A few brief comments about racism

One of the more interesting features of this election cycle is the apparent resurgence of racism in the USA. The GOP candidate, Donald Trump, has been actively supported and endorsed by a variety of white supremacist and racist leaders, including David Duke, and has not exactly done a lot of pushing back against that support.
Within my online universe, which includes both Facebook and Twitter, I see a lot more overtly racist comments and accounts. Not only are a significant number of self-identified Donald Trump supporters on Twitter openly espousing racist ideas, a lot of anti-Semitic folks appear to have showed up also.
Of course, we have people attempting to claim that this is somehow Obama’s fault. My view of that claim is that it is nothing more than an intellectually risible combination of dislike of the POTUS coupled with an attempt to rationalize the reality that an African-American POTUS, by virtue of his two terms of office, has drawn attention to unresolved issues with race in US society. We also have the growing realization that police actions in many parts of the USA disproportionately target black and immigrant people. Barack Obama did not go to Ferguson and ignite civil strife. The police lit the match under that tinderbox. I find the attempt to blame President Obama to be below unserious.
Nativism, xenophobia and racism are currently enjoying a resurgence throughout the Western world. The end of the Industrialized Era in these societies is leading to a societal crisis for indigenous blue-collar workers, whose jobs have already mostly disappeared to a combination of offshoring, ending of extractive industries, and automation. Many of those people are struggling to even stay alive, never mind thrive, and the Gospel of individual self-reliance that people tend to preach here in the USA does not exactly help.
Whenever people feel they are in a crisis, it is SOP for them to blame outsiders, and immigrants and anybody who looks different are the #1 target. They also have a tendency to be seduced by strong-sounding demagogues pretending to be “different” and offering grandiose simple solutions. The history of 20th Century Europe will tell us what can happen if enough angry people decide to vote for demagogues offering those simple solutions. If that happens here in the USA, it won’t be pretty, and racial and ethnic strife is certain.
My other complementary take on the hand-wringing about the resurgence of racism is that legislation against racism, which was passed in the UK at around the same time as the US Civil Rights legislation, did not eliminate racism, contrary to the hopes of social progressives. It simply made it socially unacceptable in most communities and social situations. So racists rapidly learned to only talk about their own racist worldviews in private among trusted family and friends, while listening carefully to others for “tells” and “dog whistles” indicating support for their worldview. Hence the rise of political “dog whistles” to signal tacit approval of the idea of discriminating on the basis of race.
So I tend to think that there is no major resurgence as such. All that is happening is that the collection of various types of individuals who normally keep very quiet about their racism have been emboldened in this election season to start not only talking about it, but in some cases revelling in it. The shallow end of the Twitter pool is currently awash with those kinds of people.
I might also add that my experience of contact with people in the UK who were racists and/or religious bigots, and particularly looking at Northern Ireland, is that once people become cognitively wedded to a worldview containing racism as one of its components, it is unlikely that they will modify that part of their worldview. Sadly, it may be the reality that only death ultimately removes those worldviews from active circulation.


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