This essay by W. Ralph Eubanks is a good introduction to the challenges of race’s enduring power in America:
Race is an absurdity, having long ago been discredited as a valid biological category and, in the Brown decision, a defensible legal one. Yet as a means of defining and separating people, it retains its power. That power can’t be undone simply by pretending it doesn’t exist, or even by telling African Americans that they should desist from “race-holding” as an excuse or crutch. How do we ignore the power of racialist thinking when we see it exploited by cynical politicians who ignore facts and try to convince white voters—often in coded ways—that their economic woes are largely attributable to blacks and other minorities who are getting more than their share in a zero-sum struggle for economic advancement and opportunities? “We make up selves from a tool kit of options made available by our culture and society,” writes the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah. “We do make choices, but we do not determine the options among which we choose.”4 For my part, I can’t help seeing the ways race played, and continues to play, a role in my life. Yet at the same time, I recognize how a racial identity can be limiting and burdensome, particularly when it is based on, and helps to perpetuate, hoary myths and outright lies.
Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org