A recent Associated Press poll has revealed that Americans have become more, rather than less, racist since President Obama's election. In fact now a slight majority - 51% - of Americans express explicitly anti-black attitudes. We hate Latinos a little more, though - 52% of those surveyed expressed negative attitudes toward Hispanics.
It is somewhat comforting to imagine that perhaps this backlash is a result of political gains (a cycle we've seen before); still, observers report that in other situations in which blacks have taken high political office (mayorships, etc.), the black executives' standing has improved with whites over time. For reasons unknown, however, that has not occurred with Obama, despite his high performance in his role. Indeed, a strange sort of denial of his successes has set in among Republicans - who will claim with confidence that he didn't save the American auto and banking industries, his stimulus plan didn't work, Republicans didn't kill all his job bills, he didn't really get Osama bin Laden, our government has grown rather than shrunk under him, and he even raised their taxes rather than lowering them! And of course you have to add to this delusional litany the absurd, but persistent, claims over his birth certificate and religion. It is hard to explain all this fantasy without recourse to racism as a probable cause.
But back to the survey, which tested implicit as well as explicit attitudes - and found, to no one's surprise, that Republicans were far more racist than Democrats - 79% of Republicans expressed explicitly racist sentiments. Still, almost a third - 32% - of Democrats expressed some racist feeling, and their implicit attitude scores were much higher - 55% to 64% of Republicans. (I'm not sure how the implicit score for Republicans could be lower than the explicit score, btw - this may suggest some issues with the survey's "implicit" methodology.)
So there you have it - that's what we're up against. I admit I sense some deeply tragic, but utterly appropriate, historical irony in the fact that racism may in the end bring about the destruction of our country. Let's try to make sure it doesn't turn out that way.