jackassery, New Jersey, news, politics, race

diversity in a post-racial america?

Another incidence of overt racism in New Jersey, via the Star-Ledger:

A family of Barack Obama supporters awakened this morning to find a burned 6-foot cross on the front lawn of their home in northern Warren County, police said.

The charred cross was partly wrapped with a homemade congratulatory banner that declared “President Obama Victory ’08” and had been stolen from the lawn the night before, police said.

This is, of course, just two days after a report of Obama / Biden signs being defaced with KKK and swastika graffiti in Hunterdon County, which borders Warren County.

In Warren County, the investigation is moving forward on the cross-burning as a “bias” crime (which, I’m discovering, is another term for “hate crime” – just a more palatable one, I guess). The police chief investigating the defacement in Hunterdon County wouldn’t specify whether or not the graffiti was being considered a hate crime. I’m not sure how it could be any clearer – the signs were defaced with racist graffiti, symbols that have been long associated with groups seeking to wipe out ethnic and racial minorities. The graffiti – like the cross-burning – was meant to intimidate and harass supporters of the first African-American President-Elect.

Fortunately, New Jersey has laws for that.

Donna and I were watching post-election news coverage on Wednesday, and all of the talking heads had African-American guests weighing in on the historical nature of this year’s election. We came across one show (forgive me, I can’t remember which one) on which Tavis Smiley was a guest – he’s a man I’ve listened to via NPR for a while, and while he veers more conservative than I do, I have huge respect for the man. On this show, Smiley was being questioned by a white female host on what this means for America – she kept insisting that the election of Barack Obama means that we are now in a post-racial America.

What does that even mean?

And clearly, it’s not true: all we’ve talked about for the past year with regard to this election is race, and whether or not it played a role in the campaigns and results. Shouldn’t a post-racial America be focusing on something other than race? To be fair, I’m glad we’re finally talking about our national issues with race. Obviously, we still have them (see news stories from earlier in the entry, or this old Washington Post article, which demonstrates pretty clearly that we are slightly obsessed with race as a nation, though unwilling to own up to it), and no amount of pretending will make it otherwise. Tavis Smiley, a man of class and grace, handled the host well by carefully explaining (again and again and again) that the election of a black man as president doesn’t suddenly solve our racial problems in America, and to assume or pretend that is true is irresponsible and somewhat delusional (he was a bit more eloquent than that).

There seems to be a dangerous current of desire in this country to homogenize the population: we want our neighbors to share our values, our morals, our perspectives on everything. We want our people to be diverse – but act like they’re not. It’s evident in the resistance to pride celebrations – whether those celebrations be based on cultural, racial, sexual and gender differences, people are still asking the tired question: “Yes, we can see they’re different, but why do they have to celebrate it?” That question (and others like it) seems mostly to be asked quietly, in a grumbly, under-the-breath voice that manages to unsettle without much notice. And while this unsettling may seem less troublesome than the overt displays of harassment and intimidation noted above, I think it’s at least as big a problem – racism (and any other -ism, really) is spread in more than one way, America.

Is there a solution, a way to get us through the woods to a truly post-racial America? Not an easy one. And perhaps not one at all. But one thing I’ve decided is that we have to talk about it – however clumsily we can manage it, even if we end up offending people or fumbling the words – we have to talk about it. Ignoring the facts doesn’t change the facts.

14 thoughts on “diversity in a post-racial america?”

  1. I think they use the term bias crime as more generalized statement so that when (and sadly sometime if) they catch the perpetrators, they can sentence them easier without trying to proving it is a hate crime. People will always be ignorant and society will always have it its ills. But we can stand up to that. It’s more of a “crime” when good people who do believe in this stand by and let it happen. (Sorry for the Boondock Saints reference, but it makes sense)

  2. I think they use the term bias crime as more generalized statement so that when (and sadly sometime if) they catch the perpetrators, they can sentence them easier without trying to proving it is a hate crime. People will always be ignorant and society will always have it its ills. But we can stand up to that. It’s more of a “crime” when good people who do believe in this stand by and let it happen. (Sorry for the Boondock Saints reference, but it makes sense)

  3. John, it appears that in NJ, bias crimes are covered under the hate crimes penalties – so the difference between “bias” and “hate” is really only a matter of semantics, not a matter of burden of proof.

  4. John, it appears that in NJ, bias crimes are covered under the hate crimes penalties – so the difference between “bias” and “hate” is really only a matter of semantics, not a matter of burden of proof.

  5. Wasn’t sure. Hate and bias crimes still suck either way. There was a NYTimes article about 2 weeks before the election, interviewing a white power group. (I can’t find the link and this is all off memory) But I recall their tact was to try to scare and inspire fear if they could. The big issue was to sit back and wait to see if Obama was elected and then point to the traget audience: “See, you’ve lost your power. There is a minority in the White House!” And then they could make their numbers swell since over the past few years with crackdowns on criminal activities and just actually lack of leadership and infighting, they have lost numbers. So, yeah, it scares the hell out of me that because Barack Obama will be the 44th President hates group can recruit. But you have to stop and think, what fear does he and his family go through? And thankfully the Secret Service doesn’t play semantics, investigates and prosecutes when they need to and have a policy of shoot to kill when it comes attempts.

  6. Wasn’t sure. Hate and bias crimes still suck either way. There was a NYTimes article about 2 weeks before the election, interviewing a white power group. (I can’t find the link and this is all off memory) But I recall their tact was to try to scare and inspire fear if they could. The big issue was to sit back and wait to see if Obama was elected and then point to the traget audience: “See, you’ve lost your power. There is a minority in the White House!” And then they could make their numbers swell since over the past few years with crackdowns on criminal activities and just actually lack of leadership and infighting, they have lost numbers. So, yeah, it scares the hell out of me that because Barack Obama will be the 44th President hates group can recruit. But you have to stop and think, what fear does he and his family go through? And thankfully the Secret Service doesn’t play semantics, investigates and prosecutes when they need to and have a policy of shoot to kill when it comes attempts.

  7. “Yes, we can see they’re different, but why do they have to celebrate it?”

    Because it’s important to them, that’s why. The fundamental difference is that you won’t see an atheist, an agnostic, a gay, a lesbian, a transgender, or a black person trying to remove or otherwise police the rights of those who differ from themselves;

    When was the last time you saw any of the above groups of people trying to;

    a. wedge a foot in your door while saying, “If I could just have a moment of your time to impose my moral viewpoint on you…”

    b. picket someone’s home or place of employment waving a placard that denigrates their free will, their choices, their humanity; or

    c. seek to have discrimination written into law.

    ‘Race’ is such a misnomer anyway – a lot of folks have yet to grasp the concept that there is only one race on Earth, the human race. I think the word that should be used more often is ‘class’ or ‘caste’ – it doesn’t alleviate the problem at all since it’s merely semantics which allows those with a superiority complex to attempt to subvert, suppress, or subjugate others whom they consider less worthy than themselves.

  8. “Yes, we can see they’re different, but why do they have to celebrate it?”

    Because it’s important to them, that’s why. The fundamental difference is that you won’t see an atheist, an agnostic, a gay, a lesbian, a transgender, or a black person trying to remove or otherwise police the rights of those who differ from themselves;

    When was the last time you saw any of the above groups of people trying to;

    a. wedge a foot in your door while saying, “If I could just have a moment of your time to impose my moral viewpoint on you…”

    b. picket someone’s home or place of employment waving a placard that denigrates their free will, their choices, their humanity; or

    c. seek to have discrimination written into law.

    ‘Race’ is such a misnomer anyway – a lot of folks have yet to grasp the concept that there is only one race on Earth, the human race. I think the word that should be used more often is ‘class’ or ‘caste’ – it doesn’t alleviate the problem at all since it’s merely semantics which allows those with a superiority complex to attempt to subvert, suppress, or subjugate others whom they consider less worthy than themselves.

  9. Great post.

    And I agree with Tavis Smiley that the election of an African American man as president doesn’t suddenly solve our racial problems in America. However, it does speak volumes. And all that talk about the Bradley effect…

  10. Great post.

    And I agree with Tavis Smiley that the election of an African American man as president doesn’t suddenly solve our racial problems in America. However, it does speak volumes. And all that talk about the Bradley effect…

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