Why America Still Can’t Talk About Race

racismExcellent article at Salon by Elias Isquith titled, “It embarrasses them, they feel ashamed”: Why America still can’t talk about race. Salon interviewed Angela Blackwell, the founder of the progressive think tank: POLICYLINK.

One of the questions dealt with the inconvenient truth that racism is still alive and quite active in today’s America. Look at Ferguson, Missouri. Please go to Salon of read the complete article. But first, an excerpt or two:

The phrase was always historically ignorant and glib enough to deserve little more than contempt, but after the past six years — during which the nation’s first African-American president saw his approval among whites sink like a stone, despite his assiduous efforts to avoid most discussions of race — I think it’s fair to say that only bigots and the hopelessly deluded still talk about “post-racial America.”

Events this summer in Ferguson, Missouri, have been the most visible pieces of evidence that we’re living in a post-post-racial country. But in a recent brief on economic and racial inequality — “The Equity Solution: Racial Inclusion Is Key to Growing a Strong New Economy” — the progressive organization PolicyLink puts the unpleasant reality in even starker relief. If the U.S. is able in the coming years to find a way to bring people of color more fully into the economy, PolicyLink finds, the economic benefits for all could be enormous. That’d be great, obviously; but the dramatic way true equality would change our economy is also an indication of just how much progress there’s still left to make.

I’d imagine this will only get more pressing as time passes, but you’re also going up against the post-racial America myth.

“PolicyLink has been beating this drum about the national and the economic imperative to get over racial bias and aggressively open up opportunities for the sake of it being the right thing to do and for the sake of the nation. We have been beating that drum and we have been heard by some in that others are starting to beat that drum as well. The nation as a whole, though, has neither heard the narrative nor has it taken it in and owned it, and it is very important that we keep building this message so that the American people can begin to align the policies of the nation with where their hearts would like to go.

I do believe that many in this nation would like to get over racism. I think it’s one of the reasons that it’s such a hard conversation to have. People don’t want to talk about it. It embarrasses them, they feel ashamed, they feel that there’s nothing they can do about that that lingers once the legal barriers have been removed, but we have to see that removing those legal barriers did not create a level playing field. The extraordinary incarceration of black men is a scandal; the extraordinary poverty for black and Latino children is a scandal, so we have to keep talking about this so that we can get policymakers and leaders and the American people comfortable with understanding that the moral imperative exists but it’s an economic imperative now. If we don’t get it right, the fate of the nation is not promising.”

Then we have this revelation out of South Carolina: it seems an exit poll included a few extremely controversial questions:

Exit Pool

I know that perception makes this question appear very racist, and I’m sure there were a significant number of responses that agreed and possibly even scribbled “Hell ya'” on the form. At first it certainly does seem like a racist question, as is another question: “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder, they would be as well off as whites.” Now that sounds bad … very bad.

But Snopes points out that these questions were taken from a psychological test created in the 1980s to identify subtle racial biases:

However, it turns out that the poll was worded this way on purpose.
Researchers took the questions, word for word, from the Modern
Racism Scale — a psychological test developed in 1986 that can be
used to determine an individual's inherent discriminations.

It seems the question, although seemingly racist, was not the significant part of the entry, rather that the answer was the measure of racism being tested. The virulent attacks on these questions coming from all sides emphasizes to me the earlier question:

Why America Still Can’t Talk About Race


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