There is no denial that the U. S. has changed for the better in terms of racial relations since the Selma March 50 years ago when blacks were tear gassed, beaten with bully clubs, bitten by dogs while some lost their lives fighting for the right to vote. For those who deny that racial change has occurred in 50 years, listen and speak with Congressman John Lewis as he challenges those to walk in his shoes over the last 50 years. There is a difference between racial change and racial harmony as the “post racial” word suggests.
I first heard the term post racial when President Obama was first elected in 2008. And even before his election, there were clear signs that while America would elect an African American president after the failed Bush years, they would not always respect him on account of the color of his skin. The racially polarizing politics of the country since President Obama’s first election have made it possible for many Americans to express publicly their racist views and attitudes.
The national Republicans leaders in both the House and Senate failed to attend the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma, except for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy who attended at the last minute. Others did attend as former President George W. Bush, Senator Rob Portman (R. OH) and Senator Tim Scott (R. SC) were in attendance. The problem with the GOP is their failure to realize that race relations are American relations. And improvement of race relations is a benefit to everyone in this country. It is not just a black “thang”. In order for the U.S. to ever become post racial, all Americans must realize that the progress of race relations is progress for America and its ugly racist past.
The Republican Party is responsible for helping to enact restrictive voter ID laws in the majority of states since 2008 which infringe on the rights of many minorities to vote. And the Supreme Court Justices appointed by Republican Presidents overturned Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which made it impossible for many jurisdictions to enact voting law changes without first obtaining pre-clearance from the Department of Justice due to past violations of voting rights for minorities. Most, if not all Republicans, refuse to offer support to bills that would re-instate the full Voting Rights Act protections for minorities and prevent disenfranchisement.
The wave of recent police shootings and killings of unarmed blacks from 12 year old Tamir Rice, Michael Garner to the latest one of unarmed and naked Anthony Hill outside Atlanta sends shock waves through every black American that has a brother, father, sister or mother. The criminal justice system that cannot prosecute for these crimes is yet another reminder that we are not post racial—or even close. Attorney General Eric Holder who determined that the Department of Justice could not federally prosecute Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown or George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, as the standard for hate crimes and violations of one’s civil rights was too high a standard. He spoke about lessening the standard. I don’t think lowering the standard is necessarily the problem or the solution. Grand Juries and juries made up of mostly whites will still likely side with a white police officer as in the cases of Rodney King (the first trial) and Eric Garner. Both of those cases were on videotape and still juries failed to convict in the Rodney King first trial or bring charges in the Eric Garner case.
And just last Saturday, the racist use of the “N” word at a fraternity celebrating its Founder’s Day on the University of Oklahoma proclaiming with rampant chants that you can hang a “N” from a tree but he can’t be a member of their fraternity. The fraternity was immediately suspended. We are so un-post racial that it hurts me to hear the word “post racial”. We have moved from the days of Selma fifty years ago. We still have a huge gap to fill before we are post racial. For me, hearing the word “post racial” is almost like hearing the “N” word. It hurts me to hear both of those words.
Washington, Dc based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst, speaker and former prosecutor. She is seen frequently in the media addressing issues of race and gender in the law. She appears on Al Jazeera America, Arise TV, BET, C-Span, Fox 5, Sky News, RT America and TV One.