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Political Physics: The Post-Racial Hypothesis Pt. 2

A blogumn by Monique King-Viehland

A Post Racial America – Myth or Reality? Continued….

So last week we were discussing the term “post-racial,” and I posed a series of questions…does the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States mean that we are now in a “post-racial” America? Is “post-racialism” a myth?  What does an Obama presidency mean for race in America? And I asked for your thoughts, insights, etc.

As always, this crowd never disappoints and we received some very interesting comments (thanks to everyone who commented).  I think the funniest comment by far was Redheaded Stepchild who said the “whole I don’t see color thing is bullwharkey” or a “bunch of hooey.”  But seriously, every single person who commented on the blog or emailed me personally believes that the notion of a “post-racial” America was a myth.  Moreover, some people added that they did not believe that America could ever get beyond race.

When people use the term “post-racial” America, whether they are referring to a world where no one thinks about race any more or where racial differences are becoming less important, I think the notion of a “post-racial” America is an illusion.  For me a major indicator of the fallacy of “post-racialism” is persistent racial disparities.

Disparities in homeownership, three-fourths of white households own their homes in, compared with 46 percent of black households and 48 percent of Latino households.  Disparities in income, the median income for white households is $50,622 last year, compared to $30,939 for black households and $36,278 for Hispanic households.  Disparities in poverty rates, the poverty rate for white is 8.3 percent, compared to 24.9 percent for African Americans and 21.8 percent for Latinos.  Disparities in health care, about 30 percent of Hispanic and 20 percent of black Americans lack a usual source of health care compared with less than 16 percent of whites.

In an article in the Associated Press, entitled “Racial disparities persist despite Barack Obama’s election,” the author noted “Obama’s election has generated a euphoria among black Americans that is palpable. For some, the weight of history has finally been eased after generations of struggling for equality.  But amid the postelection glow of racial harmony lurks a sobering fact: Racial disparities persist — in just about every measurable form — and they won’t simply melt away because the nation has a black president.  I think the commenter Katrina said it best, “…electing a black person in no way means race or racism is no longer relevant in America.”

Now this does not mean that I do not hope for a “post-racial” America or believe that one is possible.

Ernessa noted, “I think that we’re trying to make a gray issue black and white.  It’s like we’re trying to force ourselves to say either that we now live in a Utopia of progressive thought or that the same old problems 100% persist — when neither is the case.”  You know today, nearly 10 percent of the married couples in this country are interracial.  They look just like my husband and I and Ernessa and CH.  If “post-racialism” is an illusion, it would be just as much an illusion to act like we have not made significant racial progress in this country.

But I think President-Elect Obama would agree that we are far from living in a “post-racial” America.  In the foreword of the 2007 edition of the National Urban Leagues, ‘‘The State of Black America,’’ Obama said, “This sad story is a stark reminder that the long march toward true and meaningful equality in America isn’t over,’’ Obama wrote. ‘‘We have a long way to go.’’

MLK and Rosa Park Lego Figurines and Photo: Andrew Becraft