So much about our racial reality today is little more than a mirage. The promised land of racial equality quivers just out of our reach in the barren desert of our new, "colorblind" political landscape. It looks so good from a distance: Barack Obama, our nation’s first black president, standing behind a podium in the Rose Garden looking handsome, dignified, and in charge. Flip the channel and there’s the whole Obama family exiting Air Force One, waving to the crowd -- a gorgeous black family living in the White House, cheered by the world.
Drive a few blocks from the White House and you find the other America. You find you're still in the desert, dying of thirst, wondering what wrong turn was made and how you managed to miss the promised land, though you reached for it with all your might.
A vast new racial undercaste now exists in America, though their plight is rarely mentioned. Obama won't mention it; the Tea Party won't mention it; media pundits would rather talk about anything else. The members of the undercaste are largely invisible to those of us who have jobs, live in decent neighborhoods, and zoom around on freeways, passing by the virtual and literal prisons in which they live.