Wednesday, August 05, 2009

We Are Not Post-racial

So the President, the policeman, and the professor (sounds like the title of a childrens book) have shared beers, agreed to disagree and all is well in the land. If only. Get a load of this:

Justin Barrett, the Boston police officer suspended from the force for his e-mail likening Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., to a “banana-eating jungle monkey,’’ has filed a lawsuit against the Police Department, police commissioner, and mayor, saying the city violated his civil and due process rights.

The 18-page lawsuit accuses the three parties of “conspiring to intentionally inflict emotional distress and conspiring to intentionally interfere with the property rights, due process rights, and civil rights of the plaintiff.’’

Barrett added to the controversy surrounding last month’s arrest of Gates at his home in Cambridge, when he responded to a column by The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham, using the racial slurs in reference to Gates.

When police officials learned of the biting missive, they quickly moved to fire him.

Later, during a national campaign to save his job, Barrett told CNN he is not a racist and “treats everyone with dignity and respect.’’ (Read the whole thing here)

I'm actually feeling pretty good about the ugly racial politics of the Sotomayor nomination, the arrest of Professor Gates and the banana-eating-jungle-monkey comment from Officer "I treat everyone with dignity and respect". Why do you ask? Because it just might be helping to free Americans from the notion that our society is "post-racial". During the Presidential campaign I watched with alarm as so many of us got swept up in the fantasy that we were "over" the issue of race. Guess what? We're not. What I find fascinating is that so many were so willing to believe otherwise. I'm reminded of a comment from Baha'u'llah, "People for the most part delight in superstitions. They regard a single drop of the sea of delusion as preferable to an ocean of certitude" (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 57).

This is an opportunity for America to face just how challenging race remains and the hard work necessary to truly achieve a society where we are "over" it.

"Let neither [Blacks nor Whites] think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort, can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country" (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 40).