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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Commentary: 'Post-racial' America isn't here yet

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts says neither the black nor white yardsticks on race present the full picture.


Indeed, one suspects the National Urban League's recently released 2009 State of Black America report quantifying racial inequities in employment, housing, education, criminal justice, health and other arenas will be about as welcome as graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial among those Americans who convinced themselves in November the country had entered a "post-racial" era.

Those Americans will be overwhelmingly white and will resist with mighty determination the report's implicit argument: that we have not yet overcome, not yet reached the Promised Land, not yet come to a point where race is irrelevant, Barack Obama notwithstanding.

Years spent engaging Americans on the knotty conundrums of race leave me confident in that prediction. So does a 2008 Gallup poll in which 46 percent of non-Hispanic whites said there is no widespread racism against blacks. But it took a Yale University study to help me understand why some whites feel that way.

Psychology professor Richard Eibach was reported last year in the Washington Post as having found that in judging racial progress, white people and black ones tend to use different yardsticks. Whites use the yardstick of how far we have come from the nation we used to be. Blacks use the yardstick of how far we have yet to go to be the nation we ought to be.

The most complete picture, of course, requires both measures. But who can be surprised that blacks and whites each tend to gravitate toward the measure that is most forgiving of their individual groups, that shoves the onus for change off on the other? The black yardstick, after all, leaves black people no obligation other than to demand justice and equality from white people. The white yardstick requires of white people only that they exhort black people to become more self-reliant and take more responsibility for their own problems. More HERE

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