It was the day after the 2008 Presidential election, and we headed out to lunch. Not to celebrate, but to mourn. Obama had won, and some of us were not happy about that at all. Normally, I’d have declined the invitation, but I’ll admit it—I wanted to hear what the heck folks planned on saying.
In general, the conversation was reserved and resigned. “What’s done is done.” “Time to move on and hope for a brighter tomorrow.” That kind of stuff. It was almost boring. Then someone said—
“Well, if nothing else good comes out of this election, at least we can put some race issues to bed. If a black man can be elected President, then it’s going to have to be acknowledged that racism is not that big of a problem anymore.”
Hold on there, sister!
As a black American, I intended to acknowledge no such thing. So I said, “Now waaaaaait a minute. Just because one extraordinary man can claim one extraordinary accomplishment does not mean that racism is no longer an issue in this country. That would be a big leap.”
As the only person of color at the table, I was completely outnumbered and outranked, so my opinion didn’t count for diddly squat. But that didn’t matter to me. So I continued to make my point, and then somebody changed the subject. Fine.
So here we are more than four years later, and I hope folks have finally put the notion of a “post-racial America” aside, ‘cause it was never true, and it certainly isn’t true now.
In How To Be Black, Baratunde Thurston includes a chapter titled “How’s That Post-Racial Thing Working Out for Ya?” in which he says:
At one point during my writing of this book, someone suggested to me that I title it Thoughts on Post-Racial America. I calmly informed this person that the only way the term “post-racial” America was getting into the title of my book is if it was called Post-Racial America is Some Bullshit, and Other Thoughts on How to Be Black.
I feel you, brother.
Come on y’all! We are not in a post-racial America. Between debates about the challenges of the new “nontraditional” American demographic and ending “entitlements” for folks who just want “free stuff,” it is clear that US race relations are a major work in progress. (Also, I’m pretty sure there’s still a fight going on over at Clutch magazine about whether black men hate Scandal because of the interracial relationship between Olivia and Fitz, which may not be a perfect example, but it fits, trust me.)
Speaking of which, I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. He’s white and wanted to know how my husband and I met and whether there was any conflict in the family as a result of our union. We met in college, I told my friend, and yeah, there was some conflict. And you know what? While I’m not interested in perpetuating that conflict, if the only way you can feel good about me is if I pretend not to be me, shunning away from all topics that matter to me, then, what good is that?
So later during the conversation I said to my friend, “My husband and I talk about race freely. There is no way I could be married to someone who refuses to engage on these issues.”
Who needs a “post-racial America” anyway? Instead, can we engage? With honesty? Or are some of us just going to keep changing the subject?