The Gustavian Weekly

Racism – I’m over it. | The Gustavian Weekly

By Rhea Muchalla and Jill Suurmeyer Staff Columnists | November 21, 2008 | Opinion

With the electoral victory of Barack Hussein Obama, there are some vital announcements we need to make. It is projected that since racism no longer exists, civil rights activist Jessie Jackson will divert all his energies into trying to recover the recently extinct river dolphins in China.

Also, before the election, you may have noticed that this column was written by a Caucasian and an Indian woman. Now, however, it may feel awkward that we even mention this fact, as you undoubtedly see only two people of equal value, worth and stature. Next, please note that the Zeta Chi Phi Multicultural Sorority will hence forth be known simply as Zeta Chi Phi Cultural Sorority. Lastly, the Womyn’s Awareness Center is still the “Womyn’s” Awareness Center, and will be working hard in the wake of Sarah Palin’s defeat, showing that sexism still runs rampant.

OK, we lied. Jessie Jackson is still here and busy, you probably noticed the columnists aren’t blood related sisters and judging by the probate on Saturday, Zeta Chi Phi is still a Multicultural Sorority. The announcement about the Womyn’s Awareness Center still stands. As much as we would like to believe the New York Times prophetic statement that the election of Barack Obama has swept away the “last racial barrier in American politics with ease,” it is simply not true (emphasis ours). And neither is the Wall Street Journal’s claim that with the election of Obama, “we can put to rest the myth of racism as a barrier to achievement in this splendid country. Mr. Obama has a special obligation to help do so.”

The author justifies his denial of institutional racism by stating that in the U.S., “we have had in recent years two black Secretaries of State, black CEOs of our largest corporations, black governors and generals—and now we will have a President.” Let’s take a moment to really look at what’s going on here.

Notice how there is no mention of the make up of Congress going on here? It is significant to have a black president, but Congress is where laws are made … hmm, pretty important. The author probably ignores Congress because according to the Black Americans in Congress website, part of house.gov, there is only one black senator from the 110th Congress, and he is on his way to the White House because he was just elected President. In fact, since 1870 there have only been five black senators. In the House there are 42 black representatives (out of 435 total).

We would also like to point out that house.gov and the Wall Street Journal have forgotten about the other people of color who live in this country. Although we would like to address the representation of Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans, there are no creditable resources to confirm those numbers—showing that we are not in a post-race society but a society that wants to erase and ignore the existence and experiences of a whole lot of people.

The quotation in the Wall Street Journal claims that the existence of “black CEOs … governors and generals” proves that racism is not a barrier to achievement. The fact that there are a few minorities in a few positions of power does not mean that racism as an institutional, structural problem is gone for good. Has anyone noticed how there is always room for only a select few minorities in any of these positions? That’s how this works in schools, in businesses and in our government. It’s all about getting numbers, just enough to say, “Look at this diversity, a sprinkling there, a smidgen here. Gosh that feels better”; not, “Let’s take a good, hard look at what race means on an institutional and structural level and try to figure what it really means to level the playing field.”

The quotation ends by claiming that President-elect Obama has an “obligation” to show that race won’t affect someone’s achievement. The day that Barack Obama denies the effects of racism is the day that George W. Bush receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in Iraq. It will never happen because it’s not true and would discard the lived experience of millions.

Our own campus shows that a ”post race era” is something we have yet to achieve. When racial slurs are still used as scare tactics and crimes of hate, it is because people are racist. The fact that prisons, poverty and poor schools all affect people of color at a highly disproportionate rate shows that race is a factor in gaining achievement.

Racism is in everyday actions (clutching your purse when a “thug” walks by), racist jokes (I didn’t laugh, though) and the fact that little girls still choose the white doll (but she’s prettier). A post-race era is simply an excuse to shoulder off any responsibility for the way our society works on the shoulders of those in the margins; it is an excuse to say “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” without making sure everyone has boots first.