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As he looks back on his first term, President Barack Obama can take satisfaction from a series of significant accomplishments. But according to a new analysis by a Brown University political scientist, his rise to power has also produced a less-welcome result: A renewed alignment between political preference and “old-fashioned racism.”  
President Barack Obama's tenure in office has been a lightning rod for white racism.

In the post civil rights era, racism is viewed through the white racial frame as a monster slayed. However, while racial inequality is a changing same, and a social phenomenon that is so well-documented in terms of its impact on wealth, income, incarceration, job opportunities, access to health care, education, life expectancy, and overall life chances, there are members of the public and media that would still like to deny the power of the color line in American society.

Some of these racism deniers are well intended souls who believe that ignoring a reality makes it go away. Others are deeply invested in white privilege and truly believe that white folks are oppressed in the post civil rights era. And a good number are just old fashioned racists who have simply adopted their rhetoric to the 21st century.

As I am fond of saying, "racism is not an opinion." There are common sense examples of the enduring power of white racism and racial resentment in the Age of Obama: birtherism, the racially explicit herrenvolk appeals of the Tea Party, and Mitt Romney's sophisticated dog whistles about the unfitness of a black man to be in the White House are readily accessible and clear evidence supporting this claim.

There is also empirical research which documents the influence of white racism and hostility towards Obama on "neutral" matters (for example, those who score higher in terms of white racial resentment even hate the first family's dog); conservatism has been demonstrated to strongly overlap with white racism and racial resentment; Internet searches for racially charged terms have been shown to be highly correlated with how certain regions of the country voted against the country's first black president.

Michael Tesler' article "The Return of Old Fashioned Racism to White Americans’ Partisan Preferences in the Early Obama Era" has provided another arrow in the quiver for those who use empirical data to demonstrate the continual influence of white racism on political behavior in the Age of Barack Obama.

America remains largely segregated for the masses. But, the country has integrated its elite classes in some modest ways. Moreover, it would be a profound error in analysis to overlook how a multicultural elite class and a black president have simultaneously enriched and complicated our national narrative about the meaning of race in American cultural, social, and political life.

Obama's election, and the demographic changes associated with it, i.e. the oft-discussed "browning of America," have been a political enema for the Right. As such, the presence of a black man and his family in The White House has brought to the surface what were thinly disguised--and apparently quite deep--veins of bigotry, xenophobia, and intolerance on the part of the Tea Party GOP.

Michael Tesler details this nicely. His article contrasts "OFR" or "old fashioned racism" (the belief in the inherent biological inferiority of non-whites) with modern racism (a belief that blacks are "culturally" deficient and lack the "American values" of hard work, civic duty, and loyalty) and how the former has returned to prominence in the Age of Obama.

The old school is the new school (again)...it would seem that political fashion is cyclical.

It would seem that Barack Obama has brought some white folks back to the future, and made relatively outmoded attitudes current once more.

There ain't nothing new in the game:

These significant results persist in large part after controlling for the correlation between old fashioned and newer forms of racial animus too. In fact, the evidence suggests that Obama simultaneously activates both OFR and racial resentment. The most plausible explanation for that dual activation is that Obama independently taps into both the classic symbolic racism theme that blacks have too much influence in politics (Sears and Henry 2005), and old fashioned racists’ concerns about the leadership of a president from a racial group whom they consider to be intellectually and socially inferior.  

Regardless of the reasons, though, these independent effects of both old fashioned and newer forms of racial animus suggest that the rapidly expanding social science literature testing race-based reactions to his presidency with less blatant anti-black attitudes overlooks important information about the nature of racialized responses to his presidency.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the election of the country’s first black president had the ironic upshot of opening the door for old fashioned racism to influence partisan preferences after OFR was long thought to be a spent force in American politics. This renewed relationship could have important implications too. We may, for instance, see an increase in racist political rhetoric since such messages should be more relevant and resonant now that OFR factors into partisan preferences. The inherently divisive nature of OFR sentiments also likely contributes to the especially rancorous atmosphere surrounding Obama’s presidency.

More work, of course, is needed to understand just how this activation of old fashioned racism will manifest itself in both elite and mass political behavior during Obama’s presidency and beyond. For the time being, though, it appears that opposition to an African-American president from the Democratic Party will continue providing a veritable avenue for the expression of old fashioned racism in white Americans’ partisan preferences.

Originally posted to chaunceydevega on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 01:25 PM PST.

Also republished by Black Kos community and RaceGender DiscrimiNATION.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It sure was never gone (9+ / 0-)

    It disgusts me how at times the obvious racism flies around yet often pointing it out is met with denial. In some cases the racism is worse than when the black man was not in the white house Thanks for your most excellent diaries!

    "And he goes through life, his mouth open, and his mind closed." Shakespeare

    by vixenflem on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 01:53:17 PM PST

  •  Paul Krugman posted a chart the other (4+ / 0-)

    day which I believe the good doctor somewhat misinterpreted. Here it is.

    Dr. Krugman interprets this chart to show that societal attitudes towards race have changed over the years. I agree that those attitudes have changed with time. But ... look at the spike in the 90's. I don't think this is due to Colin Powell or Bill Clinton. It think it's because approval got close enough to 50% that people started lying to Gallup and saying what a "good" person says.

    I'm going to say that OFR did not so much diminish as go underground as it became "uncool". And the Tea Party et al are doing their damnedest to make it once again hip.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:27:52 PM PST

    •  social desirability effects, interesting thesis (3+ / 0-)

      but we can also overlay those charts with others showing an increase in racial animus by white conservatives and others. a complementary finding perhaps?

      •  Do not underestimate the desire to be (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DaNang65

        politically incorrect. As an example, I point to the number of Oakland Raiders bumper stickers I observe here in Denver (where Broncos fans hate the Raiders, if you didn't know). Many more than there are 49ers bumper stickers, even though the 49ers are geographically identical and quite a bit more successful in the last decade.

        So, as some people change their answer so as to say what Gallup "wants to hear", others become more blatantly racist as a means of asserting their non-conformity to a social norm they despise. It leads to polarization.

        Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

        by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:53:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The question is (0+ / 0-)

          what kind of evidence can you bring to bear to demonstrate your supposition of a big jump in the number of people lying?  Given the rather steady trend with some bouncing around, sampling variance alone may explain some of it.  Demographic differences may also play some role, as well.  I'm curious what the underlying samples were

          Interesting hypothesis though.

          Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

          by Mindful Nature on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 04:00:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Listening to the PBS station today there (7+ / 0-)

    was an article about the new search utility from Facebook. Someone who got an opportunity to try the beta version of the tool did some interesting searches. Humorous ones like people who claim to be Jewish and like bacon. Embarrassing ones like married people who like prostitutes. And scary ones like who employs the most openly (on Facebook at least) racists. The "winner" -- Mc Donald's with people claiming to work at McDonald's clicking "like" on pages tagged as promotiing racism a staggering 26 million times. Second place went to WalMart with 25 million and a distant third was the USAF with over a million likes of racist pages. So yeah, racism is definitely "alive and well" in America.

    Link to news story here

    What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

    by ontheleftcoast on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:32:28 PM PST

    •  Broken link (3+ / 0-)

      Since Walmart and McDonalds are two of the largest employers in the nation, this is not surprising. Ditto, actually, for USAF.

      A division of "racist clicks" by "workforce" would, IMNHO, be more enlightening.

      Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:38:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Which employers isn't as interesting as the sheer (3+ / 0-)

        volume of racist likes though. That is at least to me. I don't really care where the racists are working, just that there are so many willing to admit it openly. Something has shifted in the last decade, open racism is back in style. Personally I think part of it comes from the economic pressures on the middle class. When so many are fighting for fewer (and crappier) jobs it's easy to blame "the other" for your problems. When the real culprits, the 0.01%'ers, get away with none of the blame and all of the money.

        What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

        by ontheleftcoast on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:47:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not 25M racist employees, though (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ontheleftcoast, WB Reeves

          It's 25M racist clicks, which could theoretically be one guy with an EXTREMELY strong index finger.

          Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

          by blue aardvark on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:54:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually the interviewer brought up another (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            blue aardvark, WB Reeves

            topic -- how do we know they really "like" racism? Does just clicking a link mean anything? I think there is some intent there and clearly a lot of it. What it exactly means though will be debated.

            What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

            by ontheleftcoast on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 03:22:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Trying to post the link again... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rogneid, blue aardvark

      It's from today's episode of PRI's "The Takeaway"

      http://www.thetakeaway.org/...

      What's wrong with America? I'll tell you. Everything Romney said was pre-chewed wads of cud from Republicans from the last 30 years and yet he managed thru a combination of racism and selling the (false) hope of riches to get 47% of the national vote.

      by ontheleftcoast on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:41:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not surprised (0+ / 0-)

    As so many of us are well aware, our President is governing from a mostly centrist position regarding everything except social issues.  This make it difficult for the people to his right to criticize his policies.

    But they can't NOT criticize him for something. Voila, racism, and it really doesn't matter which KIND of racism it is. It's deplorable.

    (Incidentally, folks, the great majority of American Jews belong to sects within Judaism that have no problem with bacon.  I"m one of those.)

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall (h/t cooper888)

    by Dave in Northridge on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 02:53:17 PM PST

  •  Err, I wasn't Aware "Old Fashioned Racism" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mindful Nature, shanikka, WB Reeves

    had ever gone away...

    The Obama birther absurdity, the overall deep seated hatred/fear of Obama, etc., are adequate evidence.

    "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 03:10:28 PM PST

  •  Thank you for this, Mr. Devega (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DianeNYS, sfinx

    I went and read the links at your blog also.

    I've sensed the racial polarization in the country since Obama ran for President. I've heard those on the Right blaming Obama, saying he's been a divisive figure who "caused" hyperpartisanship. I've been frustrated because as we all know Obama was an appeaser and a " uniter" and very concillitory in most of his first term. They slapped away his extended hand time and time again.

    I've always thought Obama's Presidency just brought out an ugly vein in our country that we simply didn't always see. It is us (American or white Americans, anyway).

    There are ways our country as a whole (or the White aspects of it) wasn't ready for a Black President and this result shows it. It's like an infected boil was lanced and the result is disgusting, but maybe in the long run it is a good thing because it's all out in the open now.

    Eventually racism will die out I hope. It does seem that each generation is a bit more tolerant then the last.

    I love your writing--it is so very clear and easy to read.  

    I read your material on the Romney campaign's manipulative racism and it put to words and catagories what i had seen and intuited myself.
    THinking about it I can only imagine how alienating it must have been to be a Black American and have to witness that as well as the pass the MSM gave him, which even I noticed as a White person. I have had much sorrow about that. Romney really did a disservice to our country in how he ran his campaign.t. I think it's something that should be analysed more as you did in the media.
    It's my wish that Romney's racist campaign goes down in history as just that--the whole campaign remembered like the Willy Horton ad is.

  •  As I Say on my Blog (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oldpotsmuggler, vmm918, raboof

    Black is the new Black.

    Whether genetically inferior, or just descended from the hardest working lazy shiftless Negroes ever to grace the planet, we're still just Black in America.

    A Black president wasn't going to change that for most of us, and those of us who truly understand racism and how it is imbedded in the very fabric of America knew that from the get go.  It is good to see some social science that attempts to test the hypothesis, though.  So thanks for the diary.

    •  Is it progress even if it's derisory? (0+ / 0-)

      "Some of my best friends are colored people" was rightly ridiculed, but it was a step up from what came before.

      Can we count it as one more step on a journey of a thousand miles if people begin saying "Some of our best Presidents have been Black"?

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