The Blurred Line Between Old-Fashioned and Modern Racism

When we were first learning about the differences between old-fashioned, modern, and aversive racism, the definitions made sense to me. I saw that there were differences between the three, each different speeds at which we move down the moving sidewalk of privilege. But now I’m a little less certain about the differences between old-fashioned and modern racism. I agree that in practice they’re different, but I’m less sure that within the person harboring these prejudices, the sentiments are different.

Many people once believed (probably not long ago) that we lived in a post-racial society and that those racists that do still exist have been subdued into never outwardly expressing their beliefs, or in other words modern racism. But what happened when our country elected a black president? The number of hate crimes in our country increased drastically. What happens when a sexist, racist, ablest, heterosexist, islamophobic demagogue validates hatred and assault and is subsequently elected? The people who were once quiet seize the opportunity to terrorize innocents both physically and verbally. The reason we saw less old-fashioned racism in the relative past is not because we’ve reduced the prejudices people hold to just making the occasional racist joke only in the company of other like-minded white people, but because we’ve repressed, but haven’t removed, the prejudice that is still alive and well.

The explosion of hate crimes is similar to the result one would observe after a shaken soda can has been opened. There are too many people that have had their prejudiced beliefs repressed, not reformed. Too many modern racists have for a long time been the shaken soda in the can, psychologically exhausted from having to perform behaviors unaligned with their attitudes, creating cognitive dissonance. It was only a matter of time before someone cracked the top open, and it’s because our society has tried to paint itself as egalitarian, but has truly failed to educate those most prone to modern and old-fashioned racism by halting conversations about race, that we now see there hasn’t been much improvement at all since the days of old-fashioned racism. In turn, has certainly failed those who are victims of the ensuing hate crimes and hate speech.

The only difference I can see between old-fashioned racism and modern racism is the difference between an empowered racist and a disgruntled one. It took the sudden dismantling of PC culture for us to see what we’ve tried so hard to ignore. And I’m not just talking about people out in the streets terrorizing people. I’m also talking about the people who’ve been spray painting swastikas on others’ properties. I’m talking about the people who suddenly feel empowered to threaten the lives of others online. And I’m talking about the people who’ve decided that what’s happening now isn’t a real issue.

PC culture needs to come back, for the sake of those who would be terrorized without it, but it’s time to build it back up in a way that would not be perceived as oppressive to disgruntled racists, but as reasonable, which means that we need to listen before we silence. We need to converse before those doors are closed. We need to make people understand why the way things are is wrong, not just throw it back in their faces. It’s not realistic to expect a problem to go away because we’ve thrown a blanket over it. Now exposed, we need to put the work into reformation, not repression.

I’m curious to know if anyone feels as though there is still a difference between modern and old-fashioned racism that I didn’t think of. And I’m curious to hear how people are feeling about all this now that the election has been over for a month. Finally, do you guys have any thoughts about how aversive racism might come into play here?

3 thoughts on “The Blurred Line Between Old-Fashioned and Modern Racism”

  1. hey, I have to disagree with most things you’ve said here. To me, prejudice is something that somewhat real but definitely not this large boogie man that’s haunting all minorities. of course white people have it better because America is a white country but i don’t think this necessarily means that any other minority has it ‘bad’ in America. if you compare it to many other third world nations, like Saudi Arabia, the ‘prejudice’ that is shadowing America is quite tame. Because you know, gays don’t get stoned here, and neither do women get treated like second class citizens.
    It’s also very hard for me to understand why you think that people have the same mentality as they did in the 1960’s. your idea of ‘most (presumably white) people thinking other races are inferior’ is ludicrous to me. and this is coming from a person who is brown and has come from a third world country. I also don’t like how you used white people as an example of racist jokes. Racism isn’t owned by one skin colour. I would categories the KKK’s beliefs as racist and bigoted as the beliefs of the black supremacists today.
    ‘I’m talking about the people who’ve decided that what’s happening now isn’t a real issue.’ I’m sorry, did you mean that as an example of modern day racism?
    i think PC culture is the greatest way to stop dialogue and prohibit free speech. its terrible to see how people saying anything slightly out of line are bombarded with millions of offended people but nobody says a peep when a women gets the same time in prison as the man who raped her in saudi arabia, or maybe how only men are allowed to pray in certain hindu temples in india. Now, in a PC utopia, this type of opinion will be deemed as racist and vulgar and the whole incident will will be filled under ‘their different cultures, its ok for them to do it’ which i find very hypocritical.
    Also, PC culture is undemocratic by definition. Like the great late George Carlin said, PC culture is fascism pretending to be manners.
    would recommend reading this article
    and looking at sites and sources outside your bubble, maybe bill maher, or this video

  2. I think this post was a great cap to end the blog for the semester. I think it’s really interesting to think about how we do live in a PC society, yet it seems like many people are opposed to it. Is being opposed to Political Correctness a modern form of racism?

  3. Jenna,

    This was a very intriguing post. I do agree that the line between old- fashioned and modern racism is blurred. Many modern day racists choose to remain silent until their beliefs are warranted by society. I thought the metaphor of a soda can was a very interesting visual to describe this concept. It was also interesting to note that there were hate crimes after a Black president was elected and after a racist and sexist man was elected. I would say aversive racism could come into play depending on the population. Outward racists were definitely aware of who they were voting for to be our president. I don’t believe there was any implicit bias present. People who do have implicit bias were probably willing to look over all of his racist, sexist remarks and justified his presidency based on other qualifications.

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