I have written plenty on race in general and Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday in particular, but on this, the 2012 remembrance of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let me just offer three very random thoughts on the "post-racial" question.
On achieving a "post-racial" America -- If conversations about race are to have any meaning for the future, we must abandon the unspoken assumption that to be post-racial means achieving homogeneity. Too often we think that the ultimate goal of a post-racial society should be to develop some kind of color-blind lens with which we view the world. I am simply not convinced that striving for a homogeneity of personhood when it comes to race is possible or even preferable. In fact, I think our post-racial goal should be the opposite, to lift up and understand our racial differences in order to see the contours and textures of the human experience so we can be better equipped to approach issues of race with honesty, nuance and empathy.
On inviting "post-racial" conversations -- I fully understand that in some communities conversations on race, for a multitude of reasons, are simply too hard to hold. I would love for all communities to be able to approach issues of race with bold abandon, where conversations about race -- class, gender, sexuality... -- are interwoven throughout the life of the community... but I realize that is not possible. All that said, we would be making a grave mistake to think that being post-racial means that somehow we are "over race" and conversations on race are no longer needed. I get why we might avoid these conversations as they often require a great humility of spirit and the ability to hear difficult words, but in a post-racial world, those conversations are only about the wrongs that have been committed, but they also give us avenues for discovering the beauty and complexities that is born of our particular race, culture and ethnicity. In short, in a post-racial world, we should yearn for these expansive conversations not avoid them.
On becoming a "post-racial" person -- Each of us carries some "prejudice" about other races, cultures, ethnicities, etc. These prejudices may cause us to use our power to marginalize, they may create unwarranted gut-reactions or, as I hope they do, our prejudices may help inform our understandings of the other in order to enhance personal interactions. In order for us to do this, we must continue to expand our exposures to and experiences of cultures and races outside of our own. The more we know and understand about a larger cultural story, the more informed and nuanced we become when interacting one-on-one.
For example... As an Asian American -- 3rd Generation Filipino and Chinese -- I know that in some places where there are few, if any, Asian Americans, the formative identifiers are born out of long-standing popular images: the overachiever "model minority," the exotic and hyper-sexualized female or the karate-chopping, asexual male. While there are certainly some Asian Americans who play these parts, I promise you, that if these are the only images that inform one's thinking, the nuanced post-racial perspective that I think we each must have will not be achieved. If one is serious about seeing the broader Asian American story -- let alone the Filipino, Indian, Chinese, etc. one -- exposure to and appreciation for a culture's art, literature, food, history, etc. must be expanded. This exposure can be achieved by finding some Asian American friends to whom questions can be directed or, barring that possibility, traveling to more places, seeing more movies, reading more books, listening to more music and eating more food... all of these will help one to gain a deeper and fuller understand of another culture's reality.
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