The Fallacy of a Post-Racial America
by Bennie Harris
It is Wednesday, June 3rd, 1:15am, the third night of the countywide curfew in Los Angeles. I am up looking out the windows for the third night in a row, listening to the silence. It had not occurred to me on the previous two nights, but this was a pattern for me when I returned from Iraq. I now remember that this was also a pattern for my father on many occasions in the middle of the night upon both of his returns from Vietnam. I am still struggling to understand what it is that I am looking or listening for as I stand here in the dark.
The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in 2009, led many to assume the “dawning of a ‘post-racial era’ in our country” (Teasley & Ikard, 2010). However, Obama’s “rhetoric of hope” (p. 413) and inspired optimism among African American’s has been soundly trashed. Not only do we as a nation find ourselves struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic of systematic, institutionalized racism has all Angeleno’s holed-up in their homes as seaming prisoners of a police state. While our mandated curfew is related to citywide rioting and looting, let us not cast aside the death of yet another African American, George Floyd of Minneapolis, under the knees of those sworn to protect and serve.
The January 2019 Special Issue of the APA’s American Psychologist was dedicated to “Racial Trauma: Theory, Research, and Healing,” how apropos. If the fallout related to COVID-19 is not enough to shake our fragile psyche, how will we as a collective manage the potential overwhelm of racial trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder that is surely on our horizon? As we silently observe people of color in our communities and nation at large, systematically trampled under the color of authority, and denied basic civil liberties as fellow human beings, what will we offer them, should they present themselves in our consulting rooms? How will we address the “race-related trauma or race-based traumatic stress injuries” (Hartman et al., 2019), shattered lives, and shattered illusions? I had the profoundly sad, yet heartfelt experience of sitting with my 30-year-old daughter through her tears as we dialogued about her fear and the fallacy of our post-racial America. I am thankful that she had me, but who will other young adults that look like my daughter have? How will they be held and through what kind of eyes will they be seen? This presumes that they will feel safe enough again to venture out and seek help. Having worked through my own anguish, frustration, and tears, I will be there to support them, as best I can. My hope is that others will be also. Maybe this is what I am looking and listening for, to determine who else is standing against the tyranny and oppression in our midst.
Hartmann, W. E., Wendt, D. C., Burrage, R. L., Pomerville, A., & Gone, J. P. (2019). American Indian historical trauma: Anticolonial prescriptions for healing, resilience, and survivance. American Psychologist, 74(1), 6.
Teasley, M., & Ikard, D. (2010). Barack Obama and the politics of race: The myth of postracism in America. Journal of Black Studies, 40(3), 411-425.