“…Old Wine in New Bottles…”

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2010 at 8:45 am

I was fortunate to travel to Madison, Wisconsin to attend a Racial Justice Conference hosted by the local chapter of YWCA. Traveling to Madison for such a conference??? The conference challenge was to question whether we do live in a post-racial society, especially after the election of President Barack Obama. Exactly what is a post-racial society? According to Lydia Lum, it essentially means that race doesn’t matter as much in decisions of hiring, educating, or firing. It means that we live together, with our differences–physical, personality, religious and yes, even our racial and cultural differences.

According to Troy Duster of New York University sociology professor, “The idea of post-race is old wine in new bottles.” But for Dr. John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute “Racism is not Black people’s main problem anymore. To say that is like saying the earth is flat.” He continues, “Post-racialism is a good direction to move in because if there’s some separation between Blacks and Whites, it’s as if some unpleasantness is going on, like one has his foot on the other’s neck. Are there racists? Yes. But not enough to keep a Black family out of the White House.”

And President Obama is the model for a post-racial society. Lum calls him the “most daunting pinup.” So the notion of a post-racial society, the notion that we are “colorblind,” and that’s what Professor Duster referred to: that we’ve been here before. So while at the conference, I hear speakers Tim Wise and Patricia Williams challenge the notion that we live in a colorblind society–especially when there are more African American men in prison than on college campuses, when there is an educational gap between white and black students, and, as speaker Jacquelyn Boggess of Madison, WI stated, the idea that we live in a post-racial society is not completely accurate when African American men are 12 times more likely to be arrested in Dane County, Wisconsin.

So, yes, we have a biracial President, who so happened to check the African American box on his census application. And yes, there are many more steps to climb on this journey toward reconciling our differences and our past. But it’s much more than racism, again Tim Wise says the longer we are quiet about our structures and where we choose to put schools or how we choose to fund specific programs, we see that institutionalized or structural racism is much more deeper and a challenge to overcome.

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