Our New Postracial Myth

Our New Postracial Myth

By Ibram X. Kendi—June 22, 2021

The signposts of racism are staring back at us in big, bold racial inequities. But some Americans are ignoring the signposts, walking on by racial inequity, riding on by the evidence, and proclaiming their belief with religious fervor. “America is not a racist country,” Senator Tim Scott said in April.

Black babies die at twice the rate of white babies. Roughly a fifth of Native Americans and Latino Americans are medically uninsured, almost triple the rate of white Americans and Asian Americans (7.8 and 7.2 percent, respectively). Native people (24.2 percent) are nearly three times as likely as white people (9 percent) to be impoverished. The life expectancy of Black Americans (74.5 years) is much lower than that of white Americans (78.6 years). White Americans account for 77 percent of the voting members of the 117th Congress, even though they represent 60 percent of the U.S. population.

Just as you can recognize an impoverished country by its widespread poverty, you can recognize a racist country by its widespread racial inequity. In the United States, Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student loans than white college graduates. Native Americans die from police violence at three times the rate of white people; Black people die at 2.6 times the rate; and Latino people die at 1.3 times the rate. In the United States, racial inequity is widespread by any measure.

And yet, some don’t want the American people to stop and see. They don’t want our kids to learn about the racism causing racial inequity. They are trying to ban teaching it in schools; Florida passed the latest such ban last Thursday.

They can’t acknowledge racial inequity because to acknowledge it is to discuss why it exists and persists. To discuss why racial inequity exists and persists is to point to the libraries of nonpartisan studies documenting widespread racism in the United States.

To say that there is widespread racial inequity caused by widespread racism, which makes the United States racist, isn’t an opinion, isn’t a partisan position, isn’t a doctrine, isn’t a left-wing construct, isn’t anti-white, and isn’t anti-American. It is a fact. But in recent years, some have reduced a host of facts to beliefs. “I don’t believe that,” Donald Trump said in September when a reporter asked him about the existence of systemic racism.

This is a precarious time. There are people tired of quarantining their racist beliefs, anxious about being held accountable by “wokeism” and “cancel culture,” yearning to get back to the normality of blaming Black inferiority for racial inequity. The believers are going after these people with disinformation. They are putting words in the mouths of Black Lives Matter activists, critical race theorists, the writers of the 1619 Project, and anti-racist intellectuals—and attacking the words they put in our mouths. Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina claims that we believe “people with white skin are inherently racist.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis claims that we believe “all our institutions are bankrupt, and they’re illegitimate.”

No nation, no person, is inherently or permanently racist. The anti-racist resistance to slavery and Jim Crow is as much a part of American history as those peculiar institutions are. White people have been abolitionists and civil-rights activists, and they are among the people striving to be anti-racist today. Some institutions in the United States have been vehicles of equity and justice. But what we write or say or think doesn’t matter to the believers. All that matters to them is ensuring that adults and children continue to walk on by the signposts of racism that implicate them. All the believers want to do is make myths out of reality to keep the American people out of reality.

“It is time for America to discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism,” former Vice President Mike Pence tweeted on June 3. “America is not a racist Nation—America is the most just, righteous, noble and inclusive Nation that has ever existed on the face of the earth!”

We’ve heard this before.

“America is not a racist Nation” is the new “America is a postracial nation.” We are witnessing the birth of the new postracial project.

Read more at The Atlantic.

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