Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
By: King Anyi Howell
I'm hearing the phrase "Post-Race America" a lot. Just because the president of the United States is African-American, it is far too early to label this era as one of a "Post-Race America."
I believe America can be personified as a recovering racist.
America acknowledges its problems and is taking steps to address them, but still has racist relapses every now and then. Friends of mine still experience racism at work and in other areas of their daily lives, and while racial bias is extremely difficult to prove in a court of law, there's no disputing its prevalence if you listen to people of color talk anecdotally about their experiences.
In the past month, I have been pulled over three times, not for violating traffic, but for "looking suspicious". It can't be the Cadillac I drive that's suspicious, otherwise GM wouldn't have manufactured it. It's my physical appearance from the chest up (the only body part visible from my position in the driver's seat) that prompts law enforcement to scrutinize me, and then disengage, as though "just doing their job" entails investigating people who are not breaking any civil or traffic laws. Also, within the past month, I was arrested in front of my home and placed in jail over the weekend because I resembled someone police were after. Proof of my innocence was ignored and I was met with comments like, "Oh, let me guess, it was some other tall black guy with a hoodie on." They would learn on Monday that it was another black guy, and I would learn from a witness/person of interest that I looked nothing like the actual burglary suspect the police were after.
I wish I could say that the past experiences were my only encounters with racial profiling, but the truth is, I've made a career of writing about them. I've earned a living writing stories about the racial profiling I experienced while walking on foot, to the point where my journalism efforts were able to afford me a nice (not super nice, but nice enough) vehicle. Now that I get pulled over in that vehicle all the time for no real reason at all, it gives me more insight to write about racial profiling even more. I've realized, in a sense, I capitalize from racism. I also realized this might make my views and outlooks on racial progress biased. I had to ask what other people thought of the notion of a "Post-Race America"
Here's what I people told me:
Well, race may be a construction but. . . so is San Quentin but I wouldn't want to live in it.
To see race politics in action today, watch the attacks on Sotomayor -- all the white commentators trying to act like white is just the default reality, like white = neutral; instead of recognizing that white male prejudice has always dominated the Supreme Court. It's a public seminar on how race politics plays out in the US today.
Race is still deeply relevant in America- because the institutions that shape our lives and our society are designed to privilege white people. Yeah, sometimes people get through- Obama, Sotomayor, Cosby, etc., but the fact that they are still often portrayed as 'beloved exceptions' points to an unspoken assumption about what "the rest" of black and brown people are naturally like. The "Post-Race" claim means that we are taking an extremely uncomplicated view about the ways that class privilege provides some people of color with access and resources that other POC do not have. Keep it trill (as the youngstas say :) Obama's mother was a white woman with an extremely high level of education. This does NOT mean that he's not Black, or that he doesn't deserve the immense success he's achieved- but he did have some privileges that we have to acknowledge before we claim to be Post-Race anything.
Race is hella relevant; I wouldn't want to live in a society that ignores race. I love having our cultural differences out in the open where people can appreciate/ask questions about whatever they want.
ClifSoulo (via Twitter):
In all walks of life in our society. entertainment, workforce, social settings. May not be clear to some, but it's always present.
TheHomeyNolte (via Twitter):
Yo son... it's RELEVANT.
I say, we will know we have reached a post-racially polarized nation when people stop using the word "race" at all. Until then, I'll keep writing about it.
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