‘Post-racial’. When I first saw this word, approved I thought, ‘Surely not. It can’t mean what I think it means, can it?’. I have just finished writing an essay titled is ‘21st century America a post-racial society?’, which is why I am so enthused by this topic. At first glance I was certainly inclined to scream to the heavens, ‘ABSOLUTELY NOT! WHAT MANIAC BELIEVES THIS?!’; but as I began to read and plan, arguments for and certainly against the post-racial discourse began to come to me more clearly.
Firstly, let me explain what a post-racial society is. Simply put, a post-racial society is one in which members of the said society can see beyond race, a world in which race does not matter. Can you imagine that? A world where race does not matter.
Where RACE does not matter.
I can see you all breathing a sigh of relief at this, personally I am hesitant to be ecstatic at a world without race, because I love being black. It makes me who I am, it is my identity; sadly, I am aware this is not the case for all. Thus, I can see why people are drawn to the notion of a post-racial society, because it also implies the end of racism.
When Barak Obama (we miss you, please come back) was elected as the first African-American president of the United States in 2008 many believed America had taken its first steps towards a post-racial society. After all, how could you claim America was racist when they had just elected the first African-American president to hold the highest office in the country. However, Obama’s terms did not catapult America towards a post-racial society because his presidency despite what many believe was constantly bombarded with negative bias’s and connotations towards his race. Campaigns such as the ‘birther’ movement, unsurprisingly spearheaded by the current US President Donald. J. Trump, plagued Obama’s presidency- it claimed Obama’s birth certificate was forged and his American citizenship was null and void because he was born in Kenya (where Obama’s father was born) and not Hawaii. This of course was a ludicrous, false and racist claim. Racist sectors of the political community continued to flourish and still do to this day. America can hardly be deemed a ‘colour-blind society’ when they could not see past the negative racial bias’s put upon their own President.
When negative racial bias in a country continues to lock communities of ethnic minorities into systems of poverty without offering viable solutions to escape, e.g. the income disparities between ethnic minorities and their white counterparts in America continue to be incredibly high to this day, a post-racial society is not possible. America is not the only country, Britain also continues to harbour many dangerous and divisive racist biases within their many institutions, although they are not as blatant and as explicit as America’s, you only have to look at the economic disparities to see that implicit forms of racism still thrive today in Britain. So, what is America and in fact many other countries around the world to do to achieve a post-racial society and world? A painful realisation firstly, needs to be made and then admitted on the parts of those who have the power to govern about the racist institutions, structures and negative bias’s that still occur and thrive today. They may not be as blatant and as explicit as decades’ past, but until this latter step is firstly done, questions cannot be raised or answered and a post-racial society can never be achieved.
Written by Jasmine Botchey
UCL History Student