I can remember sitting in a meeting when a senior White church leader turned to me and said “No disrespect, but don’t you think you are a ‘one-trick pony’, in that all you ever write about is racism. What will you write about when racism comes to an end?” I remember sitting there looking incredulous at this naive and disingenuous fool. Cornel West has outlined the ‘Genealogy of race’ where notions of race are not static or monolithic. Sadly, racism has been with us for centuries and in changing form and in embedding itself into systems and structures, they have enabled seemingly 'good people' to collude with and sustain them, often as unwitting gate keepers.So the notion that racism is going anywhere is absolute nonsense.
I was tempted to try and find this individual and ask him what he made of Ferguson, but more critically, the uncaring, unfeeling, blithely ignorant racism of the media in the US and across the world to the callous killing of Michael Brown. A Black man can be unarmed and hold his hands up high to demonstrate the case and yet he can be shot dead, his body riddled with bullets and he is to blame for his own demise?
Closer to home I endured a torrid time for over 18 months trying to find an academic job after been made redundant in 2012. The nadir was being told by a Head of a university department that I was not shortlisted for an academic post because “your publications are not good enough”; this from a man whose department consists of several White members of staff with little or no publications at all. So I asked how did the White people who had never written anything get senior jobs in his department and yet I was not good enough to even get an interview with a wealth of books, articles and essays to my name? He was speechless and refused to answer.
Again, I was reminded of this previous conversation that I was a ‘one trick pony’. What struck me about the previous encounter was the barely veiled accusation that somehow my attempts to critique and challenge racism was either self serving or perhaps more problematic than the existence of racism itself. Looking at the recent media portrayal of Ferguson it is not too difficult to see the classic signs of misdirection. Michael Brown is to be blamed for his own death. The peaceful protesters are to be held to account but not the police department or the District Attorney. The largely Black activists are to be critiqued for their cynicism but not the right wing ideologues on the Fox network?
Racism isn’t going anywhere. It requires activists, scholars and all people committed to equity and justice, to join forces to repel this vicious leviathan that has stalked the lives of millions of peoples across the world and across several centuries. The post-racial vision peddled by some is a dangerous myth that will not be realised by cynically attacking those seeking to name and unmask the toxic and noxious reality that is racism.