Back in 2008, during the past presidential election, a theme among those supporting President Obama was that with his ascension to the White House would come the fall of racism in our society. After his inauguration, people suggested that we were now a post-racial society and he was a post-racial president. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but…
From my perspective, over the last four years, our society has become more racially divided, not less. It seems we lulled ourselves into believing racism was no longer a problem. What has happened over the last few years is that we discovered just below the surface are some deep seeded racial attitudes.
The cartoon to the left was from a “Values Voters Summit” last September. The cartoon to the
right was published not long after President Obama was elected. The monkey represented President Obama. At best, both cartoons are racially insensitive. At worst, they are examples of racism. (I guess racism is in the eye of the beholder. I think they are both racist.) There are far worst examples of racist cartoons I could have posted, but I think you get the idea.
When a white person, like myself, brings up examples and issues of racism, many of my white friends immediately give examples of “reverse racism.” When it comes to politics they mention the other side comparing President Bush to Hitler and all the terrible things said about him. Yes, President Bush did endure horrible attacks. But since when do two wrongs make a right? Besides, the attacks on Bush were not racist, but political and philosophical. Furthermore, does the fact that white people have experienced racism mean that racism does not exist? Can we not talk about racism because we know of white people who have been discriminated against? It seems to me, examples of reverse racism should make us more aware and more willing to talk about race, not less.
Here’s the difference between the racism most whites experience compared to the racism most blacks experience. Whites experience individual racism. In other words, it’s one person, who for whatever reason, feels another person treated them unfairly because of their race. Blacks experience, not only individual racism, but institutional racism. In other words, at times, they feel entire systems of society have treated them unfairly. I can no more judge the validity of their experience with institutional racism then they can judge my experience with individual racism. However, and please read this next sentence carefully, I believe it is impossible for members of the dominant group to truly experience racism, especially institutional racism. (Maybe I will explain that sentence more in a future post.)
When situation arise that bring race to the forefront of our minds, people from the dominant group want to hurry up and get the discussion over with. They will say things like, “Race would no longer be an issue if ‘race baiters’ did not keep brining it up.” “We are not the ones spreading hate…they are.” “The minority community just needs to get over it.” “Can’t we all just get along?”
If the issue that brings race to the forefront is violent, the dominant group immediately gives examples of a person from a minority group killing a person from the dominant group. Or, even worse, they give examples of all the people in minority groups killing others in the same minority group.
And the point of those examples is what?
If anything, all those examples are screaming for our society to come together and try and solve huge issues in the minority communities and huge issues involving race, racism, and discrimination.
Right now our society is not post-racial. But if we use events in recent days in a constructive way, we can begin down the path that will lead to a better world.
What do you think?