Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, is the originator of the phrase in my blog title. He used it on the night we elected our first black president. The CNN pundits giggled after he turned the phrase and Stephen Colbert mocked it; I reached for a pen and jotted it down. Mayor Booker used the term in response to the now very over-asked question as to whether or not the United States now lives in a "post-racial" society. If only it were that simple. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have wandered into tense territory over discussions of race. I've had such discussions with friends and strangers alike. They never seem to end well. Even so, I continue to have these discussions because I believe in the importance of intellectually and socially engaging those who may potentially benefit from exposure to a varying perspective with regard to the subject of race. I guess that sounds a bit haughty. I'll admit, I don't know very much about quite a bit. But I like to think I have the occasional useful insight to offer, and as a mixed race woman, discussions of race, equality, and access are of special importance to me. Here is what I have to say about our a "post-racial" world: It cannot exist. But I do not mean that in any negative way. Let me explain.
I would politely define racism as an ill-advised ideology rooted in illogical fear. As far as I am concerned the same could be said for homophobia. Undeniably, the election of President-elect Barack Obama signals an important shift and makes an important statement. Outside of the statements and signals made with respect to tolerance, there are the statements and signals made with respect to a nation's exasperation with the politics of fear; a politics which has sought to erode our civil liberties, make war through the manipulation of our national heartache, and recklessly belittle our stature to the rest of the world. On Tuesday, November 4, 2008 the electorate said enough is enough. Even so, this does not mean that the appropriate ascendancy of an intelligent, charismatic, and inspiring black candidate to the presidency has eliminated localized, irrational discriminatory behavior. Racism will always exist on some level. Who could ever believe otherwise? For example, here in Austin, my hometown, a member of my alma mater's football team was removed from the roster for posting a text message on his Facebook account which essentially read that it was time for "all the hunters to gather up, we have a n*gger in the white house." The football player was sure to include his love for Jesus on his now deleted Facebook page. Keep in mind that this is a young man plays on a majority African American football team. This was always something which irked me about my so-called diverse alma mater. African Americans were a rarity in our classes, but were always conveniently in surplus for our football field. Hypocrisy knows no bounds.
The opportunity for conversations surrounding issues of equality is at hand. If, as a nation, we can feel inspired to elect an unlikely candidate to our highest political office, surely we can draw from that pool of inspiration to bravely converse about the sticky points which have made this election so momentous. What sticky points? Let's talk about people of color in the context of incarceration rates, the death penalty, access to higher education, executive offices in the corporate world, or home ownership, among other things. Quite a few commentators have implied that blame for the sub-prime mortgage debacle could arguably lie at the feet of minority citizens; this is said while completely ignoring the fact that white, Ivy-league educated executives were largely responsible for the construction of the complex, deceptive financial instruments which have led to so many of our current economic problems.
My belief is that there is a continued need for diversification on many institutional levels. This persistent truth points to anything but a "post-racial" society. But we can change. I can type that and actually believe it. Tuesday night has instilled me with a bit of hope. A bit. The passing of anti-gay measures in four states (including my also-home state of California) leaves me disheartened. I read Thursday's New York Times editorial and agreed with the general argument that the most recent backward steps are a temporary barrier. Make no mistake, until gays and lesbians are given the unfettered right to marry or start families, we are denying U.S. citizens their rights under the 14th Amendment and continuing to fall short of our egalitarian ideals. Bigots can say what they want, but the time will come when true equality exists throughout this country. One day (perhaps after I am long gone), I hope the presidency will be occupied by an openly gay president. Perhaps, in its own symbolic way Tuesday's victory will get us closer to that day. I have too many beautiful gay and lesbian friends who deserve the right to commit themselves to a long-term partner and it would be an honor to have an opportunity to work on their behalf for their freedom struggle.
In closing, I am still basking in the afterglow. I have my copy of Wednesday's New York Times tacked to my wall. It reminds me that for all of my cynicism, we are indeed living in a different world. I like it very much. I had a person actually ask me, "Where were you when you found out?" And we went from there. I won't be having children (let's not go there right now), but I know that I will remember this week for the rest of my life and will be telling someone's children about the feeling of renewal and exhilaration which poured over our country. President-elect Obama is going to make mistakes (offending Nancy Reagan will be the least of his worries, and calling himself a mutt bothers me not in the least . . . I, too, am a mutt!), but I have a deeper faith in his ability to use his intellect to avoid the more damaging mistakes which could threaten to further rip apart the democratic fabric of this country I love. Yes, that's right. I really do love my country. Always have, always will, but it's just so much easier to love it now more than ever.