Paul R. Lehman, America as a post-racial society is foolish thinkingSeptember 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, blacks, Civil Rights Ats, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, employment, equality, European American, fairness, identity, integregation, justice, liberty, Prejudice, President, President Obama, race, segregation, skin color, socioeconomics, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | 3 Comments
Tags: Affirmative Action, African American, African American Community, African American History, African Americans, black, Charles Dickens, Civil Rights, ethnicity, European American, European Americans, President Obama, Race in America, unemployment, Voting Right Act
Shortly after President Obama was elected a cry of America being a post-racial society was heard. The thinking was that since America had elected an African American president that all the concerns about race and its negative derivatives had been addressed and was now in the past. The truth of the matter is that America has yet to deal internally with the concept of race other than to continue its illusion. What might be passing for social progress is mostly illusion since not much has changed for the betterment of African Americans relative to employment, education, and incarceration. Certainly, we can point to a number of areas where African American involvement and participation in society have made them more visible, but that visibility usually underscores their ethnicity rather than their being viewed as simply Americans. The stigma of race (ethnicity) always accompanies the African American and the attention, positive or negative, received. In a democratic society the resolution of one problem usually represents the creation of two or more problems. A case in point was school desegregation beginning in 1954. Using a phrase from Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times; it was the worse of times,” when we examine some of the repercussion visited on African Americans as a result of desegregation.
Education in America prior to the Brown decision in 1954 was separate, but certainly, not equal. Education in America can never become equal, because that term pertains to mathematics, not sociology—nothing involving human beings can ever be equal. That term was used to create an illusion of fairness. The idea that African Americans wanted to attend school alongside European American students for social reasons was false; they just wanted an education comparable to that of the European American students. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the only way to ensure that all students receive a fair and comparable education was to discontinue segregated schools. For the African American community, that created numerous problems, two of which involved education and economics.
When the schools were segregated, the African American students were the recipients of information relative to African American history, past and present–information that helped to created a positive self-image as well as one of self-value. The history underscored the many individuals who time and time again triumphed over challenges to achieve some measure of accomplishment. These examples helped the students to develop the courage and desire to accept the many challenges they must face in an ethnically biased society. American history from an African American perspective was not simply an objective look at past events, but a continuing story of the struggles of African Americans to gain fist-classed citizenship in America.
Once the schools were desegregated, many of the former African American teachers were dismissed in favor of European American teachers. Of course, we would be remiss if we did not note that once desegregation became the law, many European Americans who could afford it, moved to suburbs in an action that came to be known as “white flight” because they did not believe in ethnic mixing in any context, but especially at school. As a result of “white flight” the court required bussing of students to achieve desegregation. Since most of the African American schools were physically inferior to those of the European American schools, African American students were bussed to European American schools. These changes, white flight” and “bussing” had a dramatic affect on the African American students.
Once the African American students were bussed to their new schools, they had to adjust to totally new and different environments where they were generally in the minority. Without a doubt, European American students had to make adjustments as well, but they had the benefit of attending their home schools and being taught by familiar teachers. No special considerations were made for the African American students relative to their social adjustment; they were expected to simply “fall in line” along with the majority students. One major difference existed relative to the African American students involved in this desegregation experience; they no longer received or learned African American history. The fact that the majority teachers had no background and little or no knowledge of the African American historical experience, they could not bridge the ignorance gap that could have provided some insight into the problems that created the need for desegregation in the first place. In this case, all students were disadvantaged.
A second negative affect of desegregation to the African American community was the loss of an entrepreneurial class of business men and women. Once the schools became desegregated, many chain-store businesses came into the community and ended much of the “Mom and Pop” businesses that existed in the community because the chain-store business could easily offer goods, services, and products at a lower price. The smaller, African American owned businesses could not compete with the larger ones; so many African Americans who formerly worked at these businesses were displaced. So, the immediate affect of desegregation for the African American community was mixed in that while the African American students would share classrooms with European American students, and thereby receive a comparable education, the African American community would lose many of its entrepreneurial members and businesses and be changed forever.
So, the people who would like to think that America is in a post-racial present might want to reconsider that thought when they examine areas of: education, where we learn that schools today are rapidly becoming more segregated rather than integrated; or consider the wealth gap among ethnic Americans of color compared to European Americans, and the unemployment rate that contributes directly to the standard of living; or to the recent and current news items from Florida, to New York, from Illinois, to California, and places in between where young African American men have been killed by law enforcement agencies; or the fact that many of the previous accomplishments relative to social progress have been eroded, like voting rights, affirmative action, and economic upward mobility in general.
Rather than talking about a post-racial society, America should be looking at the debunking of the illusion of race. One of the primary problems in America today is that too many people do not want to face facts and the reality of those facts—race is and always has been an illusion. The idea of America as a post-racial society is an oxymoron.