Not Post-Racial Yet Or Are We?

Last night I had a great conversation with my mother-in-law (wow, how many times have you ever heard that in your life?) and we talked about some of the dynamics of racism, poverty, and power. Her assumptions as an Indian immigrant were that poor, uneducated people were simply plagued by a mentality where they simply settled for what they had, didn’t value education, and didn’t want to save money, to push themselves. She reminded me that her husband came to this country with only $6 in his pocket, but my wife and I reminded her that he was in a PhD program. It’s slightly easier to starve today if you know have the intellectual assets and opportunities for a payoff tomorrow.

And while something of a “mentality” issue might be there, we had to get the conversation to a point that despite the laws that made us equal, the playing field was not. Furthermore, the people in power haven’t changed much, so poor neighborhoods stay poor, the worse schools stay the worse schools, and the low-paying jobs don’t help people gain useful job skills nor does it allow them to save or invest. In essence, while the system pats itself for being fair and just, it is clear that some people do not have a fair shake or that it is much, much, much harder for certain people based on race and class.

But a huge contingency of people think that these are issues in the past and that the cream of any crop – white, black, or other – are rising to the top. And when the real color is green (as in money), that may well appear to be the case, but categorically speaking, when we assume individualism as the lens for this discussion, we fail to understand how the system as a whole has inequalities in it. To prove the point, my in-laws, while financially secure, do suspect that they never got credit for the amount of work they did, especially when my father-in-law has over two dozen patents to his name. He was passed up for promotions and never got his due. Maybe it was “a mentality” or maybe it was a race thing. It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? We can always rationalize it when there are a few exceptions to the rule, but it really begs the question of whether or not we are post racial.

A great site for all things racial is Racialicious, where I found this post asking the question “How Post Racial Are We?” And it’s clear that while we would like to think that racism is a thing of the past or at least a settled matter, it is clear that it is not. And so the writer, Latoya Peterson finds answers from our society.

Apparently, so post-racial that the Feds just interrupted an assassination plot that would have eventually targeted Barack Obama.

Two white supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, federal authorities said Monday.

In all, the two men whom officials describe as neo-Nazi skinheads planned to kill 88 people — 14 by beheading, according to documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The spree, which initially targeted an unidentified predominantly African-American school, was to end with the two men driving toward Obama, “shooting at him from the windows,” the court documents show.

“Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt,” the court complaint states. “Both individuals further stated they knew they would and were willing to die during this attempt.”

This follows the attempted assassination plot back in August at the Democratic National Convention.

So post-racial that vandals tore down a memorial sign to Emmitt Till:

A sign marking the site where Emmett Till’s battered body was pulled from a river in 1955 has been ripped down by vandals, authorities said.

The sign posted on a road near the Tallahatchie River was among eight that were erected after the county adopted a resolution last year apologizing to Till’s family because an all-white jury acquitted two white men of murdering Till for whistling at a white woman. […]

“We’re not going to tolerate them tearing down anything that’s marking Emmett Till’s murder,” Board of Supervisors President Jerome G. Little said Monday. “I want to send a message: Every time they take it down, we’re going to put it back up.” […]

This isn’t the first time vandals have targeted Till memorials. Last year, a roadside marker on U.S. 49 in Greenwood in Leflore County was stolen. It was replaced with another sign. And, another sign in Tallahatchie County was damaged earlier this year, commission members said.

So post racial, that we seem to be repeating history:

Jacquline McClelland poses with a photo of her son Brandon McClelland, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, in Paris, Texas. Brandon, a black man, was on a late-night beer run across state lines to Oklahoma with two white friends last month and ended up dead on a rural Texas road. Authorities say he was run over by a pickup and then dragged as far as 70 feet beneath the truck. Two white men have been charged with murder in the case.

So what do you think?

Race: Much Ado About Nothing? or Let’s move on?

The Gig is Up

One of the idols in Asian American homes is the god of Ivy-league institution. It doesn’t take long after a child is born for the word, Harvard or Princeton, to get mentioned. And depending on how hard your parents work you, it becomes ingrained in you pretty early on that getting into a top school is what will set you up for life, ie. get your parents off your back, get the girl, get the job, and make that paper. 

And Asian parents are similar in this regard; I didn’t know too much about “white flight” until I grew up, but when looking for a new home in the metropolitan Atlanta area a year ago, my own dad said simply, “Look for where the Koreans go. They’re all in good school districts. That and taxes is all they look at when they move.” A generalization to be sure, but not inaccurate from what I can tell. Even Asian churches have to move to keep up with this migration to the suburbs. And “cutting edge” Korean churches offer SAT classes to reach out to the Korean community (Lesslie Newbigin would roll over in his grave). We are not tied to the land, we are tied to the opportunity, and if those prospects are strong enough to bring us over from the Pacific, you sure as hell ain’t going to stop us from changing a couple of zip codes. 

And this frantic chase to get into the good schools mirrors the frenzy to get into college from the motherland. In Asia, the competition is so stiff and the awareness of the names of universities are so strong, everyone can mentally rank simply on what schools you get into (or not). Heck, we even do this with seminaries (Columbia what? What about Fuller or Princeton? Princeton is always good). But the impression that I get from a lot of people, is that in Asian universities, once you get in, you’re in. It’s like high school is four years of hazing just to get in, and college, you skate. Your “older brothers” take care of you. 

But the game is different in the US, and getting admitted to these Ivy-league schools is admittedly difficult, but getting out is probably harder. There is no skating at that level. So when Korean parents, in particular, work so hard to pull strings, teach kids entrance strategy, develop those specific skills just to get in…they might get in. But then what? 

They fail. And almost half of them drop out (h/t: Metropolitician).

Forty-four percent of Korean students at top American universities give up their studies halfway through. 

This data is contained in Samuel S. Kim’s doctoral dissertation “First and Second Generation Conflict in Education of the Asian American Community” delivered at Columbia University Friday. 

The drop out rate is much higher than 34 percent of American, 25 percent of Chinese and 21 percent of Indian students. 

Read the article and here’s a clip from the first comment – scathing, but sobering. 

Koreans view university degrees as receipts, not as confirmations of academic achievement. Cheap, shallow, materialism drags Korea and the rest of the world down…Koreans are predatory, see the rest of the world as a mass of sub-humans…You participate in the tearing down of your own cultures to sit with these piranhas and drink formaldehyde. You marry women that treat you as slaves, work for slave-drivers, teach little racists to ingratiate themselves with polite society and encourage Korean exceptionalism. Korean obsession with American education is a servile expression of their neurosis.

Wow. absolutely blistering. But is he wrong?

Education was never the goal, its benefits were. And when we confuse the goal with its benefits, we encourage people to cheat. It’s like learning to play the guitar to get a girl, or becoming a doctor for the money– you will never be a musician worth his salt nor a doctor worthy of being called a healer. You do just enough to get by. 

And what does it means that our churches follow these types of communities out to the suburbs? Same thing…we do just enough to get by, but we rarely reflect the transformative and generative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The gig’s up…are we in it for the title? or the real thing?