Commentary: What Gives Rise to Blatantly Racist Incidents?

Two recent anti-Black moments remind us that “post-racial” is a figment of people’s imaginations.

Posted: 02/20/2013 04:38 PM EST

Some people like to say, frankly, that we live in “a post-racial society.” To those of us in the know, however, it’s very obvious that there’s nothing post-racial about modern America.

We can point to two recent incidents as evidence that racism isn’t nonexistent — let alone, subtle — in our nation. A nurse at a Michigan hospital claimed that a man brandishing a swastika tattoo demanded that no Black nurses be allowed to care for his ill baby. The nurse said hospital administrators granted the man’s request, even going so far as to write, “No African-American nurse to take care of baby,” on the baby’s chart. The nurse is now suing the hospital for punitive damages.

In the second case, an Idaho man named Joe Rickey Hundley is accused of telling a white woman to “shut that n----r baby up,” as the woman’s adopted Black son cried on an airplane. As if that weren’t enough, Hundley reportedly reached out and slapped the baby across the face. Hundley has since been charged with assault and fired from his job.

A new book from psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, seeks to remind people that, within all of us, biases exist that we perhaps aren’t even aware of. For instance, Banaji and Greenwald’s series of Implicit Association Tests are famous for making self-professed “liberal” people realize that deep within themselves they still harbor negative feelings about Blacks or women or Arabs.

There may be no Jim Crow laws anymore, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still very real problems when it comes to how our country handles its racial tensions.

FBI crime statistics show that hate crimes were down about 6 percent in 2011, so the nation is improving. But of the more than 6,000 hate crimes reported in 2011, nearly 75 percent were directed at Blacks.

Perhaps some of this anti-Black rage has to do with the fact that white males can see their grasp on absolute power in America slipping, what with a Black president and millions of strong, capable women rising to take their place in society.

It can be worrisome to see changes coming when you’ve grown accustomed to the status quo. An old white drunk man slapping a Black baby is maybe the direct embodiment of that: a bitter relic shouting at a different youngster who very well may grow up and replace him. It’s good to remember as these incidents subside more and more that the roots of hate are generally always fear.

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(Photo: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

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