Passing the Post-Racial Final

It’s nice that Jonah Goldberg, George Will, and many other conservatives are publicly supporting President Obama. It is, really. They’ve apparently just noticed the stuff I’ve seen all along – and agree that it’s reasonable. That Michelle Malkin is apparently spazzing out over even grudging respect is amusing, but irrelevant. I just have one small thing to point out, and correct about the commentary around President Obama.

The race fairy didn’t suddenly make the United States a “post-racial” society yesterday. The schools that serve different populations are separate but unequal. Housing conditions aren’t the same, quality of life conditions aren’t the same… the list goes on and on. The Aryan Nation didn’t suddenly have an attack of reality and shut their doors; the KKK has not lost their membership to the SPLC. We are not in a post-racial age, and Obama is not a post-racial president.

Otherwise, why would anyone care that he’s the first Black president?

What has changed – and what Obama signaled so eloquently in his speech yesterday – is that we are definitely in a postmodern and utilitarian age.

The concept of “race” – like so many other things – can be affected and de-emphasized by a postmodern standpoint. In a postmodern world, it is possible to view Obama as Obama, to view Steve as Steve, to view Michelle as Michelle. A postmodern, utilitarian view realizes that the labels we hang on people are arbitrary and have no meaning of their own.

It’s what is behind the meaning that is important.

A postmodern perspective lets us question those meanings. It lets us examine whether the labels are useful or useless. It gives us the opportunity to view things differently.

But it doesn’t make those things happen on their own.

Yes, Obama and the viewpoints he brings may very well lead us towards a post-racial (or even post-gender, post-orientation, post-whatever) state. It will allow us to question things that exist simply to persist.

We have finally, painfully, been allowed to enroll in the course. But we are just now getting the syllabus.

It’s a little too early to congratulating ourselves on passing the final.