Does that post-ironic combination of spelled-out # and nineties catchphrase adequately identify me as part of the “post-racial” millennial generation that the New York Times is identifying as decidedly non-post-racial? Might we simply say that we, like our American ancestors are still a racialized society? One student in the articles says that colorblind would be a nice goal, even if its unrealistic. Personally, I am not a fan of colorblind. Colorblind leads to weekends like the one I had recently:
Saturday– at a local museum, an older, African American woman came up to me and my friend and asked if we had tried the interactive part of the exhibit. We looked at each other and replied “No, not yet. Etc., etc.” She seemed a confused. Maybe we looked confused? Nope. She tried again slowly and loudly “No English?” Didn’t we just reply to her in English? We tried again. “Yes, but we just got here. We’ll take a look at it later.” Instead of replying, she walked away.
That’s an uncomfortable situation, no doubt. Unfortunately, things like that do happen. How we respond matters.
Monday– I told a few people about the woman at the museum. To my disappointment, reactions broke into two camps: white people and people of color. White people, in my small and unscientific sample, recognized the situation as uncomfortable and confusing. People of color identified the situation with racial assumptions– the woman connected my physical features with those of a foreigner rather than an American. So when I spoke American English, this woman treated me like a foreigner. Despite my mixed heritage, she saw me as an Asian, not a mixed race American.
So, no, we’re not post racial. And pretending that we are doesn’t make make it so.