Action on Both Sides

No sooner had Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency than talk about America entering a “post-racial” era began. The election of a Black man to the White House is a momentous milestone that proves race is no longer a barrier in minorities’ lives, the chatter went.

Of course evidence to the contrary is everywhere —segregated housing, disparities in educational attainment and employment, among other indicators. In “The Obama Era: A Post-racial Society?” by Lydia Lum, scholars who study race in education and other disciplines illuminate why race still matters. Lydia detected a hint of “here-we-go-again” exasperation among some of the scholars interviewed since the same argument that the country was on its way to becoming a racial utopia emerged with previous historical markers.

Dr. Christopher J. Metzler, associate dean at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies and the author of the book The Construction and Rearticulation of Race in a “Post-racial” America, sums up best in his Diverse blog entry why Obama’s election is only one of many changes needed:

“First, the election of President Obama is a sea change event, just like the Supreme Court’s decision on Brown v. Board of Education. Brown also promised a ‘postracial’ America, and it did not deliver. This is because sea change events without attendant, sustained, substantive change end up being events, not durable change.”

Still, Obama’s election is a historic turning point, especially it seems, for affirmative action opponents who vow to step up their efforts to dismantle race-conscious outreach programs, senior writer Ronald Roach reports in “Renewing the Fight Against Affirmative Action.”

“The election of Obama to be our president reconfirms that the American people are ready for” color-blind policies that prohibit race-conscious affirmative action, Ward Connerly told conservative scholars gathered at the National Association of Scholars conference in January. He promised more state ballot initiatives such as the ones that banned race- and gender-conscious programs in college admissions and hiring contracts in California, Michigan, Nebraska and Washington state.

We know to anticipate challenges to diversity initiatives. If Metzler is correct in that substantive change is needed to reach a point where race-based inequities are a thing of the past, what actions will we see to make that vision a reality?

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