The Trump-inspired quasi-ascendancy of white supremacist Twitter trolls notwithstanding, it’s nevertheless the case that America is, by-and-large, increasingly becoming a better country when it comes to race. One is dutifully obliged at this point to note that, yes, racism still exists—but no intelligent person denies this, and in any event nobody (aside from your average college student, I guess) would judge the American socio-political landscape solely on whether or not somebody, somewhere is racist.
That would be silly and counterproductive.
As good as things are, there are still plenty of people who think things are very, very bad. A lot of those folks—like Tim Wise, say, or Ta-Nehisi Coates—collect paychecks that depend upon people thinking things are very, very bad.
So you understand why they want to perpetuate the idea that America is still basically like Alabama in the early 1950s. In the Chicago Tribune, for one, Jim Grimsley claims that “white Americans” are “nearly as blind to their racism as ever before.”
According to Grimsley, “progress on racial issues has hardly moved forward at all:”
Surrounded by a world that makes it clear that white people are only a minority part of the picture, we nevertheless go on making movies in which nearly everybody is white; we go on nominating white people to win all the best prizes — this year’s Oscar nominations offer a glaring case in point — and we continue to write textbooks and develop educational curricula that surround white heroes with halos that throw the achievements of all other people into ghostly relief.
Let us stipulate, for the sake of argument, that these are in fact issues that are motivated by racism. There are two things to note here.
The first is that, for a country with as sordid a history of racism as the United States, these problems actually represent a stunning improvement from those of even a generation ago. At the beginning of Generation X, blacks in the South faced a reduced but still very real danger of being lynched (the federal government might have passed anti-lynching legislation years prior to this but for the opposition of Democrats in the Senate).
To honestly believe Grimsley’s assertion that “progress on racial issues” has been at a virtual standstill, we’d have to believe that a down-the-line white person Oscar ticket is basically as bad as being lynched;
that unfair representations in textbooks are as bad as being hanged from a tree. Let that sink in for a minute.
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