What struck me is just the very different take they had. Not on whether discrimination existed. They all agree that life is different for an African-American than it is for a white American. But what is different is the significance of that discrimination in terms of their life possibilities. The younger folks are just much more likely to believe that they can personally overcome it because there are ways to get around it that their parents didn’t have, and that their grandparents could not even imagine.
And Cose said this when asked about the growing class divisions among African Americans.
Even the most privileged folk are aware that they are subject to being treated quite differently on the basis of race. If there's anything close to a universal experience among African-Americans, it's being treated with suspicion in a store, or being approached by a cop for no good reason — they all shared this. I don't think that there is going to be a loss of a coherent black identity, but I do think it's gotten a lot more complicated, because people perceive their options in wildly different ways than they did before.
If you’ve read anything I’ve written on race — from expressions of anger to the need to talk more openly about race — you’ll know that I agree with Cose’s observation 100 percent.
“I think we will for generations, and maybe forever, be dealing with the impact of racism,” Cose said at the end of the Q&A. “But racism as a phenomenon itself is fading.” Hmmm. I’m not sure about that. He said that he believed we would get to the point where we would talk about “the good old days” of racism in the way folks talk about the Confederacy. But even Cose appeared to pull back just a little bit from that super-optimistic view in the next breath. “I don't think we’ll reach a point where we can talk about it and deal with it when it’s still a problem.” That more people know what the problem mean is and wholeheartedly try to change the faster that day will come. And it will.