2012 will be remembered as a year that saw both great progress and reminders of how far our country has yet to go. Take a look back at 10 of the year's biggest news stories (in no particular order.)
Gun Violence: On December 14, an armed maniac went on a shooting rampage at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school. Twenty children and six administrations were killed. Newtown became the latest mass shooting this year and has “reignited a debate over gun violence.” Shootings and gun violence have become as American as apple pie. Each year roughly 30,000 Americans die from gun violence. Unfortunately the escalating numbers of Black and Latino youth killed in gun violence rarely makes headlines. More than 270 school aged children have been killed in Chicago in the last three years.
President Obama’s Re-Election: Americans voted to extend Barack Obama’s historic presidency by another four years. Obama managed to hold on to every state he won in 2008 except for Indiana and North Carolina. Republican Mitt Romney infamously described Obama as the candidate of the “47 percent” of Americans who are dependent on the government. Romney ultimately finished the campaign with only 47 percent of the vote. Poetic justice.
Hurricane Sandy: The hurricane made landfall in New Jersey and New York on October 29 and became the largest and one of the most expensive hurricanes ever. At least 253 people were killed in seven countries. The price tag is estimated at $63 billion in the United States. The devastation was fiercest in New York City and New Jersey, washing away homes, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power. The storm devastated the city’s most vulnerable populations—low-income people, people of color, and the elderly— living in waterfront high-rise public housing developments. An investigation shows the city was unprepared to help those residents.
Supreme Court Upholds "Obamacare": The signature achievement of the Obama Administration’s domestic agenda has been the Affordable Care Act, which “expands [health insurance] coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans.” The Supreme Court upheld the landmark act’s individual insurance mandate by a 5-4 decision last June. Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush appointee, joined the liberal wing of the court to uphold the law.
The Death of Trayvon Martin: The unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in a gated Florida subdivision last February. The shooter, George Zimmerman was finally arrested in June. Martin became one of an escalating number of cases of unarmed Black men who have been brutally shot down. Seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis, also unarmed, was killed in late November by a 45-year-old White man who disapproved of his loud music.
The Republican “War on Women”: The weeks leading up to the November election were dominated by Republican attacks on contraception, abortion and state funding for Planned Parenthood. The GOP lost two Senate seats they were once almost certain to win—in Missouri and Indiana—after their candidates made outrageous comments about rape, pregnancy, and abortion. “If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” said Missouri Rep. Todd Akin. Many women across the country had apparently heard enough and were indeed ready to “shut it down”—dealing “historic blow[s] to the religious right and helped put a record number of women in the Senate,” notes The Daily Beast.
Historic Support for Gay Marriage: Voter-approved referendums banning same-sex marriage have been upheld 32 times in a row. That was until this year when voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington upheld their state’s new same-sex marriage laws. Voters in Minnesota rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The Maryland results were even more significant because many of the state’s Black voters supported equality—probably taking a lead from President Barack Obama’s historic endorsement of marriage equality last May.
HIV Prevention Pill?: The antiretroviral medication Truvada became the “first medication ever to be approved” to reduce the risk of HIV infection in uninfected individuals. The prevention strategy is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP … but you have to take a pill once daily for the rest of your life and the meds cost up to $14,000 per year. Meanwhile, the epicenter of the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic remains in Black America. The 1 million-plus Americans living with HIV/AIDS or at risk of infection are disproportionately Black and low-income.
Susan Rice: United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice was harshly criticized by GOP senators after her initial reactions to the terrorist attacks at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The critical tone and drumbeat from FOX News grew harsher after Obama nominated Rice to become the next Secretary of State. Rice would have become the nation’s second Black female in that position. Rice was eventually forced to withdraw her name from consideration.
The Economy: Some good news on the economy—the national unemployment rate finally fell below 7 percent. But the bad news: The official Black unemployment rate is almost twice that at 13.2 percent. New research also shows Blacks have been hit hardest by layoffs across the public sector, which historically had become a pathway for Blacks into the middle class.
Rod McCullom has written and produced for ABC News, NBC and FOX, and his writing has appeared in EBONY, The Advocate, Out, The Los Angeles Times and many others. Read his award winning site Rod 2.0. Follow him on Twitter @RodMcCullom.