Columns

Madison ’16: The myth of a post-racial society

By
Opinions Columnist
Thursday, April 4, 2013

On the night of Nov. 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, the first black American to hold that position in the nation’s history, overcoming the obstacles that limited the ambitions and successes of people of color to occupy this nation’s highest office. Everywhere, one could see impassioned people in tears, overjoyed people of all races and ages who believed they would never see a black president in their lifetimes. Soon thereafter, the assertion arose that we, from that point onward, lived in a post-racial society. After all, if a black man could become president, that must mean one’s race can no longer pose an obstacle to success in America — right? Wrong.

In many ways, the nation has improved vastly in terms of race relations over the decades. But race is still as relevant today as ever. According to a 2012 Associated Press national poll, 51 percent of Americans explicitly and 56 percent implicitly harbor anti-black sentiments. The poll found that of “non-Hispanic whites,” 52 percent explicitly and 57 percent implicitly harbored anti-Hispanic sentiments. These sentiments were found to have increased since 2008.

While 27.4 percent of black Americans and 26.6 percent of Hispanics live in poverty, only 9.9 percent of “non-Hispanic whites” do. It is estimated that black Americans with bachelors’ degrees earn 20 percent less than white Americans with the same level of education.

Post-racialism is an idea flawed in itself. It brings to mind the thought of America as “the great melting pot,” an assimilationist turn-of-the-20th-century view that arose as immigration into the United States reached new heights. This coincided with the legalized and forced assimilation of non-whites, especially Native Americans, into European-American culture. “Post-racialism” implies the stripping of individual cultural identities in favor of one universal and dominant identity. Post-racialism assumes that race causes conflict, without taking into account that the issue is not our differences, or recognition that we are all dissimilar, but rather the negative attitudes that many take toward others who are unlike themselves, and how deviation from the “dominant culture” results in inequity.

There is a value that comes from learning from others and from a society in which interactions occur peacefully, productively and educationally between members of different backgrounds, methods, celebrations, beliefs and ways of life. Progress is defined here as the development and improvement of society to the effect that it becomes more equitable for, and representative of, the entire population. And thus it is the result of the collaboration of a plethora of different peoples for the purpose of building an idea and a society up to the degree that all groups have equal representation and input.

So we should pursue not “post-racialism,” but “post-racism.” When will we be satisfied? Martin Luther King, Jr. answered this question 50 years ago. Many of his answers have yet to be achieved: “We can never be satisfied as long as the (person of color) is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality … as long as the (person of color’s) basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one … as long as a (person of color) in Mississippi cannot vote … and in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.” When “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream,” then, not only will we be satisfied, but we will finally have moved into a post-racist society.

As long as I, a young African-American male, am at times subject to “well-meaning” racial “jokes” and as long as youth of color, particularly young black men, are being profiled and even killed by police and as long as peoples of Middle Eastern descent are subject to closer scrutiny at airports than other groups, we have inequality. As long as photo IDs are required at a disproportionate rate from blacks to whites and as long as African-Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the 2.3 million Americans in jail today, we have inequality.We are still, even in 2013, residents of an unjust and unequal society.

Society will always create inequity amongst some lines, be they gender, race, sexuality, religious affiliations, wealth, perceived attractiveness, talent or skill set, height, weight or any other factor that distinguishes one person from another. Until the day that everyone is the exact same, there will be inequality, and differences in understandings and perceptions of the world and of one another.

Though a post-racist society is unattainable, if we educate as many as possible, learn and cooperate with others as much as possible, if we realize that we are all equal, that we all have unalienable rights, that we are all brothers and sisters on the same proverbial “boat,” and that we must truly treat and love others as we do ourselves, a post-racist society will not be far from what will then be the reality.

 

Armani Madison ’16 sincerely hopes that, one day, all the world’s people will realize that “all you need is love.” He can be reached at armani_madison@brown.edu.

  • SUNYalum1980

    Though I agree with equality in all manners you state, what if the ratio of the number of african-americans in jail to the number of all inmates in jail is numerically unbiased and results in an undeniable majority of african-americans (as it undoubtedly and statically is)? What is to blame? I personally blame unequal education, ignorance within communities, and a total lack of exposure to the specific sect of the white community that is racist (specific to the white community that looks down to all different others unlike themselves) and to the equally ignorant sect of the black community that is ignorant (again, not referring to the community as a whole but only to those who think that a certain color, sexual orientation or person should individually fit a specific stereotype). A human being is a human being, Though Tyler, the Creator (the rapper) is either criticized or championed as a homophobe he makes a valid point: “so a couple of fags Came to Pitchfork with a couple [picket] signs
    And said I was a racist homophobic
    So I grabbed Lucas and filmed us kissing.”A human being is a human being. Why does it matter what words we use, how we portray others in songs, in stories, in anything. Until we can poke fun, be friends, and understand anybody, we can’t make being human being casual. No matter who we are, no matter what words we use, everything must be casual, unbias, and unoffensive. Until humanity understands that a word is just a word, a person is just a person (no matter the circumstance) and a connotation means nothing besides what one thinks to themselves (hopefully, open-ended until one experiences an event that truly renders them informed to said event or to an opinion correlated to said event) can they truly regard themselves as literate, even enlightened. Without that, one is just blinded by preconceived blindness and perception of correctness that they themselves have not derived.