Paul R. Lehman,The concept of a post-racial society conceals the misdeeds of America’s past and present.April 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Civil War, college admission, desegregation, discrimination lawsuit, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, integregation, justice, minority, Race in America, segregation, skin color, Slavery, The Thirteenth Amendment, The U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court, University of Texas, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: Affirmative Action, African Americans, america's race problem, American History, black, Civil Rights, current-events, discrimination, European Americans, history of racism, homer plessy, plessy v ferguson 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson, politics, Prejudice, race, racism, segregation, skin color, slavery, society, Supreme Court, U. S. Laws, university admissions, white
An article that appeared in the grio posed the questions:”has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?” (4/1/13) These questions were asked in conjunction with the two cases before the Supreme Court, one case deals with affirmative action, the other focuses on voting rights. Although both questions involve some aspect of the same topic, race, they need to be addressed separately, and in a different context from the general public concept. Let us look first at the question about racial preference and racism.
The first thing we need to address is the fact that America and the government created race based on color. Two races were created, one black and the other white. These races were not created on anything other than the color for a person’s skin. Later many scientists, scholars, ministers, and a host of other players tried to justify race from a biological perspective, to no avail because any person who looked white could be white. So, while the definition protected people with fair complexions, it was no guarantee that the race of these people was correct or valid. So, society added ancestry to the definition of race via color, but only African Ancestry. In other words, if a person had any African ancestry, that person was considered black regardless of how they looked. The problem with race defined by color was finally addressed by U. S. law in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) but proved to be something of a joke– Homer Plessy’s complexion was so light, that his arrest for sitting in a seat reserved for white-only had to be staged. None the less, the law was kept in place.
America made these two races distinct in that they represented opposite values. The so-called white race was given power, privilege, and prestige. If one was upper-classed white, wealthy or educated, then he or she was considered normal. Otherwise, being white just placed one above all other non-whites. For the so-called black race or Negroes, as they were also called, they represented negative stereotypes that included ignorance, laziness, worthlessness, untrustworthiness, and repulsiveness along with a host of other despicable characteristics. All these elements were promoted by the so-called white race to be biological features of the so-called black race. Society created, promoted and enforced laws and practices that discriminated against and segregated people of the so-called black race.
Before and during the time of the Civil War many people, European Americans as well as African Americans worked towards eliminating slavery and discrimination of African Americans. Once the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were passed by Congress with pressure from President Lincoln and others, African Americans were recognized as citizens of the United State of America. That meant that only whites and blacks were citizens since no other race was recognized.
For African Americans, being citizens of the United States did not end discrimination, hatred and bigotry. As a matter of fact, negative feelings against African Americans began to manifest in acts of violence by so-called white vigilante gangs that included acts of lynching. Although America has always been a diverse society, it acted like a monolith of European Americans. They still held on to the philosophy of Manifest Destiny—this country belongs to them because God gave it to them to take and possess. Although many diverse societies existed in America, the country projected two so-called races—black and white, under the rubric of one country, America. The so-called black race was never treated fairly nor equally by society until the laws of the country was challenged in courts, and especially, the Supreme Court. The 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Topeka began the change in the social structure of America. According to the law, African Americans could no longer be treated as unequals in public facilities. Unfortunately, the change in the law did not affect the minds of many American who saw the law as a form of discrimination against their rights. Therefore, they continued to maintain and enforce an atmosphere of segregation and discrimination against African Americans until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, 1965, 1968.
During the time from the beginning of America creating to two races until the Civil Rights Acts, the race America called white enjoyed the liberties of freedom, life and the pursuit of happiness without reservation. Now that America has decided to live up to its promise of fair and just treatment for all its citizens, the so-called white race wants to cry discrimination because it cannot continue to discriminate on the basis of its so-called race. The court case involving university admissions at the University of Texas is said to be based on racial preference for African American students. Actually, if the University of Texas did not show some preference to African American students, it would still be discriminating against them based on past social history and practice. They were formerly denied admission based on their so-called race, so not to consider their so-called race for admission would be seen as unjust or unfair.
Another problem exists regarding this case, that is, how will race be defined since color is not a reliable indicator of race and DNA will show that all people have some African ancestry? The fact that America created two so-called races based on color has come back to haunt and trouble us since the European Americans no longer control the definition of race in America. Race should have been replaced by ethnic group and ethnicity since the 1940s, but to do that would have meant a loss of power, privilege and prestige for the European Americans. What society could not bring it to do; Mother Nature is doing for it. In a few more years, the ethnic minority in America will become the majority and the concept of a black race and white race will become so complex and confusing that it will have to become a thing of the past.
So, if the court wants to avoid the problem of having to deal with race, it should simply look at the people who have been denied social and economic justice in our society and do the fair and just thing by them without regard to a so-called race. The idea of a post-racial society is just a way of trying to avoid the realities of discrimination and bigotry that have been a part of America’s history. America created the problem; it can resolve it.