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WELCOME TO PRE-POSTRACIAL AMERICA

50 years later, little progress

July 24, 2009

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THE RECENT indignities suffered by professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. bear woeful testament to how far we are from a post-racial America. Fifty years ago, as a member of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, I investigated and adjudicated cases of police harassment of black residents of formerly all-white residential areas. How naive I must have been then to have believed that a half century later such incidents would be unthinkable.

My wife and I, like so many blacks living in the white suburbs, often sardonically ponder what would happen to us if we were accidentally locked out of our home and someone who did not know us saw me trying to climb through a window.

How many of us are still stopped in our own neighborhoods for the crime of driving while black? I have heard tales told by those who, while mowing their own lawns, have been asked by a passerby how much they charge for such a service. No matter how much a black man achieves, he is still seen as a servant or potential criminal by white strangers, whether on the street hailing a cab or, like Gates, in the sanctity of his home.

Walter C. Carrington
Newton

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