So let me see if I got this straight --
World renowned Harvard professor and best-selling author Henry Louis Gates, Jr. comes home from a trip abroad to communist China where he was filming a video about America. His driver brings him to his home in Cambridge Massachusetts, and he notices his front door is jammed or otherwise locked. He cannot get in. He goes around back (as all of us would) and finds a way into his home. A concerned neighbor calls the police and the police show up. Gates produces his driver's license and Harvard ID and within a matter of minutes he is arrested for so-called "loud and tumultuous" behavior.
Welcome to post-racial America , black folks. This is the America of 2009, where we live in a Twighlight Zone of sorts. On the one hand, we have school kids in Philadelphia who cannot swim in a pool at a suburban country club (where, by the way, arrangements had been made for kids to do so in the summer) -- because according to the club president, they might change the "complexion" of the club.
And on the other hand, we have in Barack Obama the nation's first black president, who has an African/Arabic surname: "Hussein Obama." We have in Michelle Obama an accomplished, Ivy League educated, black first lady who is of a darker ebony complexion and allows her young daughters to sport ethnocentric hair braids to school and White House functions.
Then there is Judge Sonia Sotomayor. The nation's first presumed Latina Supreme Court Justice-to-be, who also hails from humble roots in the Bronx, is Ivy League educated, and whose awe inspiring American story evokes not pride, but suspicion and fear from Republican Senators and conservatives alike. Go figure.
Now we have Gates -- a 60-year-old baby boomer, Harvard professor, founder of theROOT.com and friend of Oprah. He is the epitome of black success in America. And yet, in an hour standing in his own home he was badgered about who he was and why he was there and was further reduced to a black male criminal at the hands of lesser educated, ignorant, local Boston police (need I say more) who I believe lied in the arrest report to cover their tracks. But this is nothing new really -- is it?
My point is this: All of this talk about a so-called "post-racial" America is bogus. There is no such thing. America's greatest sin is the issue of "race." And until we really talk about our individual and collective fears and biases out in the open, we will continue to see eruptions, anger, misunderstanding and humiliation perpetrated on others who are of a different hue.
In the final analysis, America has not changed at all. Yes, we have made progress -- of this there can be no doubt -- but it is what lurks underneath, it is what people feel they are rightfully entitled to (e.g., Pat Buchanan's very recent rant against Judge Sotomayor and protecting white men in America) that drives them to denigrate and deride others.
Professor Gates is someone who deserves better from America. He has played by the rules, been a good citizen, a model citizen in fact. Yet, at the end of the day, he was just another black man residing while black.
Follow Sophia A. Nelson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IAmSophiaNelson