Is ‘post-racial’ possible?

By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  December 8, 2010

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Solstice Greetings! Hopefully I have acknowledged all the winter holidays in a respectful manner without leaving anyone out, but since there must be someone I've missed, I'll toss in "Happy Holidays!"

If only addressing matters of skin color, ethnicity, cultural identity, and the like in our "post-racial" America could be so simple. Speaking of the so-called post-racial America, this resident Portland Phoenix columnist of color recently received a thoughtful question aimed at just that subject.

So, I've decided to wallow in the giving spirit of the season with my last column of 2010, and will gift you with another "Ask a Black Woman" column, answering the question: Do you ever think there will be a post-racial America?

Yeah, just as soon as the young folk in the next generation or two (would that be Generation XXX?) completely reject same-race relationships and we all end up more or less the same color, which would probably be 2050 at the earliest. (I think it was George Lopez who joked many years back that the sooner we all look Filipino, the better for race relations and equality in the United States.)

Seriously, though, all jokes aside and answering from my limited lens of almost 40 years on the planet as a black woman, I think the whole idea of a post-racial America is laughable.

The only reason we have the term, I think, is because the media and liberal-leaning academics came up with the concept of a "post-racial America" as a way to make sense of the election of a black man to the presidency. Never mind the fact that when the 2008 election was under way we were at the high point of the great US financial implosion, nor that Barack Obama's competitor, John McCain, showed himself to be deeply out of touch with America's needs in the weeks leading up to the election.

But I don't see the election of one black man to the Oval Office as proof that race no longer matters. Tough economic times haven't leveled the field, and blacks and other minorities are still impacted at higher rates than whites. For example, the general unemployment rate is hovering around 9.6 percent, yet black unemployment is estimated to be between 15 and 16 percent. Add in the continued inequitable treatment of people of color in the justice system, and the use of the term "post-racial" borders on being offensive.

I do think a post-racial America is possible but it's going to take a hell of a lot of work to get there. For one thing, we have to get beyond the whole idea of "race" — and who's really mature enough to do that yet? The reality is that we have only one race, and that's human. But people are so tied into categorization and separation that we can't even acknowledge that, much less openly embrace widely divergent cultural and ethnic traditions.

On the bright side, I think today's kids are growing up in a world where, thanks to technology, the boundaries that in the past have separated will matter less. These are kids who will have grown up knowing there was a black president and I think that whether Obama ends up a one-term candidate or not, that will mean a lot in the eyes of today's youth.

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Related: Interview: Daniel Ellsberg, The Big Ligotti, Pressing Obama for an answer, More more >
  Topics: The Editorial Page , Barack Obama, Politics, Holidays,  More more >
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