In Not Even Past, Thomas Sugrue offers insight on race relations in President Barack Obama’s America, and analyzes Obama’s strategies for dealing with it as well as his perceptions on progress and understanding of race as a whole. Not Even Past is an illustration that though powerful strides and accomplishments toward racial equality have been made, we as a country are “not even past” race—a factor still recognized in economics, culture, politics, and virtually every aspect of American life. However, Obama, who could be classified as an order theorist, seems a bit more optimistic and pleased with the overall status of race relations as depicted in his statement, “They took us 90% of the way there. We still got that 10% in order to cross over to the other side” (Sugrue 14). Before reading this statement, I felt that Obama had some conflict in him (conflict theorists feel that despite great accomplishments, society has failed at addressing fundamental issues and that there is more work to be done). I still feel that he has a bit of conflict in him based on his notion that we still have 10% more work to do. But as Professor McKinney stated in class, you can’t really be convincing as a President if you are a conflict theorist who believes that America’s system is fundamentally flawed and severely problematic (expressing pessimism and a lack of hope).
Despite this alleged 10% of progress remaining, Sugrue discusses race relations that, in my opinion, reflect that this percentage is actually higher. According to William Julius Wilson and University of Chicago sociologist Richard Taub, “neighborhoods in urban America, especially in large metropolitan areas like Chicago, are likely to remain divided, racially and culturally” (Sugrue 97). This is a dynamic statement that emphasizes just how much America is not past the issue of race. In addition, the statement offers no hint at hope for this depressing projection. What I found most alarming is the segregation among minority groups (blacks, Latinos, and Asians) in the nation’s largest and most ethnically diverse metropolitan areas. Chicago has the highest rate of black-Hispanic racial hostility in the United States, and Los Angeles and New York have experienced the same issue. In Chicago, for example, a group of Hispanic and white parents formed an alliance to “prevent the busing of their children from the neighborhood’s overcrowded schools to nearby, mostly black schools” (Sugrue 98). Reasoning behind these actions stems from Asian and Latin American immigrants’ perception of blacks as prone to violence. Mexicans, particularly, regarded blacks as competitors for jobs and opportunities.
This information was interesting to me because I’ve always witnessed minorities stick together and build collectively. But in places such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, there is an obvious disconnect, and non-black minorities see themselves as more white and thus distance themselves from blacks. What do you feel gives these other minorities this “pedestal” on which to stand? What has so negatively occurred in the black community to make some Asians and Latinos resent blacks so passionately? Is it how they have acted and been portrayed in the media for so long that has other minorities looking down upon them? Has this dislike always been present? Or is this pattern merely regional, occurring in cities where ignorance and racism is more prevalent?