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A Post-Racial Era? Let’s Not Be So Quick to Forget the Past

Black America Web.com, News Analysis , Deborah Mathis Posted: Feb 02, 2009

It has become a hot new topic, popular among the talk show pundits in the wake of Barack Obama’s election: We have entered a post-racial era.

That supposedly means that the country has moved beyond race; that race is no longer a significant motivator in how people, or institutions, think of or treat other people.

If only. One leap forward – even a gigantic leap like the emergence of the first black president – does not a cure make for this universally human, but quintessentially American, disease. President Obama has closed a huge gap. But there are many others, and millions languish – or agonize – in those yawning chasms.

So, let them flesh this out. I want to hear more of what this purported post-racial society is about. It must be explained to those of us who worked for, prayed for, waited for and witnessed change but don’t share the confidence of those who think the hating days and hating ways are behind us.

What I would not like to hear more of is the condescending tone that some proselytizers have employed in announcing this supposed new state of the national mind. I speak, particularly, of those commentators who sneer at the elder statesmen of the civil rights movement – the Jacksons and Sharptons and Bonds, for example – denouncing them for having been so focused on race and for having played the role of agitator for so long.

“The younger generation neither think nor act that way,” one commentator said recently.

Well, to use a younger generational term, duh. The generations behind the Jacksons and Sharptons and Bonds have the luxury of not focusing on race because much of the heavy lifting was done for them. To the degree that they can sidestep race – and that degree is debatable – the movement that begat the agitators can take the credit. It was, after all, the dream to be judged on content, not packaging. As it unfolds, one must remember that while it took a dreamer to envision it, it took fighters to make it happen.

And a fight, it has been. The “struggle” is the more popular term, but it’s been a fight to get here, and there is a lot of blood, sweat, tears and torn flesh to show for it. It is therefore maddening to be greeted with condescension and superiority by those who came along after Jim Crow had been put down.

The new term for these color-blind children of the struggle is the “Joshua generation.” Obama has himself used it. Fortunately, his references have been laced with reverence and gratitude, not self-righteousness, as he clearly understands that Joshua would not have gotten to be a hero to his people had it not been for Moses, who had a rather major role in setting them up for deliverance.

No doubt, we will be hearing a lot more about this so-called post-racial America. We might all be willing students. But we must not be forgetful ones.

Related Articles:

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