Being a Black Atheist in So-Called Post-Racial America
November 4th, 2008, Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech. He, a Black man, had officially been elected as the President of the United States. This momentous moment in time marked what some referred as the dawn of “post-racial America”, an alleged era in which this nation confirms it’s healed and transcends the buffoonery of distant and recent past stemming from racial discord and inequality.
Though Obama’s inauguration was christened as proof of an age wherein racism was somehow magically “over”—not surprisingly, heralded as such by those not subject to the insidious tentacles of racism—the real-lived texture of Blacks in America has quite another thing to say regarding this fanciful sentiment. This insistence to have closure on a matter that is virtually anything but foreclosed is reminiscent of yesteryear when it was assumed that, because Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, that the indelible and ever-present expressions of racism were instantaneously cauterized. The Watts riots, an issue very much steeped in racial tensions, occurred six days after Johnson’s landmark legislation.
What we see here is a fundamental difference between lived experiences and sociopolitical rhetoric or commonly touted markers of progress. While the Voting Rights Act illegalized discriminatory voting requirements, it did nothing to combat social marginalization, inadequate housing, economic deprivation, police brutality, lynchings and general malaise due to an intersectional process of racial stratification. This contradiction of expectation pitted against real world interface mimics the discussion sparked by Obama’s presidential victory.
Though it’s been proven profoundly false on numerous occasions—evidential in, among other things, educational apartheid, wealth gap, arrest rate, housing discrimination, employment, racial profiling and incarceration statistics—the idea that the U.S. has achieved this post-racial pinnacle persists. This mainly emanates from a tendency of rushing to conclusions, as its harbor can be a haven for those tired of examining or reflecting further on any given matter. Despite being a biologically invalid concept, dialogue centering on race causes discomfort, resentment and hostility. Thus, it’s more desirable—particularly for those unaffected—to ignore, dismiss or diminish its impact on individuals and society. From this lackadaisical mindset flows “I don’t know, therefore god!” and like modes of thinking that prefers resignation, content with uncritical assessment or even willful ignorance.