Is America Too Obsessed With Race?

Sixty years ago, in the sweltering August heat of Washington D.C., the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most iconic speech, and a defining moment of the civil rights movement. "I have a dream,” he said before a crowd of some 250,000 people, pressed up to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." It is a sentence that has been repeated countless times in classrooms and lecture halls. And yet recently, King's words are more actively being parsed and debated about the appropriate place of race in America. With disparities in wealth, education, employment, housing, mobility, health, and rates of incarceration, some argue that King – who spoke during a period of more open bigotry – would not have wanted a “color-blind” society within these lingering racial inequalities. A raised consciousness plays an important role, they say, in recognizing and correcting such imbalances. Others argue that America has become overly concerned with race, to a level of obsession, pointing to things like critical race theory and diversity, equity, inclusion programs, which they fear could ultimately prove detrimental to the nation’s more egalitarian aspirations. Further, they argue, notions of race are often too broad to be useful, while the fixation on it divides those who might otherwise find common ground. In this context, we debate the following question: Is America Too Obsessed With Race? Arguing “YES” is Kmele Foster, co-host of The Fifth Column podcast and the co-founder and executive producer of the media company Freethink. Foster was one of the signatories of the Harper's Letter on justice and open debate, alongside more than 150 people, including Salman Rushdie, J.K. Rowling, and Noam Chomsky. He is an outspoken libertarian critic of cancel culture, the Black Lives Matter movement, and political orthodoxy. Arguing “NO” is Nsé Ufot, activist, community organizer, and former chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project, a voter support and legal action nonprofit organization founded by Stacey Abrams in 2013. In 2021, Ufot was named one of Time's 100 Next, a ranking of emerging leaders thought to define the next generation of leadership.