Post Racial Society? Not Quite.

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Recently, at the popular Onyx Nightclub in Upper Arlington there was a shooting. The Onyx was famous for bringing in national level hip-hop acts. None of the police reports includes a racial profile of the suspects. However, the Columbus Dispatch and This Week News Upper Arlington have both had to pull down comments sections on their web stories about the shooting because of the hateful, racist postings that were made based on the assumption that the criminals involved had to be African Americans.

Shortly after the election of President Obama there was a sentiment that we had, as a nation, made strides toward bridging the racial divide. During his first trip to Turkey he answered a question about the post-election bubble of pride American’s were displaying for their first minority President. President Obama responded, “…I think people saw my election as proof, as testimony, that although we are imperfect, our society has continued to improve; that racial discrimination has been reduced “

I thought about this and about how just two years ago there were attempts at serious conversations about living in a “post-racial” America. Since that time it has been made clear that we are still testing our imperfections and living in anything but a “post-racial” society.

In fact, I fear that the election of President Obama emboldened some in our society to feel they are free to be even less inhibited about their racial ignorance.

While there are many examples of racism in our country – from the immigration debate to the profiling of possible terrorists – in the day-to-day trials of American society many people still seem to see “Blacks” as a sub-genus to the white majority – beyond even how Hispanics or Middle Easterners are reviled.

At first I wanted to believe that the racist comments about the Onyx shooting were only being made because of the relative anonymity of the internet. Sadly, attending some of the community meetings about the incident reveled that many people don’t care to hide their racism behind a keyboard. One woman angrily recounted how the club owner refused her request to stop letting “blacks” in; another referred to the trouble makers as “tribesmen”.

The nightclub shooting, thankfully, did not end in tragedy. A few months ago though Upper Arlington did suffer a tragic shooting that claimed the life of two young boys and their father. It was a murder suicide, carried out by a middle class white man at home. That incident prompted outrage over the individual committing such a heinous crime – but not over the danger of associating with white males.

Naturally the matter of any shooting, tragic or not, is serious and raises our collective fears to the surface. But shouldn’t our fear be directed at violent people who carry guns with the intention of using them; not at the color of their skin?

Andrew Miller hosts the blog Elephants on Bicycles