Today in my sociology class, we discussed W.E.B. Du Bois and his Critical Race Theory. As a part of the discussion, we watched a video on the possibility of a post-racial society, featuring Andra Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University. If you’re interested, here is the video:
She states that since the election of President Obama, people have become more convinced that we live in a post-racial society, where we are “colorblind” to race and race does not give people an advantage or disadvantage. After all, if we could elect a black president, we must be racially accepting. Obviously, this is not a true statement. Even believing in such diminishes the experience of people of color. But this is often refuted with the argument that there are facts and laws that prove racism is no longer institutionalized.
One of the most compelling points against this fallacious claim is that when Gillespie is running statistical studies about institutions and people in her work, she has to account for different variables that will influence her results. If we truly lived in a post-racial society, there would not be differences between people of different races. The results would not fall along racial lines. Race would be a null variable, with no statistical significance. Yet, in every study that she does, race is a significant factor that affects the results. Race is a factor that cannot be ignored. This statistical proof continues to prove the existence of racism, regardless of what people may believe about the state of racial affairs. Until the statistics prove it, claims that we are in a post-racial society cannot be accurately made.
This outlook is not intended to be negative or pessimistic. Gillespie agrees that there has been progress made. Yet, there has not been enough to make the claim that race no longer matters. We may not see slavery in our everyday lives, and we may not hear about Jim Crow Laws or open racial discrimination, but racism covertly exists. It exists when looking at income disparity, living conditions, and hiring practices, among many other things.
The only comment on this video was a complaint about the mention of education discrimination in the video. The commenter stated that it was not racism that led to educational disparity, but the differing “cultural values” of European Americans vs. African Americans. After watching the video, it is easy to think that the factual statements and logical reasoning by Gillespie would be convincing to the point that “cultural values” wouldn’t be considered the only reason for educational disparities. Yet, this shows that there are a lot of prejudices that still exist, regardless of the validity of the arguments posed against it. This kind of closed-mindedness is what worries me about the future, and what makes me concerned about the reality of the possibility of a post-racial society. Gillespie thinks that this type of society will take a long time to accomplish, and from what I have heard in recent times around the election and based on the single comment on this video, it seems like that sadly may be the case.