After President Barack Obama's landmark victory in the Presidential election's last year, many pundits as well as ordinary Americans were eager to proclaim a new era in American history, "the post-racial era." Many blacks, most especially those who were civil right activists sounded a word of caution which many people failed to listen to. It does not take the election of one man to change the whole history of people who for centuries were told they are sub-human or at best less than equal. There is no doubt that we have made a lot of progress as a nation in electing the first African American president, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. The recent event in which a Cambridge police officer arrested Henri Louis Gate, an African American professor reminds us that we have not reached a "post-racial" era yet. There is still a mutual suspicion that exists between both races. Most times, this is not conscious but there are plenty of incidents in which these cases are deliberate acts of racism.
It would be difficult to know what was going on in the minds of both the police officer and Professor Gate. It is possible that the police officer did not deliberately take into consideration race when he was dealing with professor Gate. That does not mean that race was not unconsciously a factor. I have many good friends who are White and believe that there is no atom of racism in their body and yet sometimes will do or say certain things that I feel uncomfortable with and consider to be racist. Do I fault them for it? No. We are all products of different histories. In our every day encounters, there is a conscious or unconscious "clash of histories." Our individual histories is the prism through which we assess events that happen daily in our lives. Unfortunately for many black people, that history is shaped by many years of oppression and racial profiling. It is very easy to find a black person who has had negative experiences with the police. I still have nightmares from an incident in which two years ago a police officer pulled a gun on me, only to write me a warning ticket for my car's left side brake light that was dead. As I shared my story that day with others, everyone told me I fit their "profile": a tall black man, driving a black Mercedes Benz with tinted windows. It is possible that the police officer that stopped me did not "consciously" consider race but my history predisposed me to believe this action was racially motivated. The question is, could he have pulled a gun on a properly dressed tall white black man? I will never know the answer to that question.
We still have a long way to go in healing the divisions that exists between us and in "perfecting our union." It would be stupid to delude ourselves that we are in a post-racial America. We need more education in race relations. The most some people know of Martin Luther King Jr. is that it is a public holiday. When Coretta Scott King died, a classmate in graduate school had no idea who she was. We will be in a post-racial America when we have all got it into our heads and sincerely believe those words in our declaration of independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."