was the only animated character you came across who spoke two languages--in Pepe's case, French and English. But Pepe never became as famous as his Looney Tunes companions Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird. On the other hand, when "Dora the Explorer" arrived on the scene in 2000, the series about an adventurous bilingual Latina and her animal friends proved so popular it has grossed billions of dollars. The popularity of the show proves that girls and boys of all ethnic groups will readily embrace Latino characters. It has already paved the way for another animated show with a Latino protagonist--"Go Diego Go"--which features Dora's cousin.

Don't expect Dora to be upstaged by Diego, or any other animated character, for that matter. As her audience evolves, so does she. Dora's look was updated in early 2009. She's grown from tot to tween, wears fashionable clothes and includes mystery-solving among her adventures. Count on Dora to be around for the long haul.

Colin Powell Becomes Secretary of State (2001)

George W. Bush appointed Colin Powell Secretary of State in 2001. Powell was the first African American to serve in the role. A moderate in a conservative administration, Powell often clashed with other members of the Bush administration. He announced his resignation from the position on Nov. 15, 2004. His service was not without controversy. Powell came under fire for his insistence that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction. The claim was used as justification for the U.S. to invade Iraq. After Powell stepped down, Condoleezza Rice became the first African-American woman to serve as secretary of state.

Sept. 11 Terrorist Attacks (2001)

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001 left nearly 3,000 people dead. Because those responsible for the attacks were from the Middle East, Arab Americans came under intense scrutiny in the U.S. and continue to be today. Arguments arose over whether Arabs in America should be racially profiled. Hate crimes against Middle Easterners rose markedly.

Today, xenophobia against individuals from Muslim nations remains high. In the 2008 presidential campaign, a rumor spread that Barack Obama was Muslim to discredit him. Obama is, in fact, Christian, but just the insinuation that he was Muslim cast suspicion upon him.

In November 2009, the Middle Eastern community braced itself for another backlash when Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded dozens in a murderous rampage at the Ft. Hood military base. Hasan reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar!" before the massacre.

Angelina Jolie Puts International Adoption in the Spotlight (2002)

Transracial adoption was nothing new when actress Angelina Jolie adopted son Maddox from Cambodia in March 2002. Actress Mia Farrow adopted children from various racial backgrounds decades before Jolie, as did singer-dancer Josephine Baker. But when the 26-year-old Jolie adopted her Cambodian son and went on to adopt a daughter from Ethiopia and another son from Vietnam, she actually influenced the public to follow suit. Adoptions of children in countries such as Ethiopia by Westerners went up. Later Madonna would make headlines for adopting two children from another African nation--Malawi.

International adoption has its critics, of course. Some argue that domestic adoption should be prioritized. Others fear that international adoptees will be forever disconnected from their native countries. There's also the notion that international adoptees have become status symbols for Westerners much like designer handbags or shoes.

Halle Berry and Denzel Washington Win Oscars (2002)

At the 74th Academy Awards, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington made history by winning Oscars for Best Actress and Best Actor, respectively. While Sidney Poitier won a Best Actor Oscar for 1963's "Lilies of the Field," no black woman had ever won a top acting honor from the Academy.

Berry, who won for "Monster's Ball," remarked during the ceremony, "This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll… it's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."

While many were elated by the groundbreaking wins of Berry and Washington, some in the African-American community expressed dismay that the actors won Oscars for portraying less than admirable characters. Washington played a corrupt cop in “Training Day,” while Berry played an abusive mother who moves in with the white man who participated in her late husband's execution. The film features a graphic sex scene between Berry and Billy Bob Thornton that also garnered criticism, including from actress Angela Bassett who said she turned down the part of Leticia (the character Berry plays) because she didn't want to be a “prostitute on film.”

Hurricane Katrina (2005)

Hurricane Katrina touched down in southeastern Louisiana Aug. 29, 2005. One of the deadliest hurricanes in American history, Katrina took more than 1,800 lives. While residents with the means to leave the area evacuated before the hurricane hit, impoverished residents of New Orleans and surrounding areas had no choice but to stay put and rely on the government for assistance. Unfortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was slow to take action, leaving the most vulnerable residents of the Gulf region with lack of water, housing, healthcare and other necessities. Many of those left behind were poor and black, and President George W. Bush and his administration were criticized for not taking swift action because impoverished African Americans were apparently not a priority to them.

Rallies for Immigrants Take Place Nationwide (2006)

Although the United States is a nation of immigrants, America remains divided over the surge of immigrants into the country in recent decades. Opponents of immigration, particularly illegal immigration, regard immigrants as a drain on the country's resources. Many resent having to compete for work with immigrants willing to work for extremely low wages. Supporters of immigrants, however, cite the many contributions newcomers to America have made to the country. They argue that immigrants don't tax the nation's resources but, in fact, boost the economy through their hard work.

In a show of support of immigrants to America, a reported 1.5 million people demonstrated from coast to coast on May 1, 2006. Immigrants and their advocates were told to stay home from school and work and not patronize businesses so that the nation could feel the impact of what life would be like without immigrants. Some businesses even had to shut down on May Day because their companies depend so heavily on immigrant labor.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington D.C., about 7.2 million undocumented immigrants hold jobs in the United States, making up 4.9 percent of the overall labor force. About 24 percent of farm workers and 14 percent of construction workers are undocumented, the Pew Hispanic Center found. Each year on May 1, rallies continue to be held in support of immigrants, arguably making immigration the civil rights issue of the millennium.

Barack Obama Wins Presidential Election (2008)

Running on a platform of change, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama wins the 2008 presidential election to become the first person of African descent chosen to run the United States. A multiracial, multigenerational coalition of volunteers helped Obama win the campaign. Considering that African Americans were previously denied the right to vote, forcibly segregated from whites and enslaved in the United States, Obama's successful presidential bid marked a turning point for the nation. Anti-racist activists take issue with the notion that Obama's election means that we're now living in a “post-racial” America, though. Gaps between blacks and whites remain in the education, employment and healthcare sectors, to name a few.

Sonia Sotomayor Becomes First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice (2009)

The election of Barack Obama as president of the United States paved the way for other people of color to break ground in politics. In May 2009, President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor, raised by a single Puerto Rican mother in the Bronx, to the Supreme Court as a replacement for Justice David Souter. On Aug. 6, 2009, Sotomayor became the first Hispanic judge and the third woman to sit on the court. Her appointment to the court also marks the first time judges from two minority groups--African American and Latino--have served on the court together.

Disney Releases First Film With Black Princess (2009)

“The Princess and the Frog” debuted nationwide Dec. 11. The film was Disney's first with a black heroine. It opened to largely positive reviews and topped the box office its opening weekend, grossing approximately $25 million. Despite its relative success in theaters--there are reports the film hasn't doesn't as well as recent Disney features such as “Enchanted”--controversy surrounded “The Princess and the Frog” before its release. Some members of the African American community objected to the fact that Princess Tiana's love interest, Prince Naveen, wasn't black; that Tiana remained a frog for much of the film rather than a black woman; and that the film portrayed Voodoo negatively. Other African Americans were simply overjoyed that someone who resembled them was joining the ranks of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the like for the first time in Disney's 72-year history.

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