Tag Archives: Ralph Ellison

Intro and critique of post-racial ideology

I posted this as a facebook status a while ago, and it resonated with some people; so I figured I’d post it here as well to kick things off. It’s about “race”, so I’ll give a quick intro of my views on race.

Race will not a huge topic for me, mostly because being black (full disclosure) I’ve already thought so much about race, it’s already caused me so much pain, angst, rage, and sorrow, that I’ve essentially decided to take long, periodic breaks from thinking about race. I think it’s good for all people who have been systematically discriminated against to occasionally shut it out of their minds (if they can) and simply live. It is a pity that some people let racial ideology color all of their thought and discourse. I went through a period where I read nothing but race-related literature, and although I learned a lot, I became militant and cynical.

Don’t get me wrong: The fight against racial injustice is far from over, but in order for a “person of color” (what a vapid moniker) to grow more fully in the great personal and Emersonian[1] sense, I sincerely believe they must take a break from all race-related thinking. For me, I can’t watch a movie or read a book about “black issues” or “the state of black men” without feeling the inevitable rage or disgust frothing and foaming in my bosom. It is there, I cannot deny it; and many times, I simply laugh it off. I know it is reality, but sometimes, we should leave reality. Why? To get a better view of our own condition, just like traveling helps you get a more comprehensive view of your own country.

I have been both victim and perpetrator of racism on several occasions. Weird, huh? I know you won’t hear many people say this, but I believe most racism is unconscious because of the subtle cultural cues we ingest as we engage with our environment, so it stands to reason that I could be both, even at the same time! (Especially from the American point of view: America was racially stratified from day 1. In other words, the Declaration of Independence’s “all men are created equal” was an utter hoax, unless one assumes that black men were not actually “men”)

Anyway, if you’re still reading, athena bless you, and here you go:

Post-race as a stupidity. There is a false ethos that says America is beyond “race” (and whoever ascribes to this ethos thinks they are so wise, progressive, and free). With the advent of political correctness and the voice of its cynical and myopic backlash, you can’t be black and discuss racism at the same time without being called a race-baiter. [2] And so now there is a whole behemoth of schmucks who believe that every time race is mentioned as one of many possible causes or the main cause, the speaker instantly loses all credibility. “Race can be neither cause nor effect. Are you still talking about this? It’s 2013. C’mon! Just get over it, will you?” No method of coping could be more dumb and useless! [3] These people have historical Alzheimer’s. They really think America can deliberately practice all types of racism for several centuries, then eradicate legal racism in 1964 – and 50 years later, all incidences of personal and communal racism will vanish into thin air. Really, I wish they were right. Laws have always changed faster, and more gracefully, than cultural attitudes. And since racism was a fact of culture for centuries, this means it was handed down like a tradition, a “just the way it is” – in the same way that Christmas is a tradition. And now what people want is a national affliction of collective amnesia – and for everyone to shake off their past oppressions like a bad dream – “All the women please stand up, and shake off all the injustices men have done to you”. Women would very well be shaking for all eternity!

[1] To give you an idea of what I’m trying to say, here is an excerpt of Emerson’s seminal essay, Self-Reliance: “Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age; requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design; — and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients.” Typical Emerson, right? But perhaps Ralph Ellison put it better in The Invisible Man by realizing that a race is the collection of its individuals, and we disallow ourselves to be whole human beings if we always think through the lens of race, politics, and/or ideology.

[2] If you are not familiar with the concept of ‘race-baiting’, read up on it. It is part of the “cynical and myopic backlash” to political correctness that I mentioned earlier, which is a direct outgrowth of insidious white privilege that fancies itself so objective, honest, and “post-race”. I will admit, there are some blacks and others who use the “excuse of racism” as a crutch, but I contend this is far from the norm. Trust me, no one would be thinking about race if they didn’t have to. Why? It sucks. This is not a call for pity; this is the lived experience of actual people.

[3] Word choice is the most agonizing task for a writer. By “dumb”, I mean it is a lazy and ahistorical way to view racial issues. By “useless”, I meant it’s basically ignoring the complaints of the oppressed, because it’s saying those complaints don’t exist. The oppressed are not always right, but they should be heard.

Most of my posts will be much shorter than this diatribe, as I’m terribly fond of the aphorism. To give you an idea of what to expect, I hope to offer you a series of very rich debate openings, in a very scatterbrained fashion. The life of the mind is utterly disturbing, enigmatic, and friendly — won’t you join me?


Filed under Race and Religion