I saw an argument on CNN this past weekend. Although they called it a debate, the stated issue being debated was, "Is Affirmative Action Racist? The underlying, unstated question was since an African American, Barack Obama, is President and a Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, is being pushed to be on the Supreme Court, does America still need Affirmative Action? Put another way, is everything equal, and is there no more need for programs to even the economic playing field left from 400 years of slavery and discrimination?
I was reminded of a letter to an editor I read years ago that responded to the same question with a statement that simply said, "I saw a Black man driving a Mercedes, so there is equality now."
This whole notion that we live in a post-racial period and every thing is now Ok is being promoted by the conservatives since Obama is now the President. First of all the word, POST-RACIAL is a new, strange and dangerous word; kind of like the word COLORBLIND. If we said that Black is Beautiful and African Americans are the colors of the rainbow, Black, Brown, Beige, and varying shades of all of the above, why would we want them to be invisible as you would if you were colorblind? What we want is for all individuals to be appreciated for their achievements, their talents and their character.
In her book, The Breakthrough, subtitled, Politics And Race In The Age Of Obama, Gwen Ifil addresses the question indirectly. Ifil quotes the father of New York's Black and blind mayor, Basil Paterson, when he says that "only a fool would say we haven't made progress as a race. But only a fool would say it is enough."
In the book Ifil quotes Barack Obama when he was a Senator talking about race. Obama said, "To think clearly about race...requires us to see the world on a split screen...to maintain in our sight the kind of America that we want while looking squarely at America as it is."
Race is still a fact of American life. We see it everyday in the schools that don't educate our children, in the courts that fill our jails with children they didn't educate, on jobs in Black neighborhoods that don't go to Black folks to feed their children, and with cops who treat Blacks different than they treat Whites.
One Black female lawyer pointed out to me recently in discussing my series on police watch in Altadena that she has never seen white youth seated on a street curb. Yet you see it with Black youth all of the time.
Let us not fall into the trap of there being a post racial society. Racism is still alive. That is what people thought during the post slavery period of Reconstruction. That period only lasted ten years. But since the discussion is out there, we must treat it as if we're still at war with racism. Be prepared with more education. Be prepared with more entrepreneurial skills to survive as an independent businessman or woman. What good does it do to be in an equal society when the economic base of the society is crumbling? You will just be equally broke, hungry and unemployed. That's equality they can keep.
If I were to write a letter to discrimination, I would write the following:
I wish you were gone away, but I know you are still here, trying to hide in the shadow of political success of one extraordinarily talented man called Barack. I trusted you in the past, and while I was trusting you in the name of equality, you took much from me that still affects me today. You want me to believe that you are gone but I remember that you took part of my inheritance and limited my children's future when you took my father's future. When I excelled and created Black Wall Streets, you pad locked them to keep me out, or you burned them down. When I was sick, you experimented on me and fed me diseases like syphilis instead of treating me. You took my future when you closed your doors of education to me and my father. You have never given me equal access to what I earned. I have had to force the doors of opportunity open using the words of our mutual father, Jefferson, and the faith of my creator, God.
Discrimination, you forced me to live where you wanted me to live, eat what you had left over to eat, all because of the color of my skin. And while you were treating me unequal, you taught me to believe the illusion of equality and ignore the reality of inequality and act like I was equal. And then you told me to put away my hope and wait on equality, but you never said how long I had to wait. I'm not trusting that you have departed, and I am watching you, and I am ready to mount up and fight you when you rear your ugly head again!