Those with an iota of sophistication understand that race matters and that America is anything but a post-racial society. Unfortunately, that hoax, likely concocted by white-wing extremists, is embraced by a broad cross-section of the population, including so-called liberals and misguided Blacks.
The post-racial notion is a rationalization for maintaining white privilege. It is propelled by several factors, including Barack Obama’s presidency, (“A Black man can be president so race no longer matters.”), the emergence and dominance of extreme ring-wing conservatism exemplified by the Tea Party, Republican takeover in the House of Representatives and the decisions of a still right-leaning U. S. Supreme Court.
America continues its dance around the reality of race; sadly, Blacks participate in the charade, albeit for different , nonetheless bogus reasons. Publicly, whites have always downplayed the primacy of race while maintaining race-based power under the mythical guise of America as a melting pot. For some Blacks, minimizing race is a misguided attempt to assimilate. But on the color continuum, it’s still the closer to white, the better- which renders assimilation an exercise in futility. Rather than unifying, organizing, and mobilizing to demand a place at the political bargaining table as equals, Blacks tend to passively accept a race-based status quo that is not in their best interests.
Law Professor Derrick Bell’s penetrating analysis is a primer on the implications on the continuing significance of race. He argues that racism is so ingrained in American life that no matter what Blacks do to better themselves, they will not succeed as long as the majority of whites do not see their own well-being threatened by the status quo. He also reminds us that Blacks in bondage managed to retain their humanity and faith that pain and suffering were not the extent of their destiny.
Bell asserts that America’s veiled dogma of race-based progress fails those who have been marginalized. He says Blacks, the poor and others whom the myth ignores must call for national action that incorporates their experience. And they must find inspiration in the lives of oppressed people who defied death as slaves and freed men insisting on their humanity despite society’s consensus that they were an inferior people. He argues that Blacks can only de-legitimize racism by “accurately pinpointing it as the center, not the periphery, in not only their lives, but the lives of whites and all others.”
Bell believes Blacks must recognize and acknowledge, first to themselves, that their actions are not likely to lead to immediate or transcendent change. He says, only then can that realization lead to public policy less likely to worsen their condition, and more likely to remind the nation that they are determined to constantly challenge its power.
Professor Adolph Reed also raises provocative questions on the need for greater unity in combatting racist policies, especially because the current devolving state of the Black community. He argues that a cohesive Black collective is a myth, necessary after the Civil War, to present a semblance of unity. The leadership class defined specific Black interests, named themselves leaders, and were assumed to be so by whites, all of which is still true.
According to Reed, egalitarianism appealed to both the civil rights movement and capitalism because it raised no questions about capitalism. Rather, it stressed the immorality of racism and segregation and how they were obstacles to economic progress. But he feels Black opposition was integrated into the system in a way that strengthened, not challenged it. He suggests: Breaking Blacks’ elite control over ideas in the Black community; critiquing so-called Black agendas in order to transcend Black leaders serving their own best interests exclusively; and recognizing the diverse interests in Black communities.
In “Nihilism in Black America,” Dr. Cornel West asserts that Blacks initially struggled against racism in enslaved circumstances and argues that the major enemy of Black survival in America is the loss of hope and absence of meaning. “The genius of Blacks’ forbearers was to create powerful buffers to counter “the demons of helplessness and lovelessness…..Black people have always been in America’s wilderness in search of a promised land, but many now reside in a jungle with a cuthroat mentality devoid of any faith in deliverance or hope.”
These scholars eloquently articulate the need for Blacks to debunk the internalized myth that race is no longer a significant factor in their lives. The need for Black unity is at the heart of all efforts to internalize the positive core values and strength of our forbearers. However, we must shed the twin burdens of victimization and futile dependence on others. This requires renewed commitment and courage for the magnitude of change necessary to make a real difference for us and future generations.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.