Racism In Modern America

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Racism in Modern America


Modern racism is a form of prejudice against African Americans that developed in the United States after the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It characterized by beliefs that racism is not a persistent problem, that African Americans should put forth their own efforts to overcome their situation in society without exceptional assistance, and that African Americans are too demanding and have gotten more than they deserve. At the roots of modern racism are basic beliefs that Blacks violate cherished U.S. values. The idea that the quality of prejudice toward Blacks can shift over time has spawned important generalizations of the theory to other groups, such as women (see the entry titled “Modern Sexism”), recent immigrant groups (including Asians and Latinos in North America and Turks in Europe), the obese, and gays, among others.

The term modern racism introduced in 1981 by John McConahay in the literature on group processes and inter group relations, but the theory behind it had emerged in 1971 with the name symbolic racism. Because modern racism theory was derivative of symbolic racism theory, the two positions were originally closely aligned conceptually and, in fact, difficult to distinguish substantively. However, in recent years, developments in symbolic racism (e.g., concerning the origins of the attitudes) have distinguished the positions more clearly. This entry examines modern racism and relevant criticisms describe measurement tools and contrast the concept with related theories.

Discussion and Analysis

The Nature and Origins of Modern Racism

Modern racism is among the most widespread forms of verbally expressed negative racial attitudes in the United States today. It thought to have replaced, to a substantial degree, older and more blatant forms of prejudice, characterized by beliefs that Blacks are a biologically inferior race and that institutionalized segregation and formal discrimination against Blacks are appropriate social policies. The civil rights movement made these outmoded beliefs largely socially unacceptable, and although conservative racism still exists in the United States, it largely replaced by modern racist beliefs.

Modern racism is also one of the most powerful influences of racial politics in the United States today. It powerfully predicts voting against political candidates who are Black or sympathetic toward Blacks and voting on policies designed to assist Blacks, such as affirmative action and school integration programs. It also strongly influences policies that do not directly mention Blacks but disproportionately impact the African American community, including those involving welfare, unemployment, crime, and the death penalty. It predicts these political attitudes better than conservatism, education, identification as a Democrat or Republican, and, most important, personal interests in the outcomes of a vote. (Hero , 247)

One fundamental characteristic of modern racism is the assumption that it learned during socialization. In other words, people acquire modern racist attitudes through their parents, their peers, and the media. Emerging research suggests that modern racism acquired as early as adolescence (earlier than other political attitudes, such as conservatism) and that it is stable throughout the life span.

As a theoretical construct, modern racism is not tied to threats to ...
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