Good Friday seems a good day to discuss this.
It is tempting for white Americans weary of being called racists to embrace this proposal by former NAACP diretor Michael Meyers. Meyers calls for “color blindness” and criticizes Obama for giving what amounts to a detailed description of racial differences that does not lead us out of the present cycle of escalating black anger and defensive white fear:
I would say that Barack Obama’s “momentous” speech on race settled on merely “explaining” so-called racial differences between blacks and whites — and in so doing amplified deep-seated racial tensions and divisions. Instead of giving us a polarizing treatise on the “black experience,” Obama should have reiterated the theme that has brought so many to his campaign: That race ain’t what it used to be in America.
Meyers concludes, “The man or woman who talks plainly about our commonality as a race of human beings, about our future as one nation indivisible, rather than about our discredited and disunited past, is, I predict, likely to finish ahead of the pack and do us a great public service.”
This “race blindness” approach certainly has some appeal, but it’s not a realistic approach. Race, like ethnicity, is a real category of human identity. Obama is correct to note that the two races see things differently, have different histories, different sensitivities, and that blacks in particular are sensitive to their former treatment as inferiors complete with legally imposed subordination. (more…)