Lecturer rejects idea of ‘post-racial’ US

Jake Hong

The United States is not a post-racial society even though many white Americans may think it is, a political commentator said in a lecture Thursday.

Author and political commentator Tim Wise talked about the vision of race in an era of colorblindness, or a post-racial America. More than 100 Austinites attended the lecture. Wise said colorblindness emphasizes the perceived irrelevance of race.

“Blame the dialogue, blame the problem of racism,” Wise said.

Wise traced the course of racial injustice from the nation’s colonial roots to the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement today. Wise said white America adopts racial revisionism under the nostalgic pretense of low taxes and small government.

In reality, the government was larger because of the New Deal programs and the social welfare programs of the latter half of the 20th century, he said. Also, Wise noted the disparity between the impression of low taxes and the reality of higher taxes during those years.

“Either you’re lying about it, or you don’t know what you’re talking about,” Wise said.

Wise said if society was really colorblind today, institutional racism and social disparities — such as the income gap, criminal conviction rate, unemployment differences and historic incongruent government assistance — would not exist. He said the government has historically provided aid to the people, but when minorities have gained access to the same benefits, the protest against social equity programs began.

“We don’t call [it] aid, we call it welfare, we call it a handout,” he said.

The acquisition of government benefits has created a conservative, white backlash, Wise said. He said the advancement of minorities has instilled fear in white America of losing control of “their” nation.

“The demographic shift challenges the notion of what our neighbor should look like. Their language may not be English — their religion may not be Christianity,” Wise said.

Wise said the alleged threat to the status quo and the demand to take the nation back is unsettling to him. He said the notion of a threatened status quo undermines the efforts to rectify the racial and social inequities of the nation.

“None of this [is] accidental,” said associate journalism professor Mercedes de Uriarte. “Reality is a social construct, and until things are equitable, there is no claim to colorblindness.”

Gabriel Sheffield, vice president of the Black Student Alliance, said educational institutions are a good way to judge America’s thoughts about race.

“If you’re willing to take money away from education, then you can only see things in terms of black and white,” Sheffield said.