Divided We Stand: The Search for America’s Soul
As an immigrant coming from the tiny nation of Grenada, West Indies, and becoming an American citizen, America used to be a happy country. In my Florida community, the police talked often with parents and children to ensure that children followed the law, respected the police and protected all citizens. In those days (the 1970’s), the police protected and served. They were part of the community. Crime was minimal and happened largely in isolated communities. Issues of race discrimination, brutal confrontations, isolated neighbors etc. were rare. This is not to suggest that this issue did not exist, it is, in my experience to point out that you were American first. It was the thread that kept us together. We were not a hyphenated people in my community (i.e, African-American, White-American, Asian-American etc.) This does not mean that we did not celebrate our heritage, it just meant that we were happy Americans.
America today is an angry place. Many communities no longer exist in tact, people are sharply divided by race, class, education, gender and political lines. People no longer talk to each other, they name call, shout each other down, bully each other and revel in the politics of personal destruction. To be sure, America’s decline into the dark and ugly abyss whose pungent, repugnant odor continues to eat away at the base of the republic did not just happen today, it started with societal changes that sought to recognize the racial and ethnic diversity that was becoming a reality in America. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 angered many whites who thought that slavery as a matter of practice was dissolved and since that occurred, there was no need to make what they thought were “special laws” to protect Blacks. For example, many white men who traditionally worked in factories, police departments and belonged to unions, started to believe that they and generations to come would lose all of what they and generations to come were entitled to. They were angry.
Publisher: Post Hill Press, 2019
The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a Post-Racial America
Does the single act of electing President Obama thrust America from a “racial America” to a “post-racial America”? There are at least three reasons why this is a problematic conclusion. First, the election of President Obama is a sea change event, just like the Supreme Court’s decision on Brown v. Board of Education. Brown also promised a “post-racial” America, and it did not deliver. This is because sea change events without attendant, sustained, substantive change end up being events, not durable change.
Previous sea change events have brought us closer to addressing race and racism; they have not eliminated the continuing significance of race in America and, by extension, the rest of the world. Since so many policymakers and others viewed these as events and did not take the opportunity to radically redesign the racial reality and lexicon, the promise remained unfulfilled.
Second, the American media still shape public opinion about race. If this election proved anything, it proved that the vast majority of the American media (who, by the way, are still predominantly White in a “post-racial” America) simply do not have the vocabulary or comfort to discuss or analyze race in any significant way. How could we be in a “post-racial” America when, throughout the campaign and since his election, the question of Obama’s race has not been discussed or analyzed but rather assigned a “post-racial” moniker?
Third, we live in a race-conscious, not a race-blind society. That is, the issue is not whether race exists; it is whether it matters. Thus, we have to ask ourselves what difference race makes to all of us. To date, the vast majority of the burden of discussing race has fallen on the shoulders of Blacks and other racial minorities. Whites need to discuss among themselves and when they are with us the continuing significance of race in a way that suspends judgment and encapsulates reality.
I realize Obama’s election represents both a continuation and departure on the question of race. We should use this sea change event to resolve the issue, not squander it as we have with so many others