Pretending that we are post-racial when we are not wastes our time and defies common sense. Instead of using our energy to form a more equitable nation, we spend it shoring up fictions of how evolved we are socially.
I prefer the Avenue Q approach to race: a little disclosure, a little forgiveness and hopefully some healing, too. As a chorus from the grown-ups-only puppet musical puts it:
If we all could just admit
That we are racist a little bit,
Even though we all know
That it’s wrong,
Maybe it would help us
Before we get to some kind of Promised Land where children really are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin, we have to deal with our own volatile times and outsized expectations. Many of us wanted to see an America that was colorblind or post-racial. Maybe one day it will be. But we aren’t there yet, and pretending that we are will only keep us from the hard work at hand, from finding a sane approach to the border to dealing with the economic stress hitting so many cities and towns. A gift of flowers may not change the world, but the continuing volley of spitballs and epithets will undermine our ability as a nation to communicate, connect and grow.
Farai Chideya is traveling with a team of journalists to document how race, immigration and economics are affecting politics at the time of the midterm elections. The Pop & Politics project is produced by WNYC with American Public Media. Chideya is also the author of four books, including a road-trip-based journey through race in America at the millennium: The Color of Our Future.