Friday, November 7, 2008

Finallying Burying the Race Card?

One thing that is now unambiguously clear is that the United States is not a racist country. It has long been a common charge that the US is still a racist country, that there is rampant institutional racism in America. It seems hard to believe that this charge can still be made, now that America has its first black president.

This is not to say that racism does not exist in America. There are certainly many racist individuals in America. However, racist people in a country is an entirely different intellectual construct than a racist country. While the difference may seem subtle, it leads to drastically different answers and solutions to the problems.

In a racist country, in which there is institutionalized racism, the system itself is broken. This is what the country was like some 40-odd years ago. The civil rights movement did a tremendous job in changing this- and should be commended. That battle has long been won, and has been quite clearly crystallized through the election of Obama. In a racist country a black man could not be elected president.

Modern civil rights activists still operate under this construct. They still act as if they have to change the system, but the system has been changed. The struggle now is to address the personalized racist attitudes that individuals, in society, may have. Policies that aim to change the system (read affirmative action etc.) only serve to draw racial distinctions where they are no longer needed or beneficial. While Americans are entitled, by the very freedoms in the Bill of Rights, to think or feel as they please (although not entitled to act on all of these freedoms in a way that harms others), the focus of such movements should be to educate people that harbor such discriminations against the ‘wrongness’ of their ideas.

Having a black man win the presidency was a surprise to many. This shows a failure to internalize the fact that the Civil Rights movement was won long ago. Hopefully, Obama’s election will serve to finalize the internalization of this concept- America is no longer institutionally racist (it has not been for a while). Racism that does exist is the product of narrow minded individuals. There are many succinct ways to deal with such issues.

This is also a superb opportunity to address a number of issues that have, for too long, been colored by the lens of institutionalized racism. The plight of the poor, black, urban community is not the result of a systemic oppression by “the man” (the man is now a black man, so that argument falls flat), but a general historical cycle of failure of the community and home to provide strong structures and stable values to allow for success in a broader American culture. Hopefully, the crutch of blaming the system to avoid facing the internal community wide problems will be cast aside, and replaced with a more sophisticated discussion about what maladies define the community.

Hopefully, Obama will represent a new era in black leadership- that will cast aside the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons, and replace them with the likes of Bill Cosby. At a minimum, it is a ripe opportunity for the Republican Party to draw the rational minded from the black community, who have cast off the blinders of institutional racism, into our folds. Hopefully, such a monumental election will forever end the discussion of institutional racism and allow us to focus on the real, tangible issues at hand. If such happens, it is almost certain that there a members of the black (and historically Democratic) community that will now fall in line with the values of strong community and family support and individual responsibility- lock-step with a New Republican base.


  1. I certainly agree with what you are saying and hope that this is the beginning of change, especially in the arena of properly appropriating responsibility.
    I disagree in that although 'institutional racism' may not exist on the level of a national presidential election, there are many smaller, more remote levels of government where it may still exist.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you wrote here, however, I do think you are making a bit of a sweeping generalization when you say that there is no longer institutional racism in America. While I certainly agree that America is no longer racist on a national or policy making level (and, in point of fact, is no where close to being racist at this level anymore), in a country in which certain golf clubs still do not allow African and Jewish Americans to become members, I think it's a bit strong to state that institutional racism in America is no longer present.

    However, I completely agree with you that the biggest challenge left for America in terms of racism and it's affects on society, is how to effectively deal with the racist attitudes of certain individuals (Particularly those in positions of power . . . MLB and NFL owners and racist religious leaders like Rev. Wright come to mind) Also, racism is still present at a subconscious level, and although much more subtle and less harmful, is something which must be dealt with before racism is truly a thing of the past. I happen to think it will naturally wane with time as generations pass and different races hopefully become more and more integrated with one another. (A great example of subconscious racism still permeating society is the way in which the national media coverage of a missing white child differs from the national media coverage of a missing black child - in fact, rarely does the story of a missing black child even make national news)

  3. I disagree that exclusionary golf-clubs constitute institutional racism. While I personally think it is disgusting, I believe that private clubs/organizations should be able to accept or reject people based on whatever categories they may decide on. Social norms will address these issues. Institutional racism stems more from the government action in creating a system that favors one group over another. I think the closest such system we have today, is in fact, the affirmative action system. The government needs to be a colorblind system. Since we also allow personal freedoms the government can force individuals to change their opinions (however wrong the majority of us think those opinions are). However, I think we enough education and a system structured not to think in such paradigms these ideas will slowly be proven not to hold merit. That is the race battle that now must be fought- one of educating the uneducated, not changing a system.


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