In other words, the virulent racism of the past is now defunct. The angry racial hatred and animosity of the past that undergirded racial violence and widespread discrimination is no more. In its place, we find a certain racialism. That is, American society and culture has turned away from racism, but the race-based myths and stereotypes remain intact and must be overcome through evincing the ability to participate and function within mainstream society and culture.
As long as one can prove his or her worth to the mainstream society and culture, as long as one can provide evidence that he or she is able to participate in the mainstream society and culture, that person’s race is ignored and they are allowed full entrance and participation in mainstream society and culture.
To make this illustration complete, allow me please to give the following examples. As long as I speak well, I am in. As long as I dress the part, I am in. As long as I keep my voice down in public, as long as I do not laugh too loudly, as long as I am non- threatening, I am in.
And as a young graduate student, I bought into that argument. It sounded so much like the black progress arguments my father always made when I was a young man. But after I revisited the article years later and viewed it with a more critical eye, I could plainly see its implications. And after the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates in his own home, I could see how false and dangerously misleading that theory really is.
Basically the theory provides a very narrow prescription for complete personhood. It informs me how I should speak, how I should dress, how I should conduct myself, both in public and in private. And if, after following that prescription to the tee, I am approved by a panel of those who would be my peers, I can join mainstream society and culture with all the rights and privileges thereof. I have earned a place at the table. In other words, check your right of self-definition at the door.
With the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, we can go ahead and tear that chapter from the book and move on. Certainly, Dr. Gates has met the prescription for inclusion and participation and then some. But in all that he has achieved, on last evening, in his own home, race became the sole determining factor in who he was or who he was perceived to be.
As long as the mainstream society and culture can look upon my hue and from that brief glimpse apply a narrative of deviance and depravity, there remains a despicable contradiction to all American society and culture claims to be.
Perhaps if he had presented police with his curriculum vita and several letters of recommendations from acceptable white faculty members and other members of mainstream society and culture, they would have just apologized and left him alone. Perhaps Michael Steele could have vouched for him.
Whatever we want to call it or however we want to describe it, racism is alive and well. Post racial my black assumptions. So, let us not be deterred from our goal by semantics or false arguments; the struggle continues.
What are your views on this matter? Was the arrest of Henry Louis Gates an honest mistake, or a glaring example of the persistence of racism? Is there any difference between the concepts of racism and racialism?