‘post racial’ Amerika

The term ‘post race’ has been increasingly bandied about in the lead up to today’s Presidential election in the USA—a google search currently produces 126k hits. Much of the commentary refers to Obama as post race and thus someone white Americans are not afraid of—they are reassured by him as a non-angry black man. For me, whilst a number of the pieces reflect on the challenges of growing up black in America and express a level of awareness, much of it seems more like a means for getting white America settled and comfortable with racism…

One piece refers to Francis Fukuyama—someone I would not consider as a source I would agree with on most things (i.e. pretty much everything): "Obama’s been very careful to distance himself from the traditional Jesse Jackson agenda and the Jesse Jackson persona. A lot of people are worried about voting for him because they think once he’s elected the mask will fall off and there’ll be an angry Jesse Jackson underneath." What is referred to is the ‘angry black man’ persona—one that makes white people uncomfortable because it forces redress for past injustices AND is a clear example of the ongoing structural violence of America’s colonial history (let alone overt racism in current day America).

With being reassured, being comfortable, there is less focus (i.e. none) on what makes a white person uncomfortable. In the context of Australia, Ken Gelder has described this as ‘postcolonialsim-as-fulfillment’, as reconciliation on white terms. Jane Haggis has similarly reflected on the notion of post white, which is directly analogous to much of the discussion about white reactions to Obama: it is about getting white American’s comfortable in and with racism, rather than embracing the imposed uncomfortableness of an angry black (wo)men. It is the latter that will foster and encourage actual self reflection and change, the former more closely normalises to status quo.

I may come back to expand on this after looking for any transformative impacts that a shift in direction (to what degree?) a post-Bush America has on race relations. With the shift from a overtly racist and conservative government in Australia to one more moderate there has been hope amongst some for change. The national apology to Australia’s First Peoples has provided a symbolic step. I hope that there may be a step (at least small one) in a similar direction in Amerika. I guess, the waiting game begins as anticipation of the result of the election increases throughout the day. Who knows, maybe the riot-gear clad police in Ohio will take out a few voters?


For those interested, the academic papers referred to: Gelder, K. (2000) "The Imaginary Eco-(Pre) Historian: Peter Read’s Belonging as a Postcolonial ‘Symptom’". Australian Humanities Review 19.

Haggis, J. (2004). "Beyond race and whiteness? Reflections on the new abolitionists and an Australian critical whiteness studies". borderlands e journal. 3(2)

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