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The Return of Racism?

Race and Inequality After Charlottesville

A candlelight vigil for Heather Heyer, killed by a white supremacist, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, August 2017. Tim Dodson / The Cavalier Daily / Reuters

It was always a myth that Barack Obama’s 2008 election ushered in a post-racial era in which one’s skin color no longer correlated with one’s prospects for success. Racist beliefs and overt discrimination might have declined among white Americans, we argued in Foreign Affairs in 2015, but racial inequality was still perpetuated by a host of hidden mechanisms that infected apparently race-neutral institutions. Last week’s spectacle of racist violence in Charlottesville and President Donald Trump’s jaw-dropping embrace of white supremacy in his subsequent remarks made us wonder whether even that assessment was too optimistic. Had the brutish racism of an earlier era merely gone underground only to resurface now in the guise of tiki torch-bearing neo-Nazis and the American president? 

Trump himself has done a lot to foster this impression. His real estate and casino businesses have a long and sordid history of racial discrimination. It was

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