It was always naive to believe that Barack Obama’s election would mark our passage into a “post racial America.” Not only is that concept incoherent, it also impossible. America can never get beyond race because we are, as Ta-Nehisi Coates said in the Atlantic “Barack Obama is the president of a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor, and land.”
Coates is always insightful but, perhaps, never more so than in this essay. Our inherent, genetic national racism poses a problem for America because
in nearly every major American city one can find a population of people whose very existence, whose very history, whose very traditions, are an assault upon this country’s nationalist instincts. Black people are the chastener of their own country. Their experience says to America, ‘You wear the mask’.”
Thus, we witness the inevitable calls for “conversations” from liberals while conservative pundits victimize the victims or, when that is impossible, politicize the killings. But we need more than talk. We need a national reckoning of our violent, racist past. If the reaction of conservatives is any indication or the persistent gap between the perceptions of whites and blacks remains wide, it will not be easy. As Ta-Nehesi Coates aptly puts it, <
“the death of all of our Michael Browns at the hands of people who are supposed to protect them originates in a force more powerful than any president: American society itself. This is the world our collective American ancestors wanted. This is the world our collective grandparents made. And this is the country that we, the people, now preserve in our fantastic dream. What can never be said is that the Fergusons of America can be changed—but, right now, we lack the will to do it.”
I have no easy answers. Perhaps all we can do is talk but, if we do talk, white Americans need to do most of the listening because so much needs to be said that has rarely been allowed to have voice.
December 7, 2014 Comments Off