Trigger Warning: racism, colorblind racism
The United States is not a “post-racial” country, and the world in general hasn’t gotten past centuries of anti-Blackness. How can I be sure of that? Because between this past Monday, the 29th annual observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States, and the end of February, which is widely held as the unofficial Black History Month, there will be more racist nonsense than cannot possibly be flicked away.
In the past week alone, we’ve seen the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals grandstand about animal rights while quoting King, without a word about race or racism, which bitterly misses the point of the all to modern history of comparing Black people to animals. We’ve seen Sarah Palin reference King’s famous line about “content of [one’s] character” while admonishing the United States’ first Black president for “playing the race card”. Likewise, as per usual, there were the smattering of almost exclusively White towns and cities in the United States which insist on not celebrating the federal holiday, for all sorts of… creative reasons.
In short, this is the season of racism in the US. Hell, we even had some international flavor this year, when the Russian magazine Büro set the Internet on fire with an interview with their editor-in-chief that featured a photo of her in a chair made to look like a nearly nude Black woman in a dehumanizing pose. The magazine has since cropped the photo and changed it to a grayscale, tactics which should be familiar to us all. Nonetheless, the original image went live on Monday, probably without any of the editors of the magazine realizing that publishing that image on that day only compounded its issues. Russian fashion errors not withstanding, this really is in the United States’ racist season, with all the Macklemore-esque appropriation of Martin Luther King, Jr. and cavalcade of racist caricatures of Halloween spread out over a month and a half.
The world we live in is, in many ways, still the one King sought to address. Within the United States, voting rights for people of color (and particularly low-income Black people) have slid back into jeopardy and economic inequality has steadily worsened, exacerbated in Black communities by persistent anti-Black wage discrimination. Internationally, racial disparities in wealth have only just begun to reduce, with Black people still consistently among the most impoverished.
Racism has not been solved, so let’s not pretend that we can discuss it as a settled matter.