Are We Postracial Yet?
Below is an excerpt from Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future, by Angela Glover Blackwell, Stewart Kwoh, and Manuel Pastor. For more on the book, visit UncommonCommonGround.com.
The presidency of Barack Obama defies simple analyses of racial progress in America. At precisely the same moment that a black man leads the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, African Americans and Latinos are grappling with their greatest loss of wealth in history. With ties to Islam and the Ivy League, Obama, the son of an immigrant Kenyan father and Midwestern white mother, is the unquestioned and popular leader of a broad-based multiethnic coalition. And as we reflect on his historic electoral victory, we can’t help but wonder what Martin Luther King Jr. would have thought of an America that elects a black man to lead it, but still fails to graduate over one-quarter of its young black men on time from high school.
So what is to be made of this conundrum? Was “the last racial barrier in American politics” swept away by Obama’s election as some pundits have suggested, ushering in, finally, the nation’s long-overdue postracial phase? Or, have Americans merely watched one remarkably gifted and fortunate person of color vault spectacularly over a wall, and concluded, mistakenly, that the wall is no longer there? And, just as importantly, what does a black man’s success have to do with the growing Latino and Asian Pacific communities, particularly at a time when immigration has emerged as a preeminent civil rights issue and is fueling a stark demographic transformation that by the year 2042 will result in a new American majority in which people of color outnumber whites?