Following the Obama presidency, a concept emerged in America — the post-racial society. The concept was that because a Black man had earned the highest title of authority in the United States, the nation was no longer racist. Which therefore, made it beyond the concept of race — in other words, post-racial.
This was obviously untrue then and remains untrue now.
This is not the most surprising claim; others have expressed this feeling time and time again. The feeling is so common that it was even depicted in one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits of recent years. The assumption would be, after the previous presidency and the protests in the summer of 2020, that everyone in this country who has been following the news knows this concept to be false.
This is not a statement on how the United States is. This is a warning.
In 2016, there were many voters who stated they regretted not voting. And a common sentiment I heard, both from those who did and didn’t vote at all that year, was that Donald Trump would not win. I didn’t believe them then, and was surprised he didn’t win in 2020. Let me clarify — I did not want him to win at all. But I felt as though I knew what the United States would pick.
Since 2020’s protests and election, I’m afraid some people in this country are adopting the idea of a post-racial society again. I’m worried we have begun to slip back into our old ways. In 2008, the idea was that we had the first Black president, so racism had to be done. In 2020, the idea was that we didn’t let our government get overthrown and the man who staged this lost the election, so racism was done again.
Strides have been made in this country. It would be foolish to deny that. Things are better now for any minority group in the United States now than they were in the 1800s. But, that doesn’t mean we should not want improvements still.
I don’t want the white majority of this country to believe that racism is something that can be defeated. In many films, television series and other media, racism is treated as the ultimate evil, but that idea is untrue; racism isn’t evil because evil isn’t real. No one has ever behaved evily or morally reprehensible just to be “evil”. Everyone is the hero of their own story, no matter what. However, there are people, like white nationalist Nick Fuentes, who are self-declared racists and express pride in that fact.
There’s also the fact that, of course, evil is usually seen as this fairytale concept where the evil nature of someone is characteristically evident, like a wicked stepmother or a witch. Racism, however, can be (and often is) not a giant, evil concept, but instead a small, direct and momentary instant of microaggression.
Many news outlets who reported on the increase in hate crimes in 2020 compared the increase to another year when the number was on the rise in the United States — 2008, the year President Barack Obama took office. Any time the white, liberal majority of this country believes a stride has been made against racism, the more racist parts of the country feel as though they must lash out.
The solution to this problem is not to be content with where we are in the fight against racism. A professor at this university once explained racism to me as a residual concept. When you turn off an oven, it doesn’t immediately become room temperature inside the oven. It remains hot for a while after. This professor explained that racism does not immediately end when the systems in place are dismantled.
The effects of racist policies will be at play for a long time after they are repealed, if they are ever repealed. We as a university and as Americans need to understand that stopping racism isn’t just one political candidate away, or a few laws away. It will take time, and we need to remain vigilant against bigotry of any kind.