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Fractured

Race Relations in «Post-Racial» American Life

Helen Fox

«What do you think is meant by the term ‘post-racial’ and how far do you think we’ve come, as a country, toward achieving it?» Helen Fox, a white teacher and scholar, asked variations of this question to 87 high school and college students, educators, administrators, community organizers, international visitors, and tribal leaders across the country. Their stories reveal how far we are from a «post-racial» ideal – even in the most liberal of communities. Despite her long experience as an anti-racist educator, Fox was surprised to learn how deeply the lives of people of color continue to be shaped by race, and how hard they have to work to ignore or overcome assumptions, remarks, exclusion, and at times, blatant hostility from whites. The kinds of racism they experience depend on their gender, their religion, their geographical location, their skin tone, their forms of speech and expression, their socioeconomic class, their aspirations, their determination to be outspoken or stoic, the kinds and amount of contact they choose to have (or can’t escape having) with whites, and of course, their ascribed race. Despite our nation’s «post-racial» climate, racialized assumptions, beliefs, and denials affect everything, from the reach of the national media down to the smallest community: the street where one lives, the friends one attempts to make, the social club, the study group, the classroom. As an art educator remarked, «The ‘post-racial’ reminds me of the post-modern – the fracturing of things. It’s not like our society has finally come together – unless we’ve come together as a fractured society and we’re feeling the prickliness of the broken shards.»

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