April 19, 2009

Race = glass half full or empty

Commentary:  'Post-racial' America isn't here yet

By Leonard Pitts Jr.They're not going to like this.

Indeed, one suspects the National Urban League's recently released 2009 State of Black America report quantifying racial inequities in employment, housing, education, criminal justice, health and other arenas will be about as welcome as graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial among those Americans who convinced themselves in November the country had entered a "post-racial" era.

Those Americans will be overwhelmingly white and will resist with mighty determination the report's implicit argument: that we have not yet overcome, not yet reached the Promised Land, not yet come to a point where race is irrelevant, Barack Obama notwithstanding.

Years spent engaging Americans on the knotty conundrums of race leave me confident in that prediction. So does a 2008 Gallup poll in which 46 percent of non-Hispanic whites said there is no widespread racism against blacks. But it took a Yale University study to help me understand why some whites feel that way.

Psychology professor Richard Eibach was reported last year in the Washington Post as having found that in judging racial progress, white people and black ones tend to use different yardsticks. Whites use the yardstick of how far we have come from the nation we used to be. Blacks use the yardstick of how far we have yet to go to be the nation we ought to be.

The most complete picture, of course, requires both measures.
Comment:  This study proves what I've always said: that we're somewhere in the middle on race relations. That we've come a long way, but still have a long way to go, baby.

Of course, I'm a "glass half empty" kind of guy, so I focus on the racism still present. Others can celebrate the many things we've accomplished. I'm all about fixing the remaining problems.

Besides, focusing on these problems is the more rational and moral way to go. We're not talking about feelings that racism is gone vs. feelings that it persists. We're talking about real acts of discrimination, prejudice, and hate vs. ignorance or denial of these acts. How does pretending this racism doesn't exist help eliminate it?

For more on the "post-racial" era, see Hate Abounds in "Post-Racial" America, Racism Lives in ObamAmerica, and The Post-Racial, Post-Indian Era?

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