“The mythology of post racialism, like colorblindness, is terribly difficult to counter because it is so intuitive and aspirational. It makes sense at a gut level that if people endure hardship because of their racial identities, canceling out the importance of those identities solves the problem. What better marker of progress could there be than a black president? ” (Sen) In November 2008, I was in Chicago and watching the celebration of the election of Barack Hussein Obama I wondered if the world that I had lived in for the past 58 years was about change.
There were people or shall I say fellow Americans of every description sharing in a moment of shock and awe. When this election process began I had little thought that Obama would actually win. My thoughts were that he would put in a very good showing and Hillary Clinton would naturally win. But, after he won in Iowa I became a believer in “hope and change”. When I realized this was an actual dream that could come true my feet hardly touched the ground. A “post racial” society was possible or so I thought. Living and working in Monroe, LA quickly brought my feet down firmly on the ground.
You see Monroe is where I first drank from the “colored” water fountain and used the “colored” bathroom. This was the first place that I was called “nigger” and saw a cross burned to frighten students not to attend Northeast Louisiana University (ULM). Putting all these memories in the back of my mind, I still had room to hope that maybe we as a country had grown from this horrible point in history. Much to my regret I began to feel and eerie feeling of impending doom and my dealings with the “white” race became very strained, it was almost as if I had committed some crime.
Sure my walk was a little lighter my usual banter took on a more jovial tone and I’d look in the mirror and feel hopeful for what was to come. This euphoric feeling “speaks to Americans desire to not be racist”. (Sen) The reaction of black people throughout the nation was exciting and we all began to feel a part of this country that had so long denied the very existence of the possibility that a “black man” could become President of these United States. My mother on the night that he was nominated began to cry and say she never even thought that in her lifetime this would happen.
While the black citizens of the United States and even the world were in a state of euphoria the “white” populace who thought this was not possible rabidly expressed their anger. “The election of Barack Obama as President fully realizes the equality dream for minority citizens and returns whiteness to it comfortable place of dominance and privilege”. (Cummings) Post racialism allows this previous statement to become an actuality. This feeling of joy that I experienced was not shared by the dominant culture that operated in this town.
There were snippy answers to respectfully asked questions, there was hostile service at restaurants and my boss was out of control. My grandfather had once told me never discuss your political preferences at work, but thinking that we were on the verge of “post racialism” I relayed a dream to my boss. “Just what kind of dream made you restless all night” she said, I promptly told her that I couldn’t zip my dress for the “inaugural ball”. She quickly asked, “and who was it the ball for, McCain”. Laughing loudly I said, “of course not it was for Obama”.
You would have thought I had dropped a bomb in the office. “There are too many guns in America to ever let that happen”, she said, my hope for an American miracle were dashed against the wall. In my heart of hearts I had hoped for more than she was ready to give. Her expression was tinged with a level of racism that I hadn’t seen in years, my opinion of her was forever changed. Please don’t think that I am shocked by this display its just no matter how many times it happens it stabs the soul. “Most whites don’t see white as a race.
Like a fish in water, they don’t think about whiteness because it’s so beneficial to them”. (Woo) The dream of a society that is judged by the “content of its character and not by the color of its skin” was just my Martin Luther King dream being crushed by an insensitive “white” person. Why is it that we “black” people are willing to forgive and hope that one day we will be accepted and the majority of the dominant culture refuses. This was only one incident on the road to my hope for a “post racial” society. “Being a Negro (black) in America is not a comfortable existence.
It means being part of the company of the bruised, the battered, the scarred, and the defeated. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple. It means the ache and anguish of living in too many situations where hopes unborn have died”. (King) I can vividly remember listing to all new broadcasts and falling in love with MSNBC, never had I heard so many newscast that I agreed with and turning to FOX to get the opposing views, clicking on this channel was like releasing rabid dogs into my living room.
In order for Obama to be beaten he must be made into the “other” not one of us but a foreign born pretender to the throne not a hard working, intelligent man who wanted to be President. I watched him be attacked for his mother, his father, his wife, his pastor, not wearing a flag pen, attending a Muslim school, hanging out with terrorists, etc. No other candidate for President had ever gone through so much. Strange as it may seem I actually attended church with Barack Obama and sat in the pews and listened to Rev. Jeremiah Wright speak to our wounded souls.
He was not who they portrayed him to be, he ministered to us black people and gave us hope for a better world. He never had us believe that a “post racial“ world was possible. “…profound disparities continue to exist between minority and white Americans that show no sign of dissipating during the Obama presidency”. (Cummings) I bring up Rev. Jeremiah Wright because he actually stated the feelings of a lot black Americans. I for one am glad that Barack Obama heard his sermons, they will offer him much protection in the days to come. Well, here I am back where I started in asking the same question can America be in the midst of post racialism?
The answer depends on so many variables. We have to judge the extent of the damage that racism has done and weigh that against the ultimate effect of a colorblind society. My heart wants to believe that it is possible but my brain tells me that it can’t happen. Maybe in the distant future when we have blended so much that color is not a factor can we actually not ask what “race” are you? Today in America and Monroe, Louisiana we are not ready for this utopian dream of “post racialism” our past it too tattered and torn to fit into this concept.