The sad truth is that America is very far from being “post racial”
When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, many wishful thinkers in the media announced the end of racism and the beginning of “post-racial America.” But after the steady barrage of news about unarmed black men and young boys being killed by white policemen and vigilantes, this narrative has been exposed as a fraud.
The cancer of American racism may have been diminished by the civil rights movement—but it was not close to being eradicated. It lay virulent and hidden in the basement of human evil and returned with a vengeance with the election of America’s first black president.
Dr. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, chairman of the department of sociology at Duke University (where a noose was recently discovered hanging from a tree, sparking an ongoing investigation) says racism has evolved. The language of the “New Racism” is different but just as pernicious. He says, “The main problem nowadays is not the folks in the hoods, but the folks dressed in suits.”
The old language of racism that asserted white supremacy directly is now disguised. It is less overt, but just as offensive and derogatory. Some of the expressions are the same, such as defending discrimination on the basis of “states’ rights,” but direct expression of African American inferiority has been replaced by derogatory innuendo about individuals being “lazy,” ”untrained,” ”criminal,” ”dependent,” or “fatherless.”
The rise of the New Racism has been driven by the politics of divisiveness. If you draw a map of the red states, it will follow the contours of the old Confederacy. Do you think that is a fluke? The Republican Party is 89 percent white. Do you think that’s a matter of coincidence? The harshest, most irrational critics of President Obama are white Republicans. Do you think that is a matter of chance?
Republicans have actively cultivated divisiveness by nurturing the seeds of racism. Whether LBJ actually said, after signing civil rights legislation, “We have lost the South for a generation,” the longtime Senate majority leader from Texas knew it was true. Nixon created his “Southern Strategy.” Reagan doubled down on that appeal to racists by beginning his campaign for president in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the scene of violent racial strife, where three civil rights workers were murdered by the KKK.
His speech there was a call for “states’ rights.” Is that “dog whistle” loud enough to be heard by everyone now? Those “dog whistles” have become outright hate speech directed at the president. The Republican rhetoric of today is not even thinly veiled hate speech.
The greatest tragedy is that America’s strength is in its diversity. This lesson was driven home to me in Vietnam. The best combat units worked together in ethnic harmony. The worst units were plagued by racial hatred. In my 30-man platoon, almost every ethnic group was represented. Whites, African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics fought together as brothers. We were all willing to risk our lives for our brothers in arms. This love was our greatest strength.
If Republicans devoted the same amount of energy to bringing us together as they do to tearing us apart, our nation would be infinitely stronger.