Racism Is Alive and Well, but It's Not Why Trump Is President

Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, December 26, 2017 | Go to article overview

Racism Is Alive and Well, but It's Not Why Trump Is President


The U.S. in 2017 is still a country that has deep problems with racism. Black families have less wealth than white families, black Americans are less educated than other demographics, and black Americans still suffer discrimination in the workplace. Racism influences how people interact, work, and vote.

But as the primary lens to view the 2016 election, it's complicated at best, and largely incomplete.

According to the data, the electorate in 2016 was less racist than it was in 2012 - and this includes less racism from Republicans, and it includes the fact that the coalition that voted for Barack Obama was much more racist than the one that voted for Hillary Clinton.

There is value to many of the analyses of racism in the electorate in 2016 that show that racism is still a powerful force in the U.S. and a powerful electoral signal. Many people believe racism is a thing of the past, which is not true. In some of the most serious rigorous studies of racial bias, researchers have shown that people with "black"-sounding names (researchers have used names like Jamal, Darnell, and Tamika) experience discrimination in school, in the workplace, and in the government. Racial inequalities in schooling and housing persist to the present day. The U.S. still struggles with racism.

In both 2008 and 2012, Americans went to the polls and voted for a black American named Barack Obama for president, putting him in the White House over a white war hero and a white scion of a powerful political family, respectively. In 2016, voters elected President Trump over Clinton, and the biggest reason given by many for this result is the racism of that electorate.

Yes, Trump's appeals on the campaign trail were more tinged with bigotry than previous candidates, explicitly framing his immigration proposals as a "Muslim ban" and characterizing a large swath of the minority illegal immigrant population as violent and criminal. Recently, both Ross Douthat and Adam Serwer interrogated these propositions, with Serwer arguing that Trump's campaign promises and his governing priorities fit right in with his bigotry. Indeed, he has pursued his "Muslim ban," aggressively pursued restrictions on voting conditions that disproportionately affect minorities, and rolled back some Obama-era Department of Justice practices that protect black Americans.

But these policies, absent Trump's rhetoric, aren't too different from that of Mitt Romney. Romney's immigration proposals were called "heartless" by the Republican governor of Texas, and Republicans up and down the ballot support voter ID laws. …

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