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?