A Post-Racial Society. People often spoke of this concept after the election of President Barack Obama. His succession solved the issue of racism in the United States. No worries anymore – one election fixed it all! The New York Times headline the day after: Racial Barrier Falls.
Yet it’s actually one of the most ignorant and irritating statements of the Twenty-First Century. When you hear it you’re just left hoping people are doing so ironically. Alas, we all know it’s not the case.
Before I continue I need to state that I am a white male; while I do try to empathize with the cultural issues, I know I will never fully comprehend the African American experience, nor that of other people of color. Perhaps the fact I am gay allows me that compassion more easily than straight white men, but my experience of being gay has, fortunately, never been that bad. In advance, I apologize if offence is caused. Hopefully I’ll learn, understand and grow.
As a white person I know I will never experience anything as horrific as those who had to fight for their civil, human rights, from the early days of slavery through to today. I have no words to describe it. Except, maybe, “chronic”; like a life-long illness, people of color in America today are forced to learn to cope with racism on a daily basis. Embedded within our social systems, in our western culture, the level of racism will never be fully understood by white people, many of whom remain stubbornly ignorant to the most obvious examples.
Obama’s election was great for people of color, and not just in the United States – it was felt around the western world. He became an inspirational figure before he even won the election. He and his family defied racial stereotypes, and showed that a black man can cross over the culturally imposed hurdles. But fix racism it did not. Obama’s succession to the highest office in the land was paradoxical. The election of a black man as president revealed the deeply-ingrained racism within American culture.
White nationalism grew under Obama’s tenure. People’s glossary to critique the government soured as it grew. They didn’t label him as “the black man coming to destroy America” – they understood racism was socially acknowledged and wouldn’t play in the media. Instead, “black” was supplanted for “Muslim” or “socialist”, and “white” became “Christian”. The remnants of the Cold War reintroduced the evil concept of socialism, while the last effects of 9/11 had turned many against the entire population of the Middle East; raghead, sand n*****, terrorist. Obama became a terrorist, infecting the political system, working against white, Christian values, American-ness, capitalism, and of course, freedom. These are all marketable terms, easily grasped by those of the “alt-right” without needing to worry about being labeled a racist.
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I took a break writing this and in the interim, Charlottesville happened. A parade of white supremacists, mostly men including a large contingent of millennials, amassed around the University of Virginia on the Friday evening, carrying torches and yelling the slogans: “White Lives Matter,” and, “Blood and Soil.” On the Saturday they gathered around a statue of Robert E. Lee to protest the removal of the Confederate. They chanted their Nazi salutes and brazenly waved both Confederate and Nazi flags. A second protest appeared to counter with anti-racism/fascism messages. A car took aim, and a young woman, Heather Heyer, was killed.
A car drove through a crowd of people, similarly to the recent attacks in Europe, in Berlin, Nice, London and Barcelona this last week. Yet despite this mirror image, prominent people in both the media and politics have struggled to label this as terrorism. Just because it’s white, doesn’t make it any less terrorist.
And this is where the issues become evidently clearer. Had this been a black panther protest in the 1970s charging vehicles into crowds of white people the level of anger would be uncontrollable. “Terrorism” was immediately associated with London, with Nice, with Berlin. It was barely questioned – it just was. The hypocrisy is ceaseless. It is explicitly ignored. It is just another part of western culture, rooted to the core. White is right, or at least requires some careful consideration.
If there is one thing I need to get across from this article, it is this:
Acknowledging racism, and comprehending racism are two very different concepts. One means you literally agree that, “Yes – racism is a thing.” That does not mean you understand it. It does not mean you have the ability to empathize completely with those who experience it daily.
Now some have said the white supremacists had a right to protest, like the Women’s March, the Civil Rights campaigns, Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the annual Gay Pride parades, like-so-many-other-marches. White people should be able to protect white heritage, white history, white culture. White, European Culture upon which the developed world is built after centuries of empire. It is “racist” to prevent it, as well as unconstitutional and hypocritical, because we cannot forget about that First Amendment now, can we?
White America has acknowledged racism as an idea. It often finds itself, however, trying to fight against non-white people by turning that label around, reversing it. Racism can now be felt by white people, and you can bet your last penny they will ensure they get a chance to play victim to empower their own supremacy, their own agenda. “I am victim – hear me protest!” They play victim so they don’t have to waste time comprehending what it really means to be marginalized.
‘Reverse-racism’ they call it.
In the western world, white people cannot be victims of racism. Period. When the entire system – politically, socially, in education, religion, law & order, and media – is built with you in mind, to empower you, you cannot be a victim of racial prejudice. You may believe differently, but you’d be incorrect. Reverse-racism is a pseudo label created to protect white people’s whiteness and their racial-bias-norms. The empowered cannot be disenfranchised, and it is illogical to suggest otherwise.
African Americans in states like the Carolinas are subjected to Confederate “heroes” everyday; flags are flown from houses and cars, even some municipal buildings. The symbol of slavery is still brandished into the faces of people whose ancestors were forced into servitude. The meaning behind the flag isn’t vacated because some decide to ignore the history. Saying slavery was awful, you’re glad it’s gone, but continuing to celebrate the Confederate flag is nonsensical. Identifying slavery as a dark mark on US history doesn’t equate to understanding racism in today’s terms.
Obama’s term in office exacerbated racism and white supremacy. Any white person with deep-seated hatred for the change in the world, from manufacturing to automation, from white working-class jobs to immigrant working-class jobs, for anyone with a beef with the bail outs for some but not for them when the economy is hit… Obama’s presidency redefined the conclusions for those with a racist nature. Obama took your job and gave it to an illegal alien. Obama wants to destroy your community to save one for Muslims. Obama loves Muslims but hates hard-working Christian Americans. The focus of that blame was harder to label under both Bushes, under Clinton, Reagan and Carter. There wasn’t an “other” available. And for white supremacists, they turned to Donald Trump, someone who gave them the voice they desperately wanted to hear, to normalize their own behavior.
And what of Trump?
The current president lambasted his predecessor and electoral opponent for not eagerly identifying every terrorist attack as an act perpetrated by a Muslim extremist (even though they did, they just didn’t do it as much or as gleefully). Yet when asked about the neo-Nazi/Confederate protest, he blames everyone involved on all sides. He doesn’t automatically denounce pro-Nazi propaganda nor white supremacy. The counter-protesters were also at fault. This means Trump is either beyond-grossly ignorant, or a flat-out racist. And no one is surprised by either scenario. The man in the Oval Office empowers his supremacist supporters with his travel ban from Muslim countries, with his continuous sexism, his trans and homophobia, and his racism towards Mexico and Mexicans where all the blame for the US’ recent falters is bestowed on the nations south of the border. The rhetoric is clear and is celebrated by the David Dukes of the world. They have their guy, one of their own. It’s never been safer to be a racist Nazi-admiring Confederate before 2017.
I read the other day how the counter-protesters were at fault because America is now post-racial. The prejudice seen today has nothing to do with race, apparently.
Racism is not over, and it probably never will be. It is not understood either by the majority of those who are complicit. Those who voted for Trump voted for a racist, or at best a racist-sympathizer (which is the same thing). He didn’t change on November 9 – the ideology was laid bare in the announcement speech, where Mexicans are all criminals except for “some”. It was evident in the birther debate when Trump demanded the first non-white president to show his full birth certificate when no other president had before. Those who voted for Trump chose to go along with these factors of his character or chose to willfully ignore it. And even if they don’t agree with the president, their vote allowed him to believe he had the country behind him.
But America is post-racial now, right? There’s no need to pretend to understand the other side, the daily discrimination, the culture war against anyone not white. After all, it’s all fake news anyway.