Racial melting pot won’t end social disparities

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-02 02:56Z by Steven

Racial melting pot won’t end social disparities

San Francisco Chronicle

Brenda Payton, Lecturer in Journalism
San Francisco State University

I looked at the room full of San Francisco State University students and saw the beginning of the end of race as we have defined it.
If that sounds a little over-the-top, here’s some background. Last semester, I taught a class in the journalism department at S.F. State. It was entitled “The Social Impact of Journalism,” and between the Arab Spring, the BART protests and the Occupy movement, we had more than enough to talk about. (Even if it was like pulling teeth to get most of them to talk. That’s another story.)

The class was huge, 120 students, and hugely diverse. The first day, I took roll and managed to butcher most of their names. The Spanish names I handled OK. The Russian, Filipino and Chinese names were more of a challenge. They corrected my mispronunciations good-naturedly.
After a few meetings, I realized it wasn’t only the class that was racially diverse—a number of the students were also. They appeared to be, in traditional terms, racially mixed—the face of a future when race will be diminished as a distinguishing characteristic…

…People have been debating whether our country entered a post-racial phase after we elected President Obama. A number of ironies suggest we aren’t there yet. For one, we identify him as our first African American president when he is biracial, as white as he is black. Second level of irony: With an African father and American mother, he is more accurately African American than those of us born to two African American parents. OK, that’s confusing.
To add to the confusion: Most African Americans are mixed-race, descendants of whites who held Africans as slaves and overseers during bondage and many descendants of American Indians. When I was growing up, even kids who were biracial were considered black, make that Negro. I have first cousins whose mother is Chinese, and I never thought of them as anything other than Negro. For even more confusion, our other cousins are so light, at one time I thought they were white but didn’t think that meant we couldn’t be first cousins. We didn’t think of ourselves as a mixed-race family. We were proud Negroes.
The country has always been more racially mixed than we’ve pretended. That includes white people who have discovered (or not) black ancestors. “Black” people who were light enough passed for white to escape segregation and had children who knew nothing of their racial background. Asian and Latino communities also have been racially mixed…

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