by Jason Williams
With the ushering in of Pres. Obama’s second term, many people are wondering if and when the President and Congress are going to tackle the great issue of race in public policy discourse. There are many Black liberals who are calling for both Congress’ and the President’s focus on issues within the Black Community.
As Dr. Marc Lamont Hill has stated on TJ Holme’s BET broadcast “Don’t Sleep!” on Oct 8th 2012, “Blacks are first for everything that is bad”. Such a statement definitely warrants for serious conversation on the status of Blacks in America. However, Pres. Obama has been noted for being America’s post-racial President. This happens to be a title that even the president continues to adhere to given his continued agreement on race neutral policies. He seems to defend such policy by suggesting that by orchestrating race neutral policy, Blacks will automatically benefit from them. So although the Black community is not being looked at exclusively as many other minority groups have, still, they are benefiting from many of the race neutral policies that are being voted on and approved, but of course we only have to look to our justice system to see how this theory works out.
Nonetheless, even with the racially neutral policies that Black Americans allegedly benefit from still in many respects they continue to suffer the most when it comes to education, healthcare, unemployment, and mass incarceration amongst many other issues, and yet even with data from varying sources backing this up, the President along with many others still believe that race neutral policy is the best appropriate way to effectuating the change that is necessary within the Black Community. A one fits all prescription is not only incompetent but it knowingly ignores the underlying factors that brought about the problem in the first place. Was this the same logic that ended slavery and Jim Crow? What this simply means is that in post-modern America, Black Americans as a group have subjective citizenship. Other minority groups can have their issues heard but Black concerns can be thrown to the side. When it came to immigration the President and proponents of his plan were clear to speak on how this issue is pertinent to the Hispanic community, the same can be said on Gay and Women Rights, yet when it comes to the Black community, suddenly there needs to be a universal inclusion to all others, whom by the way may be truthfully affected by some of the same issues but not at the same rate as Blacks.
On the other hand, some White liberals don’t seem to help this situation as many of them are quick to rush to the Kumbaya narrative instead of first understanding that everyone suffers differently and that if change is going to occur it should occur from the bottom up. That is to say that it would probably be more feasible to address those who are suffering the most and then lead up to those who least need the help. Unity is definitely needed for America to prosper on into the future as a civilized and leading nation; however, this cannot be achieved if society continues to act as if color is no longer an issue. Surprisingly, even most liberals and even Blacks have bought into this notion of a colorblind society, which is clearly contrary to reality. In fact, many of the ills that minority communities face today are as a result of the very social labels some now deny but still use; therefore, if we are going to contextualize the issue of race and its impact on our collective daily life then it is important that we forthrightly examine the sociological reality and include it in our public policy discourse.
This running away from reality does nothing to make society healthier and friendlier for all people. It instead creates a subtextual reality that is contrary to all we claim to stand for as it indeed forces us to increasingly deny social ills that we know exist—but justify. It pushes our issues under the rug and throws us back to an age where discrimination and inequality was aggressively alive but not acknowledged because those whom it had disproportionately affected were not included within social discourses. One of the best qualities of America is its strict belief in individualism, but this is of course contrary to colorblindedness. For example, when a person is forced to give up his humanity, culture, and self awareness he is no longer an individual, yet this is exactly the route America is on by capitulating to the fantasization of a post-racial America. Unity should not be achieved at the expense of society erasing reality and the humanity of others.
In the President’s last term, those who have yet to have their demands heard should push even harder. Organizing in one’s community should be of the utmost importance as only the underdogs themselves can tell their story. Some may say that the President cannot do it all by himself and they are correct, however once the demands begin to be chauffeured out into the open by way of collective engagement, only then can we see what our President is made out of, after all, he does not have the worry of reelection sitting over his head. Some believe there is a more progressive liberal persona inside of the President. If indeed there is another side to Pres. Obama surely he can change faces now, especially if it can bring about major change for those who need it most!
Jason Williams, ABD
Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice
New Jersey City University