Saturday, June 29, 2013

Have we become a post-racial society? No

The Mitchell Lecture - 2009

From The SUNY Buffalo Law School's Mitchell Lecture, 2009 -- "Race, Law and Politics in America: Have we become a post-racial society?" -- 2009 Mitchell Lecture -- Payton, president and director-counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, delivered the Law School's signature Mitchell Lecture, speaking to a near-capacity crowd of students, faculty, staff and the public.

Despite the election of the nation's first African-American president, the path to a post-racial society still stretches out ahead, and only vigilance and hard work will get us there, prominent civil rights attorney John A. Payton said in a SUNY Buffalo Law School address. 
John Payton (1946-2012)

Payton, president and director counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, delivered the Law School's signature Mitchell Lecture on Oct.22 in O'Brian Hall, speaking to a near-capacity crowd of students, faculty, staff and the public. He appeared at the invitation of Dean Makau W. Mutua, a personal friend and colleague in human rights advocacy work. Payton acknowledged the historic nature of the presidential election, saying, "There never has been a year even close to this in America. My father did not dream of this last year. For all his dreams, this wasn't one of them. These are remarkable changes, and it says something about our society."

But, he said, "'Are we a post-racial society' is a different question than 'have we made progress?'" The answer, he said, comes by looking at racial fault lines in a handful of quality-of-life measures, including educational attainment, housing quality, employment, the criminal justice system and political participation.

In all of those measures save one, he said, African-American and Hispanic persons still lag behind their white peers – in high dropout rates in inner-city schools; in de facto segregated housing patterns as a result of white flight from the cities; in a foreclosure crisis that has disproportionately affected persons of color; in a prison population that is half minority; in the dearth of hospitals and other health care providers in minority neighborhoods. The only exception, he said, is political participation, as African-Americans voted in record numbers in the 2008 elections, despite a challenge to the landmark Voting Rights Act that Payton's Legal Defense Fund defended in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Are we a post-racial society? The answer is, not yet," he said. "It's a sobering assessment, but it's an unavoidable assessment."

Describing one recent situation that he said reflected institutionalized racial disparity, Payton spoke of the federal government's $11 billion Road Home program intended to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Displaced residents of that city were offered financial help: either the actual cost of repairing their home, or the pre-Katrina value of the home, whichever was lower. White families mostly received the cost of repairs. But because homes in minority neighborhoods were assessed at a low figure, that was what was offered to African-American families. "Either you get enough money to rebuild your home or you don't," Payton said. "Generally speaking, the white homeowners get enough money to rebuild their home, and generally speaking, the black homeowners don't." The Legal Defense Fund sued, and just recently the government announced it is changing this formula.

Payton also pointed with dismay to the "very dark atmosphere" that surrounds the debate over health care reform. "This is hatred out there," he said. "This is not disagreement. We've always had extremists. But the fact that Barack Obama is an African-American has pushed paranoia to another level, so people who have real disputes have now gone completely mad. And they've never had such access to the media that they do today.

"It's really crucial that we figure out ways to marginalize those voices of hatred. The hatred we've seen is hatred that's directed at strangers. It's very hard to have that kind of emotion with someone who is literally your neighbor and who you actually know."

And that, he said, is his major point: "If a racially diverse democracy is to take place, we need to be able to talk to each other as peers. Race is so easily used as a wedge issue. The sense of community doesn't happen by itself. You have to work on it.

"Democracy at its real core requires that all the people be included in 'we the people.' For that inclusive democracy to function, we all have to be able to see each other as peers, as people we can respect. It depends on this sense of being in a shared enterprise together.

"I believe we must become the inclusive democracy described by the Preamble to the Constitution. We must know our past in order to transcend our past. I believe that we must see our diversity as one of our most important strengths, and that we must see each other as peers. So let's get to work." (source: SUNY Buffalo Law School )


  1. Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog!
    We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.

    Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on.
    You have done a wonderful job!

    My web site ... how to pay for assisted living costs

  2. I usually do not comment, but I browsed some responses on this page "Have we become a post-racial society? No".

    I actually do have 2 questions for you if it's okay. Is it just me or does
    it look like a few of the responses look like they
    are coming from brain dead individuals? :-P And, if you are writing at additional places, I'd like to
    follow you. Could you post a list of the complete urls
    of your social community sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook
    page or twitter feed?

    my website: gas heaters (

  3. I really like what you guys are up too. This sor of clever work and coverage!
    Keepp up the wonderful works guys I've included you guys to myy personal blogroll.

    Look at my blog post ... website ()

  4. It can affect both men and women and if it is not treated correctly can cause infertility.
    If you discover any of these signs, you should be performing some thing right.
    Women are precious human being created by god.

    Also visit my website: std tests at home, ,

  5. I muust tank you for the efforts you have put in penning this blog.
    I'm hoping to checfk out the same high-grade blog
    posts from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal
    blog noww ;)

    My weeb site dragon city triche (


    Professional trading signals delivered to your mobile phone daily.

    Follow our signals right now and make up to 270% daily.

  7. Thanks for sharing superb information. Your web-site is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this blog.

    Buy Gold Coins In San Francisco

  8. Sebagian besar saham diperdagangkan di bursa seperti New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) atau NASDAQ. Bursa saham pada dasarnya menyediakan pasar untuk memfasilitasi pembelian dan penjualan saham di kalangan investor. Bursa saham diatur oleh lembaga pemerintah, seperti Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) di Amerika Serikat, yang mengawasi pasar untuk melindungi investor dari penipuan keuangan dan untuk menjaga agar pasar bursa berfungsi dengan lancar. and Apa yang Terjadi dengan Saham GameStop dan Trader Reddit? Ini Dia Ulasan Lengkapnya!



Click here to return to the US Slave Home Page