November 13, 2008

The post-racial, post-Indian era?

Suzan Shown Harjo:  Racial buzz phrases after ObamaOddly, given Obama’s diverse ancestry, upbringing and experience, many white election analysts referred to the President-elect, the era and the world as “post-racial,” despite objections to the term by African American commentators. It didn’t seem to register with those using the term that they were remarking on the candidate’s race and the racial barrier he broke, while proclaiming the world as beyond race.

“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.
Dorreen Yellow Bird:  Obama's election doesn't banish racism[W]hat sticks in my craw, as my mother used to say, are the “experts” who seem to ride on this historic election and claim that it could bring an end of the Civil Rights era. Civil rights activism won’t be much needed anymore, they say. The issue of equality now has been settled.

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.
Comment:  When the number of issues involving mascots and other stereotypes dwindles from one or so a week to one or so a year, then I may believe we're in a post-racial world.

1 comment:

Elleb0t said...


I stumbled across your post as it was re-posted on facebook from a friend of mine.

The term "post-racial" makes me laugh. It's as if upon the election of Obama created this unified collection of people where race is no longer an issue, no longer an identifiable characteristic, and certainly no longer something to be discussed - a thing of the past.

I personally don't believe there will EVER be a "post-racial" and nor SHOULD there be a post-racial. Race is important, difference is important and difference should be celebrated and treated as equal. This concept, of difference being equal, is a much harder concept for most white North Americans to understand, than the idea of a conglomeration of people where race doesn't matter. Why? Because it takes much less effort for people to erase the concept of race, than to give it equal representation and equal value.

I'm not sure if you've read anything by Phil Fontaine, but I highly recommend an article of his titled "Modern Racism". In it, he argues that the denial that race exists is fundamental racism.

I also am interested in the idea of "Post-Indian". I have a large Indian influence in my studies and in my personal life and I think most of my friends would find that term completely insulting. Indians, whether or not they have been "assimilated" or live on reserve still EXIST! And hopefully will continue to exist. The concept of a museum makes it seem like Indianhood is a thing of the past, when it is still very much alive.

I wish this comment had more direction.

Anyway, I think living in "post-RACIST" word would be a more pleasant idea.