As an individual with both Canadian and American nationalities along with African-American and European descents, I find it surprising I’ve found a place to act as myself in the contemporary age. One of our future readings is that of the Race Card Project, which was created by Michele Norris in an attempt to distill the thoughts of Americans regarding race into six words. Since beginning in 2010, it has received tens of thousands of submissions from individuals of many races, leading to a forum where individuals can discuss their experiences with race or lack of experience regarding it.
Browsing the different submissions from users, I came across a post entitled “Only whites can end racism” by Gay White, a user from Michigan. In it, she notes that racism was driven “underground” by the Civil Rights Movement and it only resurfaced with the election of Barack Obama. This offers an interesting perspective as it implies that racism was exterminated during the 20th century. However, looking at the collective consciousness of colored individuals in America over that time period, racism seemed to be at the back of societies mind. However, it has been noted by many organizations such as Bloomberg that race relations have worsened since Obama became president, with over 53 percent of Americans disagreeing with the original question. While Bloomberg has stated this opposing figure, race relations haven’t actually increased at all since Obama was elected.
One of the statements that caught my eye from the Bloomberg article, was the assertion that Republican legislators have taken to disenfranchising voters, most notably those in poor regions of the South who are also of African descent. This is the goal of President Obama, as the renewal of a Voting Rights Act would help to encourage and protect Black citizens and their right to vote against others who would rather them not. As explored in this opinion piece by Jonathan Weiler, he openly states that such political parties that openly restrict the right to vote shouldn’t be in office at all. This is an almost completely Republican problem because of their motive regarding the situation. Republicans have a hard time getting individuals to vote for them when they would rather vote for a different political party. To negate this, Republicans try disenfranchise those who would vote against them. While this seems like a solution without a problem, I propose that the source of this “solution” comes from an area almost completely based in racism.
Gay White asserts that in order for racism to end and in order for real progress to be made, whites must address it. Republicans and those who are skeptical of Obama’s track record when it comes to race relations both draw their skepticism from the same pool. When an individual such as President Obama is placed into office, many Blacks around the country realized that moment as a realization of a dream. Others however, saw this as the strata of people who fought for their Civil Rights over the course of many years being rewarded. However, this strata is the same group of people who grew up just before the Civil Rights movement and were educated in a certain way. This way, turned out to be extremely narrow minded in nature, due to their socialization both in the south, where racism was all too kind and because of their parents who nonetheless reinforced the values society taught their children. In political science, this is called time lag, where attitudes formed during youth take a certain amount of time to form at the political stage.
This is exactly why racism is still prevalent in our society. It’s not because of the election of a new president, but it’s the revelation of ideology that took a back seat until someone in power who embodied what they were against showed up. While the Race Card Project is brilliant in it’s own right, I wonder what will occur in 50 years when those who were socialized in a certain way pass away, and the ideals held today will reign supreme. As Obama stated in an interview with NPR, we aren’t done with racism, but we can be in time.