Posted by: mzbitca | March 3, 2009

Why we think we’re post-racial, why it’s a dangerous desire

The other day I saw an article on yahoo talking about how there has been an increase in the presence of minorities in commercials recently.  I had noticed this myself and did find it to be a very positive thing although I suspected, and the article confirmed, it has more to do with the buying power of African American’s than any feeling of proper representation on the part of the ad agency.  Of course, this article could not be complete without talking about whether we are entering a post-racial world and referenced the election of Barack Obama as proof that we are moving in that direction. I see this desire or claim of a post-racial society as something that is coming from two different types of people

The first type are the people who want free rein to be as racist as they want.  These are the people that want to send out pictures of the White House with a watermelon plant and just call “no big deal.”  They have no real interest in racial equality except for the fact that its perceived presence allows them to act like assholes.  These are the same type of people that come to places like Womanist Musings and cry “reverse racism.”  A post-racial society for them means a perfect opportunity to be the complete jackasses they truly are and then claim that everyone else is over-reacting.  I don’t believe that many of these people actually “believe” in or want a post-racial world, they want others to think that it’s true so they can act as asinine as possible without consequences.  My biggest fear is that these types are going to be able to be more and more vocal due to what I view as the second type of post-racial cheerleaders.

This second type really does believe we are living in a post racial world.  These are the types that know about the civil war and Jim Crow Laws but think it stopped there.  They believe that it really is that simple that 1 African American President (compared to 43 white ones) and more representation in advertising can cure all racial divides.  Meanwhile the Oscar Grants, Duanna Johnsons, and Dymon Milburns get swept under the rug and ignored because there’s a black guy in a PetSmart commercial and that’s the real measure of racism in our world.  These people are the type that are truly confused about the anger over the New York Post cartoon because they get to live in their privileged little world where they don’t deal with racism every day and often times due to segregation (because it exists, even if it’s not “legal”) never truly interact with POC in any extensive way.  

These people are the ones that make it that much easier for violent racism to occur.  If their pink clouded view of racial harmony is accepted as the norm it becomes easier than it already is to discount violence and hatred against POC as not a true symptom of racism.  They create a safe little bubble where the reality of racism can stay shrouded in mystery for most privileged white people while POC are forced to live it every day and be accused of “over-reacting” when they try to bring it to the forefront of our discussion.  Let’s face it, this image of a post-racial world is nothing more than a way for us white people to pat ourselves on the back about how much “progress” we’ve made.  We have a black president, black people can be in car commercials…….what do you mean African American women have the highest infection rate of HIV? That can’t have racial undertones. BARACK OBAMA.  It’s another way to not have the conversation about this nation that we still need to have and it’s another way to keep POCs voices minimized and trivialized. 

(As a disclaimer, I am in no way discounting the importance of Barack Obama’s presidency but just that it is now being used to stop conversation more than to help it).


Responses

  1. A post-racial society for them means a perfect opportunity to be the complete jackasses they truly are and then claim that everyone else is over-reacting. I don’t believe that many of these people actually “believe” in or want a post-racial world, they want others to think that it’s true so they can act as asinine as possible without consequences.

    That is a particular bit of truth. To them post racial means the freedom to display their privilege and dehumanize others at the drop of a hat. This is why they make racist cartoons and then tell us that we are too sensitive. Post racial would imply that we have moved on past a systemically racist state and the truth of the matter is that not much has changed. Whiteness is overvalued and over privileged in this world.

    An Obama presidency means that those of us that are committed anti-racist must re commit to advocacy work. There is a tendency to believe that every time there is a new accomplishment that society should stop progressing. I find this assumption ridiculous. Did we say when the radio was invented that we don’t need anymore technology or did we strive for even greater advancement? There can never be enough racial progress and despite the fact that whiteness will attempt to impede the progress of POC we must not let them set the agenda or the terms of the debate.

  2. Here’s an article in the Atlantic that you might find interesting about a post-racial U.S.

  3. […] Why we think we’re post-racial, and why it’s a dangerous desire. […]

  4. […] Why we think we’re post-racial, why it’s a dangerous desire « What a crazy random happenstance I see this desire or claim of a post-racial society as something that is coming from two different types of people. (tags: usa race society racism) […]


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