Post Racial America?

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

President_Barack_ObamaThe election of Barack Obama, a Black Man, was certainly a landmark for this country with its history of slavery and of oppression of those considered non-Whites. That history includes the treatment of Native Americans which was replete with deception, broken treaties and examples of outright genocidal behavior.  The history is also one of ethnic and religious prejudice that was heaped upon the waves of immigrants “welcomed” to our shores. The American heritage of bigotry in thought and language was never limited to the vile epithets of “Nigger”, “Spic”, “Savage” and “Chink” commonplace and accepted through the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. We also had “Mick”, “Polack”, “Heinie”, “Kike”, and “Wop” considered acceptable, common parlance. Many dismissed the use of these derogatory terms as being merely good natured banter and descriptive terminology. For those to which these terms were directed though, they stung deeply. These were people trying to become accepted in a new land and who had for the most part fled their native countries to escape poverty and oppression. They came to America seeking “freedom” and financial stability. These immigrants yearned for acceptance and each instance of others characterizing them by their ethnicity, or religion, came as a blow to their self-esteem.

While the majority of Americans no doubt look back upon the prejudices of those times with discomfort and embarrassment, it is human nature to try to diminish these histories and the unpleasant picture they paint of this country. My grandparents immigrated to America before the turn of the 20th Century. They came from Hungary or Poland depending on where the borders were set in different eras. They were Jews, born to poverty and oppression in Eastern Europe coming here to build a better life for themselves and for their children. My paternal grandfather was a tailor and came to this country with some children and with a marketable skill. I never met him, since he died before I was born, but was honored to be his first male namesake in the Jewish tradition of only naming after the dead. All the stories I heard about him told that he was intelligent, warm and gentle.  My maternal grandfather was an orphan, who came to America at age 11. He was in the dry goods business at that age. He described to me how he had to literally fight his way towards success, which he achieved. Both my Maternal and Paternal families each had 9 children so I had a total of 16 Aunts and Uncles. Unlike some of his older siblings, my father was born in America. He described to me life in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and the ethnic warfare that took place between the various neighborhoods. My father was a large man and a brawler in his youth, which from his perspective was a necessity of his times. I was born near the end of World War Two into an America where the ongoing hatred of Jews was decreasing, nevertheless I did experience some of that prejudice even in Junior High School, where I was called a “Christ Killer” and subjected to various jokes ridiculing Jews.

pNo doubt many among our readers can relate similar histories of the tribulations suffered because of their heritage ethnicity and religion. Stories handed down to them by their families. This is a fact of the history of America and no euphemistic retelling of history can erase it. This was the true “melting pot” of our country. For the most part though, whether the ethnicity was Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, etc. there was one saving grace and that was the color of our skin. When I was younger I had blond hair, I still have blue eyes and my last name has little ethnic identity. Many people who’ve met me in my life  have been surprised that I was Jewish, taking me for Irish or Scandinavian, which had become acceptable ethnicities. Those of European Heritage, born of immigrants, they were able to eventually escape that initial prejudice because they were White and they could further escape their ethnicity by changing their last names if they desired. This fluidity has never been available to non-Whites and to my mind it still isn’t fully available, despite those who would hold up our President as proof that such bigotry is a thing of the past and that non-Whites face life in our country on an equal footing.Jonathan Turley’s blog has through the years carried many stories regarding the disadvantages faced by non-Whites  from legal, social and economic perspectives. I have added a few in my own guest blogs. When such stories are written interestingly few objections are raised when there is a tale of prejudice towards Native Americans. Most people seem to accept that our Country has treated Native Americans badly. This is also true for people of Asian ancestry and in fact common belief about Asians is quite positive painting them as intelligent, hardworking, family oriented people. Where this breaks down though is when it comes to Black and Latino Americans.

Despite our country’s history of slavery, Jim Crow and lynching’s, there is a mythology present among many Americans that after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and now with Obama’s election, any complaints by Blacks about the effect of prejudice upon their lives is merely phony posturing of people who want to unfairly take from the rest of us. We see it on this blog in some people’s comments, where they call any complaint about prejudice towards Black people “race baiting”.  The attitude is that there are so many advantages given to Black Americans to atone for slavery, that the idea of a “post racial society” really means a society where “White” people are no longer able to take pride in themselves. Let me illustrate in a commentary from the blog “View From the Right”

“The notion that the election of Barack Obama to the presidency will inaugurate a “post-racial” America, an America that has gone “beyond race” as Obama has put it, has been widely accepted, even by many conservatives. I’m not sure that anyone has ever explained what this post-racial condition of America would actually look like.

Presumably a post-racial, beyond-race America will be one in which no one thinks about race any more, an America in which we all just see each other as individuals. This is most puzzling, since I was not aware that Obama has called for the elimination of the vast system of race-conscious preferences for blacks and other nonwhite groups that is institutionalized at every level of our society. Currently, blacks and Hispanics are admitted to selective universities with grades and SATs for which virtually all white and Asian applicants are automatically rejected. Blacks and Hispanics are admitted to graduate schools with grades and test scores for which virtually all white and Asian applicants are automatically rejected. In the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision (see my article on it), the Supreme Court said that racial preferences for nonwhites were justified and mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

In every area of American life, from academic achievement to fire department examinations to grade school discipline to incarceration rates to bank loans and mortgages, blacks do much worse than whites, and their lack of success is seen as a moral stain on society calling forth ever renewed efforts to “close the racial gap.” One of the most written-about gaps is that black high school seniors are on average four years behind whites in reading abilities. But what such a huge differential indicates is not that blacks simply “lag behind whites,” a genial image that suggests a footrace in which the blacks cross the finish line just a little bit behind the whites; what it indicates is that the blacks are not even in the same event as the whites. And this is why, in every institution, parallel tracks for blacks have been set up where they are evaluated by much lower standards than those applied to whites. At the same time, to prevent whites from reacting against this massive racial favoritism for blacks, whites are required to attend “diversity sensitivity” sessions where they are told that they harbor conscious or unconscious racial stereotypes about blacks which are somehow responsible for the blacks being behind and which the whites must extricate from their psyches.”

Although a well written piece by the author Lawrence Auster, doesn’t the above sum up the attitude that we have seen time and again in some comments on this blog and elsewhere in the media?  Though done in neutral terminology the essence of the argument is that Whites are somehow being stifled and oppressed into not only not defending themselves, but in effect forced to submit to propaganda “re-educating” them into bearing racial guilt for the condition of Black people. What I find fascinating about the logic of this is that it admits that Blacks do not fare as well as Whites in America, but turns those facts around makes the point that any reference to these facts of life for Black Americans, are merely arguments that oppress the ability of White people to stand up for their own race. There is of course a sub-text to this which is that Blacks lag so far behind because they are inferior to Whites, but the author need not go that far to spell that out, since it is implicit in his remarks. Perhaps some of the comments Auster’s blog post received will be clearer in delineating the real meaning of what is being written, which incidentally was posted in February 2008 while Obama was still competing with Hilary Clinton for the Democratic Nomination. The context was which candidate would be better for “conservatives” (read White people) if elected and the view was that Hilary would be the least noxious alternative.

“Andrew E. writes:

With this article you have distilled the meaning of an Obama presidency to its absolute essence and with it, laid to rest the argument whether conservatives should favor Obama or Hillary. Other VFR readers have made valiant efforts to show that Obama is preferable, but you have just outflanked them all and routed the line. At the heart of Obama’s campaign is a hypocrisy so staggering (and dangerous!) that even the Clinton’s don’t attempt it. Further, Obama’s talents, which you have discussed at length as well, are making people believe it! Well done.”

From the above writer’s perspective then the entire Obama campaign was an assault on White America. The next one spells it out with greater clarity as to the vision:

“Sage McLaughlin writes:

Your post on this subject is a very important one, and I fear you’re exactly right. I genuinely hope the right-wing blog world gives it a close reading. “Post-racial America” can only mean an America in which white racial consciousness can be said to be definitively dead; it surely does not mean that nonwhite racial consciousness and nonwhite racial spoils will be considered dead. Post-racial America simply translates into post-white America, and anyone who says differently needs to present some evidence that Obama has made even the tiniest gesture to indicate he intends to end the culture of racial grievance-mongering in American politics. In fact he and his supporters (to include his wife) are busily reminding anyone who will listen how “sick” Americans’ souls are, and how in need of some nonwhite messiah to come save them from white authority.

This is something we’ve seen before, actually. When some leftist commentator or editorial board refers approvingly to a candidate’s ability to “transcend ideology,” what he always, always means is that the candidate is willing to transcend conservative ideology. Moving beyond racial divisions simply means ceasing any resistance to the full scope of blacks’ and nonwhite foreigners’ demands on white America. Liberal politicians (e.g., Lieberman) are never praised for their ability to “rise above party concerns” and “cross partisan lines,” though traitors to conservatism like Olympia Snowe will be. Obama’s capacity to transcend race, in the end, amounts to nothing more than the willingness to serve as an extremely left-wing, race-conscious black senator without ever bothering to remind anyone that that is what he’s doing. Americans’ souls are sick alright, and Obamamania is more symptom than cure.”

Now my assumption is that this writer would consider me to be White. Although one can never be definite when there is a discussion of Jews, since there are some considering us to be of a distinct species? With the assumption that the author considers me to be White, what am I to make of my “White consciousness?  What is “White consciousness supposed to mean? Is it a belief in the superiority of White people? If, as science has proven, all members of humanity are one species, then what pray tell is “White consciousness” other than a means to separate out people on the basis of color and or ethnicity? Are “White” people such as myself guilty of “race treason” because we support equality and believe that inequality towards non-Whites has been and still is built into the American system. I think, though expressed well and written well, that is exactly what is being stated in the quoted commentary, though obliquely so as to avoid the direct charge of racism and bigotry.

Given the experiences of the Obama Presidency thus far, I find these pre-election remarks rather ironically amusing. The Obama Presidency has been by any fair observation a Right of Center Administration. There has been almost no progress towards economic and legal equality of black Americans and the argument can be made (and I’ve made it) that things have gotten worse under the Obama Administration. Yet we see in these quoted arguments certain tendencies that have plagued the Obama Administration since he took office. The “Birther” movement was nothing less than an attempt to de-legitimize the President. He has been called the most radical American President. He has been called a Communist and he has been simultaneously called a Fascist, all in an attempt to de-legitimize him as President. He has been painted as an undercover Muslim terrorist, even though he has continued to prosecute two wars against Islamic Nations and there is now speculation about him attacking Syria, not to mention Iran. I think views like those above,  have been behind some of the most virulent opposition to Obama and have little to do with his policies and performance. Some of the opposition to him is about bigotry and hatred of the fact that he is a Black man, since while there is so much to criticize him for, certain of those critics making up a sizable group of people are simply that they perceive his election as a death knell to the mythical “White Race”.

Professor Turley, the other Guest Bloggers and I have written many, many pieces detailing the many faults and failure of this Administration. I voted for him twice, specifically as the lesser of two evils and I have little good to say about him, other than he speaks well and evinces a good personality. However, not one of the many critiques written by those with authorship on this blog have ever criticized the man’s race or implied that we as White Americans are under attack from him. The reason is that our critiques of Obama and the numerous critiques of many of those regulars who comment here are not about protecting White privilege, but about substantive issues. So the question is: Is America in a Post Racial Period? I would answer that yes, but only in one small sense of the meaning.

What the Civil Rights Revolution and the death of Martin Luther King have done is that they have made overt racism out of bounds for almost all of us except for the most extreme. That sordid history of Civil Rights Marchers being hosed, beaten and lynched has driven those of racist bent to use code words and euphemisms, rather than outright racial epithet. With Nixon it was “Crime”. With Reagan it was “Welfare” and “Drugs”. One would have to be of limited intelligence not to understand what was being said and not to know it was expressions of Black “inferiority” and fear of Black people gaining power. So adept have these raciswt elements become that they have used race to hoist the “liberals” on their own petard, such as in the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to fill the seat of  Justice Thurgood Marshall, because therather unqualified Thomas was also Black.

African Americans are not the only ethnicity in this country to have seen the torturous effects of bigotry. Americans of Latino Heritage have also suffered, but perhaps to a lesser, though no less noxious degree because they in the main came here as workers and not as slaves. Some are and always have been native to this country, but in places like Texas, Arizona and California. Mexicans were overwhelmed by the influx of White settlers. Others from the Island of Puerto Rico were annexed also by this country and while they are born citizens, they have received the lash of ethnic prejudice casting them as outsiders.

What got me started on this piece was in fact a story about an 11 year old boy of Mexican heritage. This child is a “mariachi” singer whose performance of the National Anthem at an NBA Playoff game in San Antonio was greeted by much tweeting activity decrying the “right” of the “Mexican” to sing “Our” National Anthem at “Our” basketball playoff. The fact that this young man was born in San Antonio, sang the “Anthem” well and was chosen because of his San Antonio heritage was irrelevant to his critics, who saw his singing the anthem as a desecration of “Americanism”, rather than the celebration it was. This is the story and I find it sad and wrong.   and .

The reality is that post racial America does exist. What it really means though is that for now we have put aside the overt bigotry that is our national heritage, in the sense that it is no longer acceptable for it to be mentioned in “polite society”.  The Food Network announced today that it would not renew Paula Deen’s contract because she has admitted using racial and ethnic epithets.  However,  the truth is that all that has done is permit the bigots among us to “code” their racism is terms that make the same points, but express them “less crudely”. By the way it is a mistake to believe that bigotry is the province of only one political party, or one viewpoint on the political spectrum. Sadly though it seems that many bigots do congregate in the Republican Party, which no doubt mainly is because racism was written into our Constitution and certain sections of this country have still not gotten over their own history, or the need to justify it. The brilliance of Nixon’s Southern Strategy played into the South’s resentment of the Federal Government’s intervention into their States Rights and so rewarded the Republican Party with their ongoing support. The fact is that in terms of redressing the wrongs perpetrated by racism the Democratic Party has paid much lip service towards the effort, but has delivered little results. People of color, particularly Black people, still suffer the faults of an unequal system. The links below represent some of my past comments and proofs of my belief the game is rigged against people of color. What do you think?

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

66 thoughts on “Post Racial America?”

  1. What? And here I was going to nominate Marv for an NAACP Award. I guess the Soul Train Award is right out. Good thing I found out in time . . .

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