I continue to be intrigued by this idea of post racialism and am still trying to figure out exactly what that looks like. Some people are afraid, and rightly so, that post-racialism means that we all will start to look and talk the same and that our identities will dissolve into a common, post-racial culture. Indeed, there are some who would rather not acknowledge people’s differences because it makes them feel uncomfortable.
For instance, at one time, it was popular to think of the United States as a melting pot. Some people smarter than I am have pointed out that with the melting pot ideal, America is a creamy homogenous fondue, whereas the reality is that we more like a gumbo with all kinds of ingredients thrown into the pot. That would be my idea of post racialism—a world society, not just in the US, where we, in combination and separately, making a delicious taste, united and equally appreciated as individuals who are part of the same mixture.
In the news lately, there have been some prominent stories that center on race. One involves celebrity chef Paula Deen’s admission to having used the “n” word. The other involves the murder trial of Robert Zimmerman and the use of the word “cracker’ by the slain victim, Trayvon Martin.
No way am I an apologist for Deen, but I suspect the world would come to a screeching halt if every white person who has used the word “nigger” either as a slur or in everyday conversation–and admitted it–were fired from their jobs. Some have said Deen is the poster child for racism in America today but what about the people she supposedly represents, which is the larger issue.
There’s an interesting article I came across that questions whether the words “nigger” and “cracker” are created equal. Are white people as offended being called cracker by a black person as black people are by a white person calling them nigger?
From my perspective, in certain situations, “nigger” is a blanket term to indiscriminately describe anyone of African American heritage, sort of a brutal personal affront to something as intimate as a person’s cell structure, a blind attack on our existence. On the other hand, in the black community, a “cracker” is understood to specifically describe a white person (traditionally from the South) who hates black people, who is likely to call them niggers, and who is gunning for you, literally and figuratively (ie, they have malice and want to do you harm). So interestingly enough, one term assumes inferiority and the other assumes an attitude of extreme bias.
Call me an optimist, but even though these words and concepts rear their heads, I still think we are at the point of transition where true post-racialism is possible. Most people get it. But destructive attitudes and behaviors are not going away unless we work out the vestiges of our past. There’s so much work to be done on this front but it all starts with our individual interactions with people, sharing and talking to each other, and learning from our different experiences. As I have said before and I hear others now saying it, too, the personal is the political.
What do you think?
Here’s Wynton Marsalis, a noted jazz musician who is equally respected for his work in classical music, talking about how he came to love a musical form that was outside of his culture.
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2013