Uh, race still matters, folks

Diverse city
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  January 7, 2009

In a few short days Barack Obama will go from being our first black president-elect to our first black president. Yes siree, the black guy is finally going to be in charge. We finally did it. Welcome to post-racial America!

Not so fast.

Post-racial? One momentous election and we've solved all those race problems? It's typical of our quick-cure mentality in this country that many people in the media and the general populace actually believe that nonsense.

Save the economy? Just throw a trillion-dollar quick-fix at the folks who did the bulk of the work to wreck our economy in the first place. And then when they thumb their noses at us when we ask how they're spending those tax dollars, just do nothing.

Penis not quite so perky as it used to be? A child who is energetic and has a short attention span? Take this pill. Don't think about diet or environment or counseling or anything else. Just get the damn pill.

And a history of racial issues in the nation? Abuses and injustices and unfairness? Just finally elect a non-white guy as president and the problem is solved.

Except it isn't.

Too many people think we need to stop talking about race now, especially African-American-related issues, all because a little over half of the voters checked off Obama/Biden in November. Basically, the unspoken implication growing among many liberals (and conservatives) who are tired about dealing with race is that the deal is sealed, the baggage is unloaded, and it's time to stop talking about race.

Much like a trillion-dollar bailout without any real conditions attached to it, that isn't much of an answer. Silence isn't golden. It's true that we rounded a major corner with Obama's election. It's a great big damn step in the right direction. It's huge. It's historical. It's deep and moving in a way I can scarcely describe.

But it isn't a cure. You don't wipe away hundreds of years of oppression and injustice just because one skinny black guy from Chicago was elected president.

I wish it were true. But consider this: African Americans and Latinos earn far less on average than white men, regardless of educational level. I've see figures as high as 40 percent less and as low as 20 percent less depending on how brown you are and which gender. However you cut it, though, that's a big difference, and the fact you see this with college-educated minorities too is heart-rending. Hell, even Asian men make something like 8 percent less than white men. If you think the mostly white bosses are just going to say, "Dear God, a black man is in charge. Let's bring equity to those wages now," you need your head examined. And with the economic downturn, that means non-whites are going to be hit even harder than everyone else.

And how about the facts that African Americans account for nearly half of the 2.4 million people incarcerated in the United States, but are a mere 12 percent of the total population? One in 15 black men is jailed. Are the juries and judges going to magically start giving equitable sentences to whites instead of giving them lighter sentences for similar crimes and giving them breaks for first offenses that so many minorities don't enjoy? I'll believe it when I see it.

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