The shooting of Trayvon Martin brought discussions of race back to forefront of public discourse. Due to a number of other horrific incidents, including the massacre of nine black churchgoers last year, those discussions haven’t ceased since.
I must say, I’m concerned about the state of race relations in this country. That’s not because I believe we still suffer from the type of systematic racism so pervasive in the last century, when white police officers blasted black citizens with fire hoses and Martin Luther King wrote his “Letter From A Birmingham Jail.” We now suffer from a different problem–one that was present in our past, but was overshadowed by acts of violence. We are now seeing an antiquated racial tribalism that should never be present in a modern, civilized society.
There are number of recent instances which concern me, even more so than the numerous recent police shootings and their effects:
1. Growth of the Alt-Right
The Alt-Right, dominating recent news headlines and even campaign speeches, has given me great concern because of its affiliation with Conservatism.
Media Matters calls it a “White Nationalist Movement,” which, unfortunately, is mostly true. The movement’s leaders, including its “godfather,” Jared Taylor, are known for their association with white supremacist groups. Taylor founded the site American Renaissance, and promotes a philosophy called “race realism.” It is defined as an understanding “that race is an important aspect of individual and group identity, that different races build different societies that reflect their natures…”
In short, the Alt-Right promotes the idea that race and principle are one. Universally speaking, it means that ethnic Italians have certain principles which cannot be divorced from their racial identity, ethnic Russians have their own principles, and the like. Libyans, Chinese, Rwandans, Swedes, Nigerians, etc.–everyone has different societal goals related to their race.
If there has ever been something that disproves such abhorrent thinking, it’s the American experiment. So why are these ideas coming back?
2. Divisions in Pop Culture
The famous rapper recently expressed a feeling that President Obama could have done more for Black Americans. (I agree with that, although I would extend it and suggest he could have done more for all Americans.) Something else he said, though, bothers me: “When I look back, I just wanted more done for my people.”
His people? Are Black Americans treated like, and should they be viewed as, a people distinct from all other Americans?
CSULA now offers a separate housing facility for students who identify as Black/African-American. For students who want to, they may apply to live in the Black Living-Learning Community on campus. The community is apparently open to all students, regardless of race, but it still looks like self-imposed segregation.
Racial awareness is not a danger. In fact, it has great benefits. I don’t believe “color blindness” ought to be a societal aim, but nor do I believe that Asian-Americans are a wholly different people from European-Americans, or African-Americans, or Latino-Americans, or any other racial group.
We must move past a vision of some “White America” seeking something altogether different from “Black America.” We must move past the mere existence of these groups altogether. American principles transcend race, and we must recognize that.