Is Prejudice Now Acceptable in America?

Is Prejudice Now Acceptable in America?

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

There is a need to understand that hatred, racism, bigotry, sexism, and anti-Semitism are alive and well in America. It was obvious in its most blatant form on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. What is clearer now than ever before, however, is how the genteel, non-violent forms of prejudice are equally present in this country 63 years after Brown vs. Board of Education and 72 years after the defeat of Nazism.  Donald Trump, Steven Bannon, David Duke do not need to go out into the streets they just need to provide bigots the so-called intellectual, historical, religious, and political cover.

What the United States has today is the presence of the same type of bigotry and hatred as has been present throughout American history continuing to operate on two levels; in the streets and in the minds of many Americans.  The one major difference today is that the upper-class, elitist form of prejudice is present and is emanating now from the White House.

Consider the fact that it was widely reported that the President was immediately told by multiple advisers how to respond to the violence in Charlottesville in order to present an appropriate, moral presidential message. Trump, nevertheless, disregarded their suggestions, did his own rather generic message, doubled down on his statement, and only three days later did he try to clarify and reset his message. The White supremacists and racists in the streets of Virginia picked up the signals from the Trump White House.  The demonstrators already are now in the midst of planning additional rallies and protests throughout the country.

There undoubtedly have been dramatic changes in the United States over the past almost 100 years ago beginning with the enactment of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women suffrage. The battles have been in the streets, demonstrations, and marches as well as in the courts and in Washington. Changes have occurred which eliminated housing restrictions, voting rights, admission policy quotas, and professional open doors; but there are still many bridges to cross.

The Black Lives Matter Movement has a genuine basis for its outrage over police conduct. Homophobia is still very prevalent in multiple places throughout society; consider only the enormous push back concerning the Court’s decision on transgender bathroom facilities. The BDS movement is undoubtedly being fed not only by pro-Palestinian forces but by anti-Semitic groups as well.  Anti-immigrant orders are not exclusively the province of legal violations but are fueled by deep seated nativist attitudes in America.

The Charlottesville march and protest was the public manifestation of a society that now feels oppressed by the fact that America is no longer a country run entirely by Whites. Many people resent the fact that Blacks, Browns, Yellows, women, and non-Protestants have power. They believe that they supported a candidate in 2016 who agreed with them.  Trump’s performance since the day he was inaugurated has only reinforced their prejudices.   

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