“Post-racial” reminds me of the term “post-Indian,” which I began to notice after our splendid National Museum of the American Indian opened on the Mall in 2004. In that context, “post-Indian” meant that we Native peoples have our museum, so it’s time to get past being Native peoples and talking about treaty rights, land claims and such. Since then, some folks inside the museum have used the term, to general derision, to mean that our identity now may move from tribal citizenry to post- or non-Indian-ness, as if we want or would accept movement in that direction.
In the context of the national election, “post-racial” is being used as code for this: African American people now have an African American president and that should end the discussions around race and reparations and the like. Actually, Obama will be the president of every one of us. What is “post-racial” about this election is that the majority of white voters ended their 43-president pattern of voting for the white guy.
The day after our national museum opened, and today, we Native people are still the most economically impoverished segment of American society; we still lack proper health care; and we still have federal barriers in the way of our economic advancement and religious freedom.
I don’t think so.
Just because a black man was elected president, racism, bigotry and prejudice are not going to disappear. I don’t believe we can do away with civil-rights laws, policies and speeches. They’re needed to bring people upright, especially people who are so self-involved that they see only their own needs.
Nor do I believe that a wave of a black presidential hand will change hundreds of years of mistrust and bad treatment.
In his acceptance speech, President-elect Obama spoke about our nation as one; but realistically, that’s going to be a tough vision to fulfill. I think the Obama factor can move us in that direction, but not without a nation that supports and trusts his administration.
Civil rights laws and activism can be a guide. The era is not over.