Saturday, January 26, 2008

2 Americas


Recently Liz at Los Angelista had a tongue-in-cheek kind of post about the media hysteria surrounding an impending "race war". Check it out:

"This race thing… it’s dicey."
"We’re on the brink of a race war."

I heard these statements on MSNBC yesterday morning before I took my kids to school. I peered outside to check out whether folks were giving each other beat downs on the corner, because you know, out here in LA, we seemingly know how to do "race war" very well.
As you know, we will burn this city up over, oh, little things like white cops getting acquitted for beating down a black man named Rodney King. So who knows what LA would do in a situation where a politician's playing games and making racially charged insinuations about another candidate, and then blaming that candidate for the whole thing. Only a very heightened sense of superiority would allow an individual to believe that we will follow the marching orders and act like what we heard said does not mean what we think it means. You know we're crazy out here, right? We're so psycho in LA that we might continue to misinterpret, misunderstand and take some quotes out of context. And then what might happen? We might burn down this entire city, which would definitely mean no Oscars. And then, what the heck! We might call up our friends who moved up the 15 Freeway to Las Vegas in search of affordable housing and tell them to go ahead and destroy Las Vegas too. I mean, we are having a race war so we do need to live up to the hype. Burn, baby, burn!" (Read it all right here)

The following is what I said in response to Liz's post:
"I find it comical that people believe that race doesn't matter just because they say so. Race was part of this whole process long before Clinton's remarks. To think otherwise is to engage in delusion. Also the so called race war was declared long ago it is simply asymmetrical. Predatory lending, discrimination in housing, employment, health care, the criminal justice system, and education, police brutality, the epidemic of stress related diseases, the mass medicating and tracking into "special education" of our children, discriminatory implementation of "zero tolerance" policies, nooses popping up all over the country. There's a race war alright, it's against people of color and people of color are losing big time. We have to wake up from this "we are the world" narcotized state and see what is really going on in our country. The politicians are clueless and don't offer an ounce of leadership regarding these issues, not one of them. The propaganda of the so called "post racial" America is a dangerous opiate. This brother refuses to fall asleep."

Strong words? You betcha. This Baha'i blogger ain't playin'.

I've come to the conclusion recently that there really are two Americas, to borrow a phrase from a certain not-to-be-named politician. In one America, racism is no longer a problem. The real problem is people like myself who insist on talking about race. If we would just stop talking about it, everything would be cool, we could all just go about participating in our consumption driven, materialistic culture with joy! In this America, people like myself are accused of being "race pimps" and playing the "race card". This America proudly proclaims itself as "post-racial" and views those primitive inhabitants of the other America with a mixture of compassion and contempt. In the other America, racism is still a problem and plays far too much of a role in the quality of life of way too many people. People in this America know racism is a problem because their daily experiences provide ample evidence. You could say that we have reached a moment in our history where the meaning of the color line has evolved. Today it is not so much about the division between whites and people of color but between those who believe that the color line still matters and those who believe it doesn't.
Between these two Americas there is a borderland for people who believe that racism and the problems it breeds still exist but that things are not as bad as they used to be. I'd say that Algernon Austin and John McWhorter are good examples of this view, though they approach it differently. A fair minded person must acknowledge progress has been made regarding race in America. I disagree with those "soldiers of negation" who claim that nothing has changed for blacks since slavery or that things are worse today than during the period before the Civil Right era. However, no amount of statistical data showing that there are fewer black people living in misery and oppression than in the past offers comfort to those who are living that way right now. Telling the black child who will go to bed hungry tonight that there are fewer kids like her this year than last year will not fill her belly with food. I'm not interested in engaging in intellectual debates about whether the glass of racial progress is half-full or half-empty. I want a full glass period. Anything else is unacceptable to me. It is towards a full glass that we must all strive if we are to achieve a truly "post-racial" America. Until then, the idea that we have already arrived is at best wishful thinking and at worst a deliberate attempt to avoid our moral responsibility.

"Justice is, in this day, bewailing its plight, and Equity groaneth beneath the yoke of oppression. The thick clouds of tyranny have darkened the face of the earth, and enveloped its peoples."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 92)