The ‘Color-line’ Problem Declared by Du Bois Still America’s Major Flaw in 2010

by December 29, 2009

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – It was in 1903, the birth of the 20th Century, when W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in his book, “The Souls of Black Folk” the statement that has become prophetic: “…for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.”

In that treatise, he set forth to illustrate for the reader “the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century.”

Despite the fact that 107 years later, America enters a new decade this week facing at least three more years of the first Administration of an African-American president, one of the nation’s premier organizations for Black progress has declared essentially the same reality about race in 2010:

“By electing an African American to be President, some politicians, judges, and media pundits have asserted that America has now officially overcome racism and that the work of the Civil Rights Movement is completed,” begins a report released recently by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Then it declares: “Notwithstanding, the election of President Obama, the severe challenges facing African Americans remains daunting. Racial minorities in the United States continue to suffer from deplorable public schools, chronic unemployment, substandard housing and healthcare, intense residential segregation, and striking rates of over-incarceration. Clearly, discrimination has not been eliminated, as some contend; rather, it remains an integral component of complex and enduring social and political systems that promote racial inequality.”

The strikingly frank report debunks the myth of the so-called “post racial” era outlining how “Nationally, 95 percent of Blacks voted for President Obama, but only 43 percent of Whites Voted for him. Whites were the only racial group that did not cast a majority of their votes for President Obama.”

It stresses further, “Only 10, 11, and 14 percent of White voters in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, respectively (three battleground states for desegregation and voting rights in the 1960s) pulled the lever for President Obama.”

The NAACP-LDF report is titled “Post-Racial” America? Not Yet: Why the Fight For Voting Rights Continues After the Election of President Barack Obama”.

A new decade ushers in a new census headcount of Americans, which means battles in communities and states around the nation over redistricting of political lines – according to racial proportions – as a part of the continuing mandates of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“With voting as its focus, this report confronts the growing myth that President Obama’s election ushered America into a ‘post-racial’ era by examining two recent developments in the area of race and politics.”

It examines and concludes that the Preclearance Clause of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires review of any voting changes in nine states is still totally necessary. It also “demonstrates how President Obama’s victory provides evidence of great progress, while also illustrating the ongoing salience of race in American democracy.”

While the report mostly argues that “ongoing voting discrimination clearly demonstrates the continuing need for meaningful voting rights protections,” it also opens the door for a total overview of race issues in America and how they have either not been impacted or impacted little by the Obama election.

In addition to what was listed in the NAACP-LDF report, violent crime is still pervasive in Black neighborhoods, largely stemming from socio-economic strife that is racially disparate; death rates due to diseases, including cancer, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases – even the new H1N1 virus – are largely because of racially disparate circumstances; the impact of natural disasters, according to a recent report, falls more heavily on Blacks and other racial minorities; plus there are all of the atrocities that came with the economic crisis – including the 15 percent unemployment rate, which is nearly twice that of White America.

In mid-January, Americans of all races will reflect on the first year of the Obama Administration and will predict his election and inauguration to likely be the single most politically significant event of the 21st Century.

But, the NAACP-LDF report concludes, “Indeed, no single event could both remedy the vestiges of four centuries of unrelenting racial discrimination in the United States and render unnecessary the critical civil rights laws that have been in place for only four decades of that scarred history…The proposition that President Obama’s victory is evidence of a ‘post-racial’ society with no vestiges of racial inequality is a dangerous one that both demands repudiation and highlights the continuing need for vigilant civil rights advocacy.”

It continues, “In the dawn of a new era, the challenge lies in reconciling two truths embodied by President Obama’s election: in the context of race relations in America, a great deal has changed; but to achieve full equality, a great deal of work still lies ahead.”

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