Don’t Let the Loud Bigots Distract You. Racism still exists in america essay Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University and the author of Democracy in Black. In a recent viral video, an unidentified white woman in line at a grocery store in Oregon, dressed in a floral romper and black knee-high boots, overheard a black woman’s phone conversation.
She believed this black woman was trying to sell food stamps illegally. The exchange became heated, and the white woman was told, in no uncertain terms, to mind her business. She might as well have called the black woman a nigger. But no, this wasn’t a video of police violence or another example of some white person hurling racial epithets. In so many ways, the argument between these two women captured the soft bigotry that has, from beneath the surface, enabled American public policy and individual behavior for decades.
It is this type of outburst, though — blaring and easy to denounce — that provides many Americans with a familiar experience: the moral comfort of having someone else to blame for our nation’s racial struggles. If only we, the non-racists, could kick her out, or lock her up. The Brief Newsletter Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know right now. It is relatively easy to blame our current struggles on these loud racists who have been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump.
But this is typical American racial melodrama. We need easily marked villains and happy endings. The fact is that Americans have grown comfortable with racism resting just beneath the surface of our politics — to be activated whenever a politician or a community needed it, or some racist incident exhumed it only for us to bury it once again. What has resulted is an illusion that blinds us to what was actually happening right in front of our noses and in our heads — we believed that our country had become less racist, because we were not as brazen as we once were. He rode race, the third rail of American politics, straight to the White House.
United States and openly courted white supremacists. He dog-whistled in a way that let no one feign deafness. Trump sits right there, amid the mess and false promises, with a smirk on his face. But Trump isn’t some nefarious character unlike anything we have seen before. He embodies the hatreds and fears that have been part of America’s politics since its founding and that erupt with every rapid change in our society and world.
He stands in a tradition of American politics that can be traced to Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Dixiecrat run for the presidency, George Wallace’s bids for the presidency in 1968 and 1972, and Patrick Buchanan’s runs in 1992 and ’96. John Sides, Michael Tesler and Lynn Vavreck write in their forthcoming book, Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America. Despite this, we heard over and over again from pundits and politicians — including Democrats — that racism couldn’t explain the counties that voted for Donald Trump and Barack Obama, that more attention needed to be given to the dire circumstances of working white men and women, that Trump’s election was a white, working-class, often rural backlash and what was needed was a focus on Middle America. It felt like folks weren’t fighting the true problem.
They were, in fact, protecting it. Our narrow focus on explicit racists misses a development that explains our current moment: that much of our struggle with race today is bound up in the false innocence of white suburban bliss and the manic effort to protect it, no matter the costs. In his important 2006 book, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South, historian Matthew D. The suburban politics of middle-class warfare charted a middle course between the open racism of the extreme right and the egalitarian agenda of the civil rights movement, based in an ethos of color-blind individualism that accepted the principle of equal opportunity under the law but refused to countenance affirmative-action policies designed to overcome metropolitan structures of inequality. Suburban white America voiced its belief in racial equality, but relentlessly held on to white class privilege and all the policies and structures that made it possible. Americans failed to actively address racial inequality and, in doing so, maintained the racial status quo.