“Post-Racial America is Some Bullshit”

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 Thought on How to Be Black.”
-from “How To Be Black” by Baratunde Thurston

Examples of this assertion abound. Two have made recent headlines. Three, if you count the Trayvon Martin murder trial that just got underway. The trial itself is not an example of the country’s lack of post-racialism per se, but the reason for the trial obviously is. I’ve discussed this in several posts.

The other two examples are very clear cut cases demonstrating that post-racial America has not arrived.

Last week we were treated to the antics of Paula Deen.  Until last week, I had never heard of her. I think New York Times columnist Frank Bruni got is right when he wrote that she “is where sass meets crass.” The celebrity chef has some deeply entrenched issues regarding race that go way beyond dropping N-bombs. That’s the least of her problems, really.

Far more disturbing is her romanticization of the Antebellum South. She illustrated this quality in a videotaped interview with the New York Times just last year (the relevant section excerpted by the Huffington Post), where she talked about her great-grandfather who owned a plantation and about 30 slaves. She never called them slaves. First she called them people on her great-grandfather’s “books.” Later she referred to them as “workers.” Well yeah, they worked, but without wages, hence the term “slaves.” She stated that, “He didn’t know how to deal with life with no one to help operate his plantation,” what with his son killed in the war and the slaves now freed so that he didn’t own them anymore. So he killed himself.

Then she stated that the South was less prejudiced because blacks played such “an integral part of our lives. They were like our family.”

So in her romanticized, Dixie mind, slaveowners and slaves sat around on plantations singing Kumbaya, the whippings, beatings, and rapes not withstanding.

Ms. Deen further proved her point that black folks are like family by having her African-American chauffeur come out for all to see.  First, though, she chided him because she couldn’t see him too well against the dark background he stood against in the back of the studio. I’m surprised she didn’t yell, “Smile, honey, so we can see ya!”

Her attitudes about race are not quaint, cute, homespun or post-racial. They are disgusting. Late last week, when she realized that folks were turning away from her rather than patting her on the back going “there, there,” she issued a teary eyed apology. Too little, too late.  So far, both The Food Channel and Smithfield Foods have dropped her.

Sadly, Ms. Deen is not the only person who believes that we’ve entered the post-racial age. For one, she quickly amassed over 100,000 supporters on a We Support Paula Deen Facebook page a fan created. Many in society feel this whole thing has been overblown and that it really, really isn’t so bad for black and other minorities anymore. Some folks who think this sit in high places, like the Supreme Court.

Which brings us to the second and far more damaging headline, proving yet again that post-racial America is some bullshit.

The US Supreme Court, in a divided 5-4, conservative-liberal split decision, vanquished Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  This is the part that gave the federal government power to review and preapprove changes to voting laws in states and counties that have demonstrated a history of racial discrimination when it came to the vote.

According to Chief Justice John Roberts, the protections afforded by Section 4 are no longer needed.  “There is no denying, however, that the conditions that originally justified these measures no longer characterize voting in the covered jurisdictions,” he wrote in the majority opinion.  He then went on to say that more minorities are voting now than ever before.

Woohoo! We won! Thus, we don’t need to burden some states and treat them differently from other states. The missteps they made in the past are behind us, and we can all sing Kumbaya together.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg thinks otherwise and stated as such in the dissenting opinion:

Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.

And we are still getting wet. Soaked, in fact, sometimes literally, as we stand and wait for hours on end to vote.

The old trappings of voter suppression, poll taxes, literacy tests and the like, are history. Chief Justice Roberts is correct in this.  However, what he apparently does not or cannot recognize is that new tactics have taken their place. Limited polling stations, particularly in minority neighborhoods. Stringent laws mandating voter ID cards, which require lots of time and money to obtain. Restrictions on early voting. All of these had the net effect of making it difficult to vote in the 2012 presidential election. The Chief Justice might have taken note of this, if he had bothered to look at the news.

The decision has already had an effect. Voter ID laws in Texas can now take effect immediately. They had been held up by the Justice Department. Similarly, the latest gerrymandered districts concocted by the Lone Star state can also move ahead without further hindrances.

As I and others have discussed, the Republican party has found a new way to win elections: suppress the vote of those who historically do not vote for them. This would include those American hitherto protected by the Voting Rights Act. Thus, the decision by the Supreme Court has made it much easier for Republicans to continue to do this. How convenient.

This is what so-called post-racialism has brought us. It glosses over the past with misplaced nostalgia for good old days that never existed. Or it blankets the past entirely so that we can’t see it anymore.

And that’s complete and utter bullshit.

© 2013, gar. All rights reserved.


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“Post-Racial America is Some Bullshit” — 1 Comment

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