Rhetoric of Division in a ‘Post-Racial’ America

“There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

‒ Senator Barack Obama, 2004

 

Far from the vision of hope and unity, President Obama has reinforced racial divisions. In an interview published with The New Yorker this week he insisted that colleges and universities should be able to offer racial preferences in college admissions ‒ treating people differently based on skin color ‒ as long as it is done in a “careful way.”

 

Lofty campaign rhetoric aside, the President advocates drawing lines between black applicants, white applicants, Latino applicants, and Asian applicants. University administrators in turn get to decide which groups receive preferential treatment and which ones get discrimination.

 

Today, people are born with all kinds of advantages and disadvantages, both perceived and real. This fact was acknowledged by then-Senator Obama in 2007 when ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked him if his daughters should receive special treatment when applying to college because of their race.

 

Obama admitted that his two daughters “should probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty advantaged”‒ a subtle acknowledgement of the absurdity of using race to assess a person’s need. While his daughters may share the same skin color as a child in inner-city Chicago, their backgrounds are worlds apart.

 

In an increasingly pluralistic society, race usually does not ‒ and certainly should not ‒ determine what obstacles individuals have had to overcome or advantages they receive. The President campaigned on united one America, but is governing to divide.

 

- Jennifer Gratz