Post – Racial

La Shawn Barber has posted an interesting commentary about Obama & Post-Racialism

I read quite a few music and book author blogs, and some are run by Obama-supporting liberals. I can almost see them patting themselves on the back as they try to convince themselves race means nothing, and Obama’s presidency signals the beginning a new era of diversity, tolerance, blah, blah, blah. But they’ve got it twisted. Voting for Obama because he represents some post-racial ideal is to inject race into the equation.

“When whites — especially today’s younger generation — proudly support Obama for his post-racialism, they unwittingly embrace race as their primary motivation,” Shelby Steel writes. “They think and act racially, not post-racially. The point is that a post-racial society is a bargainer’s ploy: It seduces whites with a vision of their racial innocence precisely to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation. A real post-racialist could not be bargained with and would not care about displaying or documenting his racial innocence. Such a person would evaluate Obama politically rather than culturally.”

It the end, it doesn’t matter why white people voted for Obama. He’s the leader of the free world now (shudder). Who I am to interfere with their “I voted for a black man because I don’t care about race” back-patting?

Steele asks what Obama’s election means to blacks. Well, I doubt it will do anything to decrease illegitimacy among blacks (70 percent; as high as 80 percent in some urban areas), or decrease child killing, or strengthen families and communities, or much of anything. It’s a proud moment for many blacks, to be sure, but having a black man in the White House will not motivate black Americans to wait until marriage to have babies, to stop killing their babies (and at three times the rate of white women), or to stop uttering the word racism whenever they don’t get their way.

Both in La Shawn’s commentary and Shebly’s LA Times article, the issue of Obama’s blackness serving as a symbol is addressed. Both claim that electing a non-white President is a way for Americans to promote an equality that will allow America to pat itself on the back, without really making real racial progress.

I wrestle with the validity of this. A real – and influential – part of me agrees. It seems that being a minority and being post-racial, multi-racial, multi-cultural, is sexy, but not real. I know several people who cognitively desire to have a multi-cultural society and enjoy the spoils of being able to listen to Jay-Z, and Beyonce on the radio, but in reality they have embedded stereotypes, have few, if any, real multi-cultural friendships and are. for the most part ignorant of the lives of those who don’t look like them. In reality, these are those who I think voted for Obama because it is the thing to do and they wanted to feel good about how diverse they are, rather than because they have really moved beyond racial prejudice both personally and socially.

However, I want to hope that this isn’t that case. I want to eliminate my cynicism and believe that Obama being elected is more than a shallow simple and that he is more than a racial place holder or a token minority for Americans.

When it comes down to it, I believe Obama is a token for many Americans – regardless of what race those Americans are – and I believe that the majority of Americans believe they are much further in eliminating their racial prejudices than they actually are. But I also believe tokens can turn into positives forces for real change. Though a token is placed in their position for the wrong reason, they are in a position to influence others. Let’s say Obama is a token, the reality is he is going to be the President of the United States. In that position, he has not only the position to inspire minorities around the world, but he also has ability to bust the stereotypes American’s have of blacks and other minorities.

Let us pray that Obama, regardless of whether he is a token or not, helps to move our country towards one that is more racially just.

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  1. Hey Josh! Holly Daly here. Love your post and agree with the hope for a deeper racial motivation for understanding and reconciliation in our country. I think it’s really hard for people to be confronted with ideas that may challenge their world view. I posted a link to a great article written by Soong-Chan Rah that you’d probably like. The link is on teh most recent blog I just wrote.

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