The Problem With a “Post-Racial Society”

“Why does race have to be brought up into everything?”

“Not everything has to be about race.”

“I see no color.”

These are but a few comments I have noticed when scrolling mindlessly through Twitter, and bother me more and more every time I encounter them. One question crosses my mind: are we really living in a post-racial society?

By the end of the African American Civil Rights Movement, American government experienced a transformative legislation that saw the end of Jim Crow, the integration of black children into white schools nationwide, and guaranteed federal protection of African Americans from the hands of white supremacist groups, most notably the Ku Klux Klan. The outcome of the Civil Rights Movement was a tremendous victory for African Americans, and one step closer to freeing the bonds of oppression, segregation, and discrimination that they had to endure even after the termination of slavery a hundred years prior.

However, while it was easy to dismiss the discriminatory laws against African Americans, altering the mindsets of millions of racist, white Americans was going to be an even more difficult feat. In a post-Civil War society, integration of people of color was easier said than done; my grandfather (born in Greenville, Mississippi before the Civil Rights Movement) faced extreme racism upon enlisting in the Air Force and attending the University of Nebraska (which was predominantly white), and struggled with being a black man in an unaccepting society.

i have a dream
Photo captured at the March on Washington D.C on August 28, 1963 where Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream”

Still, the idea of a “post-racial society”- where race would not have any context in the social, political, and religious affairs of the American people- was not forgotten.

The idea of a post-racial society was reignited with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, who was and continues to be the first and only African American man to hold the  presidential office. After over a hundred years of racism, marginalization and discrimination, African Americans were finally getting the recognition they deserved.

But, not everyone was happy about Obama holding office. In 2008, when I was only nine years old, I remember seeing people accuse Obama of not being a real “American” all over the news, with calls to have his birth certificate verified for his birth place (unsurprisingly, our current President was one of those people). From the birth certificate controversy, to the bizarre conspiracy theories claiming that Obama is related to former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, it was clear that America was not ready to accept the post-racial society it had hoped for.

Any hope of a post-racial society was quickly destroyed when George Zimmerman, a twenty-eight year old man of mixed Hispanic descent, fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012.

The shooting, followed by the acquittal of Zimmerman for the murder of Martin, sparked national outrage; protests, riots, and calls for the prosecution of Zimmerman followed for months after the acquittal. In 2013, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter gained popularity, growing from a hashtag to a full-fledged movement after the deaths of other unarmed African American men such Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner at the hands of white police officers.

the new yorker.jpg
January 2015 cover of The New Yorker depicting Rev. MLK Jr. marching with Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Wenjian Liu.

With one google search of our nation’s history or even one glance at the news, it is obvious that the idea of a post-racial society is as real as a myth.

Since we started our new unit dealing with the racial motivations behind the colonial American movement of Manifest Destiny in Humanities, during our last lecture we discussed the idea of race- and how it is considered to be a social construct that debilitates our attempts at a “post-racial” society.

I could not disagree more.

In America, the color of one’s skin means everything. 

The color of one’s skin, along with the idea of race, can never been erased- there is too much history behind one’s color, culture, and race that should not and will not be forgotten, especially in this racially tense time. The color of one’s skin is their reality and is not something that can simply be “looked past”. American history has made this apparent.

The racism, hatred, and ignorance harbored against people of color is alive and well, seen just recently in the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, and even seen on this campus as recent as one week ago (I was quite disturbed to see “it’s okay to be ignorant” chalk writings littered all across this beautiful campus).

The history of the systematic oppression and marginalization of people of color is something that can never be erased, which leaves no room for a post-racial society.

Instead, we must acknowledge history and strive to do better, act better, be better. We cannot let the same hatred that has plagued America for over two hundred years plague it for another two hundred years. We must acknowledge our history, reconcile with what has been done, strive for a better future for all races residing in this nation, and celebrate unity in diversity. We must not be blind to color; we must acknowledge it, we must embrace it, and we must move on with it in our minds.

We must make the people who fought for this unity proud.

*************

SOURCES

Tatum, Sophie. Acosta, Jim. “Trump Continues to Question Obama’s Birth Certificate”. CNN. Published 29 November 2017.

Botelho, Greg. “What Happened the Night Trayvon Martin Died”. CNN. Published May 23, 2012.

#BlackLivesMatter main homepage. Accessed 1 Dec 2017.

Katz, Andrew. “Unrest in Virginia”. TIME. Published 12 Aug 2017.

Featured Image: found on leonardpierce.com

Article Image #1: hinterland. “Black and White Together”.

Article Image #2: Chandler, D.L. “New Yorker Cover Depicts MLK, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown”. Published 16 Jan 2015

 

 

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