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Is the U.S. post-racial?

Carla St.Louis | 1/30/2014, 9 a.m.
According to professor David Ikard, the notion of a post-racial America — a theoretical environment where the U.S. is devoid ...

According to professor David Ikard, the notion of a post-racial America — a theoretical environment where the U.S. is devoid of racial preference, discrimination and prejudice — doesn’t exist.

While others assert the existence of an America beyond race, using President Barak Obama’s presidency as a shining beacon of colorblindness, the University of Miami professor argued that Obama’s win “demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that race continues to matter a great deal in U.S. politics” insisting he “helped amplify this idea of a post-racial America” during his platform that “de-emphasized race.”

What is post-racial America?

“When broken down, what post-racialism means is that Blacks have no excuse for [a lack of] success in America because race is no longer a barrier to that success,” Ikard explained to a crowd of students, professors and locals.

For attendees of Ikard’s discussion on race at the University of Miami, the night was decorated with academic critiques of white supremacy ideology — including post-racialism and colorblind politics — and how it hinders Black self-determination, agency and empowerment in the 21st century.

A feat that Carolina Villalba, a Cuban-American professor at UM was anxiously anticipating.

"I had long been looking forward to this talk, because it offers a space in which to openly discuss how race and racism continue to circulate and generate meaning in our culture," she said. "Without a specific platform or venue in which to be freely discussed, these issues tend to be evaded or overlooked in everyday conversation. The discussion [...] provided [a] platform for critical thought and debate."

Nicole Rose, a Ph.D student studying African-American Literature at UM felt the same way.

“I was excited about attending [...],” she said. "I was particularly interested in the different approaches of each respective professor. While, I understand and agree that racism in the 21st century has taken on a stealthier quality and operates using a series of coded language, I am concerned that we sometimes overstate this point at the cost of drowning out other Black voices."

Ikard’s discussion centered around the premise of his book, Blinded by the Whites: Why Race Still Matters in 21st-Century America. In it he argued that all societal forms of oppression — i.e., race, gender, class and sexual orientation — intersect, and thus must be challenged to disturb the status quo. The existing state of affairs Ikard is referring to is white supremacy, a political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical and/or industrial dominance of whites, he argued.

“The reality is that race continues to be a major factor in who gets a job, who gets stopped and frisked, who gets arrested, who gets disciplined more aggressively in schools and who lives in poverty,” he said.

“Perhaps the biggest danger of this post-racial era is that it has made it more difficult for [Blacks] to talk about race without being labeled,” he said. “What post-racialism says is that we have to pretend like the past is irrelevant to the present [when] the reality is you can’t understand Black people’s current social, economic and cultural struggles without understanding our country’s historical patterns of Black oppression and disenfranchisement,” he explained. “Thus, the accumulated wealth and privilege acquired over centuries that have given white Americans a major leg up on [Black] Americans is considered off limits as a conversation.”