Will America Ever Be A ‘Post-Racial’ Society?

3751974645_53c5e3046f_bPresident Obama, during his run for the White House last year, was described by many as the symbol of a post-racial America. His victory, last November, is certainly a testimony of a country finally on its way to overcome the deep divide and historical wounds of slavery, segregation and discrimination.

However, the  incident involving an  African-American Harvard professor and a white policeman clearly indicates that racial tensions are still very much part of America’s social landscape. Professor Gates claims that he was the victim of a “ racist arrest “, he was handcuffed and subsequently held 4 hours in custody for ” disorderly conduct ” then released.

President Obama’s reaction to the incident was surprisingly emotional. He stated that the police “acted stupidly” and went on to condemn “ A long history in this country of African-Americans & Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”

Today, the President had to do some damage control over his own off the cuff reaction. He called the policeman involved in the incident, not to formerly apologize but to diffuse the situation by floating the idea of having him and Gates at the White House to “have a beer“.

The fact that this minor incident was the biggest story in US media for the last few days proves that the racial divide did not magically end because the current occupant of the White House is African-American. As matter of fact ” racial politics ” in America are far from over. Nearly every African-American & Latino in this country can relate to professor Gates as they experience, on almost a daily basis, racial profiling by the police. It is often, as if, their minority status made them automatically potential suspects.

A telling aspect of this constant racial component is the disproportionate racial disparities in America’s enormous prison system. The statistics are shocking: Black men are incarcerated at a per capita rate six times that of White males, and nearly 11 percent of all Black men between the age of 30 to 34 were behind bars as of June 2007.

In May 2008, Human Rights  Watch released a report, in which it documented racial disparities in US drug law enforcement, with Black men 11.8 times more likely than White men to enter prison on drug charges, despite the fact that Blacks & Whites use illegal drugs at a similar rate. Blacks constitute 54 percent of all persons entering state prisons with a new drug offense conviction.

Despite the fact that the US has ratified the International Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ( ICERD), the May 2008’s findings from the committee monitoring the ICERD were disturbing.

America has come a long way from its ugly past as far as race relations, but we still have a long way to go.


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