Thursday, 5 March 2009

'Post-racial' is not a word

So President Obama is in the White House, and ever since he won the election, people have been throwing around the word 'post-racial' in reference not only to what is envisioned as a new era in the US, but to the times in which we all find ourselves as part of a global community. The notion is, of course, ridiculous, since the race issue is not simply one of dark skin vs. white skin, but is also inextricably bound to the class issue. For many, yes Obama is black, but he is very easily separated from that 'other kind' of black person - the gang-banging, baby-mama-having, crack-smoking, perpetually on welfare kind; or from the dark-skinned immigrant who - as against Obama's eloquence - doesn't even speak Englsih, and even if he speaks English, he sure as heck doesn't speak American.

There's no denying that Obama's presidency can change some things: it can represent possiblity to young, black people who are on the path to disillusionment, and it can help remove this notion that if someone happens to have black skin, he is doubly tasked with proving to others not only that he can perform, but that he can perform in spite of whatever shortcomings they envision he has in their bigoted minds (although I tend to think that the true bigots are likely to see Obama as the exception to the rule and carry on in their bigoted ways).

But the fact that this presidency exists, that there is a black man in the White House, cannot in itself automatically lead to a post-racial society. The mere mention of the word gives me hives. It is in many ways a cop-out. A way for people to say 'Well, we voted for the black guy. Job's done.' In fact, morons are still emailing racist watermelon jokes, drawing cartoons of gangsterized presidents or slaughtered chimps in reference to the stimulus package, and increasing their enrolment in the Klan. Yep - that's post-racial right there. It is painfully apparent to many of us, but not to Maureen Dowd (excerpted below), that the Obama administration, therefore - and the mandate of his AG Eric Holder - cannot, as Mr. Holder acknowledged, rest simply on being; it has to do.
Eric Holder, who showed precious little bravery in standing up to Clinton on a pardon for the scoundrel Marc Rich, is wrong. We have just inaugurated a black president who installed a black attorney general.

We need leaders to help us through our crises, not provide us with crude evaluations of our character. And we don’t need sermons from liberal virtuecrats, anymore than from conservative virtuecrats.

In the middle of all the Heimlich maneuvers required now — for the economy, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, health care, the environment and education — we don’t need a Jackson/Sharpton-style lecture on race. Barack Obama’s election was supposed to get us past that.

Besides, the president has other issues that demand his passion.

In short: you've got your black President and some other dark-skinned dudes in there. Now enough with the civil rights ballyhoo. We've got real issues to address.

Ms. Dowd is unwittingly the very evidence for why 'post-racial' does not exist.

Further, the issue of tolerance doesn't begin and end with the white/black divide. Anti-immigrant sentiment (forgive the incessant linking but I had to find a way to tie in the obervations of Melissa at Shakesville because they are so true) is perhaps stronger now than ever before. The Obama administration was last month set to deport 30 000 Haitians to their storm-ravaged country, dismissing a letter from the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) appealing for a stay in the "inhumane deportations". The letter noted that:
"The four storms [in Haiti] destroyed 15 percent of Haiti’s fragile economy, the equivalent of 8 to 10 Hurricane Katrinas hitting the United States in one month.”

Temporary, skilled immigrants though, do get to possibly die in Iraq or Afghanistan in exchange for US citizenship. So there's that.

Across the pond, although They would have us believe that all the touchy-feely goodness of Obama's America is spreading our way, evidence suggests otherwise, what with all the apartheid in the police force here in London, and higher stop and search rates for African-Caribbean Britons than for white Britons.

In the words of the esteemed White Goodman (this pun is too juicy to ignore), let me hit you with some knowledge: Obama is great in many ways that you have seen and will see discussed here in these pages, but he has not created a post-racial America - much less a post-racial global society - simply by being black in the White House. The direction in which we go with respect to race relations will rely on the upholding of civil and human rights by his administration and all others, and on our own willingness to acknowledge and participate in the many steps left to be taken in eliminating negative discrimination of all types.

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