Political Physics: The Post-Racial Hypothesis


A blogumn by Monique King-Viehland

A Post Racial America – Myth or Reality?

Over the weekend I was surfing the Internet trying to decide what I would write about this week on Fierce & Nerdy.  I came across two things that got my attention.  The first was an article in our local newspaper the Trenton Times about a recent book signing by Cornel West in Princeton.

At the signing, for his latest book, “Hope on a Tightrope,” a collection of his quotations, speech excerpts, letters, philosophy and photographs, Dr. West scolded the media for their “truncated imagination: in coming up with the category “post-racial.”  He argued that “Black folk have been voting for white candidates based on qualification rather than pigmentation for decades. When white brothers and sisters do it, you need a new category.  It’s not post-racial, it’s just less racist. That’s a beautiful thing, but you don’t need a new category.”  The second was an editorial in the Washington Post by Krissah Williams Thompson entitled, “I’m Not Post-Racial,” in which she tries to pick apart the notion of post-racialism, contemplates its existence and wonders if it is a good thing.

After reading both articles, I couldn’t stop thinking about this notion of “port-racial” or “post-racialism.”  There is no hard and fast definition for post-racial.  One could argue that presumably a post-racial America would be one in which no one thinks about race any more, an America in which we all just see each other as individuals.  If you did not want to go that far, you could take the position that Dr. Sandra Lopez-Rocha took during a speech at the Humanities Conference of 2006.  Dr. Lopez-Rocha said that “if we consider that racial differences are becoming less important we are arguing for a post-racial stand…”  This implies that race is still important, but not that it is non-existent.  Even before the election, NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr questioned whether the ascendance of Barack Obama as a presidential candidate meant that the U.S. was entering a new, “post-racial” political era.

So I guess the natural question is, does the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States mean that we are now in a “post-racial” America?  What do you think?  Is “post-racialism” a myth?  What does an Obama presidency mean for race in America?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, insights, etc.

Next week I plan to share my thoughts on “post-racialism” and I’d love to incorporate your comments.  Tell me what you think, I’d really appreciate it.


MLK and Rosa Park Lego Figurines and Photo: Andrew Becraft