It can be argued that perhaps the key issue which separates the United States from the other 17 world democracies is that this nation was built in no small way on the backs of chattel slavery, an institution which has had an impact not only on the “race” of people whom were enslaved, but the entire sociopolitical structure of the nation itself. Not only has slavery, and the justification of slavery and domination which we know today as racism, affected the relationships between those of African-Americans and the dominant “race” (Caucasians) – as well as other people of color whose entrance and experiences in this nation, however problematic, were different by the very nature of how they came to be in America – but it has also blurred the line between the powerful and rich and the rest of us who share a class consciousness’ (or who should!)
And now, with the rise of Barack Obama to the most powerful position of power on the planet, many Caucasians – especially conservatives, but many liberals as well – have decided that the U.S. is a post-racial society, and that the only thing that really stands between other African-Americans and their potential Obama-like success is what whites perceive of as a lack of “personal responsibility” on behalf of blacks in America.
What is the actual state of racism in the U.S. here in 2009, and how does it impact on the very ability of its victims to be “responsible” for their lives? Why are some people still trying to find something inherent in the genetic make of African-Americans which would explain their inferiority? What does the ascent of our first “black” president NOT tell us about the social construct of race in America, and why there are so many “white” people still in denial of the differences of privilege between people of color and themselves which is key to understanding the disparity of success between the so-called “races” in America? And finally, does the success of Barack Obama, and others like him, mean we will never again hear about that “ism” which has always lied underneath racism – classism – or will perhaps the Left once again decide to take advantage of the fact that there is a growing number of people of color making up the ruling capitalist class who can’t help but allow the continued oppression of not only people of color, but all poor and lower middle class people.. if they are to keep their money and power?
Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and activists in the U.S., and has been called, “One of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation,” by best-selling author and Professor Michael Eric Dyson, of Georgetown University. Wise has spoken in 48 states, and on over 400 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, and the Law Schools at Yale and Columbia, and has spoken to community groups around the nation. Wise has provided anti-racism training to teachers nationwide, and has trained physicians and medical industry professionals on how to combat racial inequities in health care. He has also trained corporate, government, entertainment, military and law enforcement officials on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions, and has served as a consultant for plaintiff’s attorneys in federal discrimination cases in New York and Washington State.
Tim is the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflections From an Angry White Male, and his fourth book, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Race and Whiteness in the Age of Obama.
Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. is Dean of University Studies and Professor of Biological Studies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Using his background in evolutionary biology, he has written two books that address myths and theories of race in American society – The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium, and The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America. Dr. Graves has made appearances in six documentary films on these general topics, and has been a Principal Investigator on grants from the National Institute of Health, National Science Foundation and the Arizona Disease Research Commission.