In Search of Post-Racial America By Tim Wise

Tim Wise’s satirical riff on a “post racial America”

I have to admit, I was disappointed. After all, to hear lots of folks tell it we are now living in “post-racial America,” all because Barack Obama is to become the nation’s 44th president in a couple of months. So, imagine my surprise when I contacted the labor department, in search of evidence to sustain the post-racial America thesis, only to discover that blacks, Latinos, and indigenous folks are still three times as likely as whites to be poor and twice as likely to be unemployed, and that black men with college degrees were still earning 30% less than their white counterparts–exactly the same as was the case on November 3rd! When they told me that black men with high school diplomas were still more likely to be out of work than white male dropouts, well, I damn near fell out of my seat.

And imagine my shock when, upon contacting the Border Patrol, in an attempt to determine when they would be re-deploying large segments of their force to the Canadian border (since, in a post-racial America, we wouldn’t want to concentrate all our anti-immigrant efforts on brown-skinned folks), my query was met with a laugh, and an assurance that no such redeployment would be taking place.

And imagine how stunned I was upon getting off the phone with a staffer at the Commerce Department, who informed me that, just as was the case prior to November 4, businesses owned by white men were still receiving about 91% of all government contracts. I had argued with him, insisting that surely huge chunks of that money had been redistributed to black and brown-owned firms now that Obama was president-elect, but they stuck to their story. Nope, they promised. Nothing had changed,

Still convinced we were living in a post-racial America (after all, why would they say it on the TV if it weren’t the case?), I hopped in my car and headed out to the suburbs, confident that I would find evidence of our post-raciality in such places as these.

First, I stopped off at the nearest Home Depot, figuring that I would encounter a veritable flood of dark-skinned citizenry, newly relocated to these previously white spaces, and intent on gathering the materials needed for their latest home improvement project. But nope, as far as the eye could see it was white folks with the lumber, and the paint swatches, and the energy-efficient halogen lighting, and the shiny gas grills.

Undaunted, I drove to a brand new subdivision, got out of my car, walked over to one of the just-finished homes, and began scraping little bits of paint from the Hardie-Board siding.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” came the angry contractor’s voice from behind me.

Startled, but confident in my mission, I explained myself happily. “Just getting a few paint flecks from the house here,” I offered. “No big deal, you won’t even miss them.”

“What for?” he asked.

“Well, I’m gathering evidence to prove that we’re living in a post-racial America. If it’s true–and I’m sure it is, I mean, look at all the Obama stickers in the neighborhood–then I expect to find really large levels of lead in this paint, just like in urban neighborhoods where most of the residents are poor folks of color!”

“Hey now, whoa, there is no lead in this paint, I assure you,” he spat back, insulted at my insinuation. “In fact,” he continued, “this is hypo-allergenic, non-toxic, recycled, tofu-based paint with absolutely no volatile organic compounds.”

“No VOCs?” I replied. “Ok, but then, if you’re not using any toxic materials for this housing, what are you putting in the hazardous waste incinerator?”

“What hazardous waste incinerator?” he asked, with a screwed-up look on his face.

“Hah,” I answered. “That was almost convincing how you said that. Like you don’t know! Good one.”

The contractor turned around and walked off, acting confused. But I knew there had to be an incinerator around there somewhere. I mean, this is post-racial America! In racial America, pretty much all the waste sites–dumps and incinerators–were in communities of color, and the typical host neighborhood for such sites had twice as many people of color as the typical neighborhood without one. But now, with Obama runnin’ things, I just knew they had started putting some of these things out here where the white and more affluent folks lived.

Maybe it’s over in the strip mall, behind the Applebees, I thought to myself, and headed out to uncover the truth.

On my way there, I decided to further test out the post-racial America theory by driving through the bucolic neighborhood real slow-like, bumpin’ some L’il Wayne from the speakers, figuring that in a post-racial America, the local cops would want to pull me over, ask me what I was doin’ out there, maybe search my trunk and throw me across the hood of the car just for fun. Ya know, the way they used to do black men. But strangely, nothing happened. Pure coincidence, I thought to myself. I’m sure that if I had some spinnin’ rims, they’d have stopped me. I mean, damn, this is post-racial America.

About half-way to the Applebees, (aka the incinerator), my car ran out of gas. I had been so excited about unearthing the proof of our new racial nirvana, that I’d forgotten to pay attention to how low the fuel gauge was before I left the city. Upset, but undeterred, I decided to walk over to the busiest intersection and see if I could wave down a taxi. I knew it might be tough, both because there aren’t that many taxis in the ‘burbs, and, let’s face it, in post-racial America, it might prove tough getting a cab when you’re a white guy, but honestly, what choice did I have?

In what I’m sure was just a spot of really good luck, the first cab pulled over.

“To the incinerator please,” I asked.

“The what?” he replied.

“The incinera-” I started to explain, but then I realized that the driver appeared to be a fairly recent immigrant, who spoke somewhat halting English, and maybe wasn’t up on our waste disposal habits here in the states.

“Applebees would be fine, thank you.” I finished.

As we drove I noticed that he had a small Somali flag on his dashboard. Seeing a great opportunity to discuss the whole post-racial thing with a person of color–and a newly-arrived one at that–I took advantage of the opening.

“So, you’re originally from Somalia, huh?” I asked.

“Yes I am,” he replied. “I just came to America five months ago.”

“Wow, great timing!” I shot back.

“What do you mean?” he asked, appearing stumped.

“Well,” I replied, “I mean, you only had to live in racial America for like, half a year–not even–and now, bam, it’s like, we’re all post-racial and stuff. Pretty cool.”

The look on his face suggested he hadn’t gotten the news about our newfound racial ecumenism.

“Oh snap!” I said (because see, in post-racial America, white guys can say things like oh snap and it’s all good), “You hadn’t heard? Oh yeah, hundreds of years of straight-up oppression? Done! Even-Steven! Man, you picked a great time to come. Oh, and are you Muslim?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied, seemingly worried about where I was going with all this.

“That rocks!” I noted. “So, did your flowers get delivered yet?”

“Flowers? What are you talking about?” he asked.

“Oh yeah, see, in the new America, we’ve also moved past that whole religious bigotry thing, and the whole racialization of Muslims thing. Yep, so now, instead of being accused of terrorism, y’all are gonna get a dozen roses each week, and two dozen during Ramadan.”

“Get out of my cab, you’re a crazy man!” the driver shouted.

I felt bad that I’d upset him, but I don’t blame him for thinking I was crazy. He’d probably never heard anyone say “y’all” before.

I walked the rest of the way to the Applebees, and never did find that pesky incinerator. But my time in the burbs wasn’t totally wasted. There was still one more way to prove we were living in a post-racial society, and I intended to take advantage of it.

So I walked into Applebees, and immediately began filling out a job application. See, in the pre-November 4th America, job applicants with white-sounding names were 50% more likely to get called back for an interview than those with black-sounding names, according to a huge study by economists at MIT and the University of Chicago. But that was ancient history now: so pre-Obama. A newfound confidence washed over me as I put the finishing touches on my app. Yessir, Jamal Washington is ready and willing to be the best damned waiter in Applebees entire history!

After getting gas for my car I headed home to check the answering machine, certain that the restaurant’s shift manager would already have called, excited about the chance to hire anyone named Jamal. But there were no messages.

Just then I heard a knock at the door. It was the mail carrier, who informed me that an envelope had fallen out on his route, and since it was addressed to me, he wanted to make sure I got it. It was a little beaten up, but the content was clear. It was a solicitation from a local mortgage lender, encouraging me to take out a sub-prime equity loan.

“Honey, come quick!” I shouted to my wife.

“What is it dear?” she asked in reply.

“See,” I shot back confidently. “I told you we were living in a post-racial America. They’re even pushing predatory loans to white folks now!”

Though my wife is not convinced, I for one am sleeping better at night.

12 Responses to “In Search of Post-Racial America By Tim Wise”

  1. KevDog says:

    ““So, you’re originally from Somalia, huh?” I asked.

    “Yes I am,” he replied. “I just came to America five months ago.”

    “Wow, great timing!” I shot back.

    “What do you mean?” he asked, appearing stumped.

    “Well,” I replied, “I mean, you only had to live in racial America for like, half a year–not even–and now, bam, it’s like, we’re all post-racial and stuff. Pretty cool.”

    LOL. Good stuff. We live in a multi-faceted society and of of it’s most annoying traits is the tendency to attemt to transform soundbite into reality.

    Post-racial? Ridiculoous

    But the same as it was before? Equally ridiculously.

    Obama HAS changed everything.

  2. Miranda says:

    Of all of the appointments (if confirmed) and positions filled…Valerie Jarret as a chief advisor, Eric Holder as AG; Susan Rice, UN Ambassador; Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Advisor….I must say, Desiree Rogers as White House Social Secretary is the one that makes me smile. A sistah as the White House Social Secretary…the hoity toity Social Secretary… that’s change a girl like me can really believe in….I love that!

  3. KevDog says:

    I’m no Washington insider so most of the names to me don’t mean much. But the choice of Hilliary as SOS doesn’t make much sense to me except as some sort of brokered-pre-election deal. But why she’d want that post is a mystery to me.

  4. Mizzo says:

    Yes Miranda, the Desiree Rogers pick was big. What a role model she will be.

    As far as Hillary…

    It was her ball, so she took it and went home.

  5. HarveyDent says:

    Graveyard laughter for gallows humor.

    Good one, Mr. Wise.

  6. Eric Daniels says:

    Well racism doesn’t exist anymore and anyone can make it and be President because Obama did it, so no more excuses Negroes. Will I be able to cash my 1 million dollar reparations and weekly check that Conservatives said I would get if Obama got elected because I want to be on MTV Cribs and have …

    1. My 5 expensive cars with the Bentley Spider in front
    2. Video Game room where all my boys are looking thug
    3. Stripper Pole with Porn Stars dancing (tax free)
    4. Big Pool with waterfall and Jacuzzi with a leftover condom
    5. Bathroom with a Big screen t.v. while I take a dump
    6. Red Bull , Dr. Pepper and Flavored Water Machines
    7. Big Closet with shoes&hats I don’t need
    8. Bedroom where nothing happens
    9. A recording studio where nothing happens
    10. An elevator because I am too lazy to walk the stairs.

    Then I know I will be living in a post- racial America because I will be one Broke-ass brotha on 1 million dollars.

  7. origin says:

    HAHA good one Tim Wise………..thats my dude there.

    Brotha Eric you didn’t get your check………..I got mine.

    Sh&^ I am spending it all so I can do my part to bring back the economy. Gonna buy a whole bunch of stuff I don’t need.

    Post-racial america LOL!!!!

    I guess the white managers at my job who only have highschool diplomas who manage all these minority engineers with Masters and PHDs will have to give up their job to them.


  8. Temple3 says:


    The answer to why Hillary Clinton has even a passing interest in the post of Secretary of State is to be found here:

    It’s a lengthy piece, but you can search the site and read it in six different segments. We’ve been told that Bill Clinton was vetted before her appointment is finalized. I wonder if they found what I found.


  9. Temple3 says:

    Desiree Rogers is a very attractive woman. I think it will be interesting for people inclined to assume things based on her looks. She’s a super-intelligent person with a very diverse business and non-profit/charity background. Now that I see the type of quality personnel assigned to run the social calendar, it’s going to be very interesting.

    Of course, that changes nothing for me with respect to the hiring of devils like Tim Geithner and Hillary Clinton and Larry Summers. I’ve got a nice long flight of stairs for each of them.

    But, Miranda, I am with you on the DR pick. Nicely done.

  10. Mizzo says:

    Yeah, I’m really confused about those picks–Rogers withstanding. The Clinton pick depresses me so…especially with all the Bobby Kennedy references throughout her campaign.

  11. Temple3 says:

    Holder and Rice used to work for Clinton (Bubba that is). Rice’s daddy was a Fed. Reserve leader (governor (presidential appointee – most likely) or branch pres. – can’t recall). Clinton (Hillary) still works for Bubba (believe it or not). Geithner and Summers fit perfectly from a finance standpoint.

  12. Miranda says:

    T3, if you notice (and I KNOW you have) the “advice”, the “criticisms” – what have you – of Michelle Obama…its all very scattered…the feministas are whining about what Michelle must “give up” (gag), you have all of these other “first ladies” giving unsolicited advice and “warnings” (puke)…..I’ve finally figured out why I am so completely irritated with it all. They really don’t think black women can be “LADIES”….that’s it. I mean in the most feminine, graceful, elegant, soft – even dainty – sense of the word. A LADY….and First Lady at that.

    Stereotypes notwithstanding (the ghetto fabulous, finger snapping, neck rolling, loud sistah)….even those images of black women in powerful positions, successful and smart…we’re “tough”…”strong”….damn near asexual…..but we’re not “ladies”…I hate to generalize, but its freaking these white women OUT. Michelle is a lady…and now she’s the First Lady – so they’re stuck on stupid in overanalyzing her every facial expression….and now to top it all off, Desiree Rogers is named the White House Social Secretary….the gatekeeper of the social calendar and head event planner. The “Miss Manners” of the White House. I want little black girls to see “Ladies”…I want them to SEE black women who are not afraid of classic femininity – hell, we were the ones who created it in the first damn place and the image got stolen….I want it back.