Post Racial America? Not Yet.

Not only can you be arrested for driving while black, but add opening the door to your own house while black to the list of punishable offenses. At least that seems to be the charge in Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s case. The renown African American scholar (he’s responsible for the PBS series African American Lives) and professor at Harvard was arrested yesterday trying to open the door to his Cambridge home. If I wrote a scene like that in a novel, no editor would let it stand – they’d think it was too unbelievable.
Boston’s reputation for being black-phobic is precisely why I decided not to go to any of the colleges in the area I was admitted to. Boston University and Emerson were high on my list of favorites and both schools were welcoming but when I walked around the town, I felt uncomfortable. So, I opted for a New York city school instead. And that’s where I first heard about Gates. A book he’d edited, The Classic Slave Narratives, was required reading for one of my classes. I was at once excited and dismayed by all this stories by black writers that I’d never heard of. As an adult, I was reintroduced to him by his work with PBS (along with African American Lives he did Wonders of the African World and which inspired me even more to keep tracing my ancestry) and by a book he edited, The Bondwoman’s Narrative. Written by Hannah Crafts, it is the only known novel by a female African American slave and quite possibly the first written by a black woman anywhere according to the book jacket. I loved the story, that he found it and brought it to light. And personally I was bolstered by the places where it collided with my own personal history. To tell you how would ruin the ending of the book for you. You’ll just have to read it, then we’ll talk.
Meanwhile, for all those people who keep throwing around this phrase post racial society (which I don’t even understand) and believe that now that we have a biracial president, race no longer matters, that we’ve all been struck color blind, think again.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Henry Louise Gates

One response to “Post Racial America? Not Yet.

  1. Deb

    Dionne,

    Thanks for the powerful blog post. I love what you have done here and will be a regular reader!!

    xo deb

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s