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Race No More???

[By Maryemma Graham]
As the
term post racial gains widespread acceptance, I am reminded of George
Schuyler’s Black No More (1931) the
uproariously funny satire about a black man who becomes white through a Black No More process invented by a one
Dr. Junius Crookman.  The book is truly
instructive.  As a cautionary tale, by
showing how absurd, self-serving, and easily exploitable our constructions of
race can be, Schuyler points to the difficulty of quick fixes that easily mask
our ignorance of history and deny racism as our national shame. 

Now that
federal judge A. Wallace Tashimi of the United States Court of Appeals for the
Ninth Circuit has upheld in essence
the Arizona law passed in 2010 prohibiting school districts from offering
courses that provide a much needed racial and ethnic perspective, Schuyler’s
satire has become real. We can expect more legislation that validates ignorance
as a form of entitlement and encourages social and physical violence against
people of color, violence that the media knows well how to exploit.  This is only the most recent of those legal
attacks. Those of us who remember our history will recall those deadly laws of
not-so-long ago—the black codes in the 19th century targeting blacks and the
Alien Land Law of the 20the century targeting Asian Americans are but two
examples.
The need
for knowledge about our racial history is more apparent that ever before. Race
is a loaded term that means much more than what
we see
—it is often what we don’t see, what we don’t know, what we refuse
to learn
, how we refuse to act.  It includes both private and public
discourses. Who can forget South Carolina Senator Joe Wilson’s outrage in 2009,
his uncontrollable urge to call President Obama a liar from the Congress floor,
marking a first for a living President?  
So
whether we are targeting Mexican Americans, as the Arizona law does, or
Black/Ethnic Studies curriculum, as so many white students seem to persist in
doing, these are various acts of racism no matter how much they might appear
otherwise.  The difference between these
acts and those related to, say, ethnic cleansing that we are so quick to
condemn lies not in kind, but in degree. The Arizona law was written by those
who know the value of education and are plagued by their own deeply-rooted
racial fears. That law plays to those fears with legally binding acts of
exclusion, a practice established by our Constitution at its inception, in
order to protect a particular way of life. 
I wonder
if we would find George Schuyler quite so funny today. Perhaps Black No More should become America’s
required reading to help combat the profound ignorance behind the race no more
euphemism.