This is Not Post-Racial

Screen-Shot-2013-06-30-at-11.13.45-AMIt took me a minute to find a clear, Merriam-Webster type definition of “post-racial”.  Every time I hear it or read it I think “What does that even mean?”. It’s theoretical, it’s sociological. It means that we – society – live in an ‘environment where the United States is devoid of racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice’ (when all else fails there is Wikipedia). Apparently we’re living in this “post-racial” utopia thanks to the election of a black president.  The line of thinking is that because the president is black everything is all better now. I’m glad that we got through those roughly 400 years of enslavement and discrimination.

Phew!

I cannot understand how one would buy into this whole “America is fixed! Yay!” crap simply because of a black president. In fact I’d argue that thanks to a black president people feel the need to let their racist flag fly. But perhaps I’m not as advanced as others. I mean, even the Supreme Court agrees that America is “post-racial”.  SCOTUS thinks that because a group of marginalized people came out in droves for a candidate with whom that happened to identify with then there is no need for them to interfere in a (often southern) state’s quest to shut that whole black people voting thing down:

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

So, the Supreme Court is going to leave it to congress to fix the problem. The same congress that couldn’t come up with a solution to prevent millions of minority students from losing out on much needed education funding but the Supreme Court wants to put the fate of democracy in that basket. Excuse me while I hold my breath.

I’m angry. This goes far beyond the Supreme Court and into the everyday where young black girls are told that they cannot wear their hair in afro puffs and black women have to fight off the stigma associated with wearing their hair natural. Both hair choices invite societal commentary but it’s OK for the woman with the long blonde hair to be as natural (or not) as she chooses to be. Then there are women like Rachel Jeantel who was treated like a caricature this week while serving as a witness in the shooting death of her friend, Trayvon Martin. Martin, a young black man shot because we live in a society where people continue to be fearful of black men:

“In truth, you’re part of a long legacy of black women so often portrayed as the archetypal Bitch, piles of Sassafrasses, Mammies, and Jezebels easily dismissed, caricatured, and underestimated. For black women, in particular, being the bitch represents our historical exclusion from the cult of true womanhood, a theme traditionally bounded and defined by its contrast to white femininity. For some folks, being black and being a woman makes us less of both.” – A letter to Rachel Jeantel

Each of these instances could be a post. Yet they’re all so typical that instead of outrage so many of us in the African-American community can only shake our heads. When we’re not shaking our heads we’re blaming each other for how others see us and how we continue to be portrayed.  I continue to discuss race and get myself involved in conversations where I’m expected to represent all black people ever. So, do I think we’re living in a post-racial America? No. It’s worse. Is there a sociological term for this? Because ‘Disturbing’ and ‘frustrating’ just don’t seem catchy enough.

Keep the conversation going with Heather Barmore at Poliogue: The Art of Political Dialogue, Twitter and Facebook.

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