PRE-POST-RACIAL AMERICA: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines. By Sandhya Rani Jha. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2015. 154 pages.
When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008 many Americans proclaimed that we had moved as a country into a post-racial era. They declared that we had finally crossed the river into a new land where Martin Luther King's vision of a day when people would be judged not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. For many White Americans, this election meant that we no longer had to deal with issues of race. One more social issue had been crossed off the list. If you've been watching the news over the past six years you may have discerned that we may not have moved as far into this new land as many thought. While we’re not in the same place regarding race as we were in 1963—most of the legal barriers in place then have been overturned—our society remains largely segregated and racial tensions remain strong. This is especially in the church.
When I write on and reflect on issues of race and ethnicity, I must acknowledge my own social location. I am white, middle-class, male, and highly educated. I benefit from certain privileges that others who don’t share my social location can’t take for granted. At the same time, it is important that I become sensitized about the realities that others do confront every day of their lives. While some proclaim that they are “color-blind,” that they don’t pay attention to the color of someone else’s skin, such is not the case. Besides, color-blindness isn’t seen as a normal/normative condition. It is a malady that some suffer from. As for being a “melting pot,” well isn’t it better to use an analogy that celebrates the gifts of our differences. One of the blessings of living in the United States is our diversity. Of course, until recently diversity was tolerated by the majority because it was the province of a small minority. But that is no longer the case. We’re moving quickly to a time when European Americans no longer represent an absolute majority. That can be frightening for some.