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."