The recent acts of racist violence in Charlottesville underscore the myth that Barack Obama’s 2008 election heralded a post-racial era in America.

Writing for Foreign Affairs, Columbia University Professor Fredrick C. Harris and Johns Hopkins University Provost and Professor Robert C. Lieberman revisit the themes of a 2015 essay they wrote about institutional racism and ask, “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?”

Observing that “there is more to this episode than the straightforward resurgence of old-fashioned racism,” the authors trace the rise of white working-class pessimism and despair that “drove Trump’s presidential candidacy” and “has become the primary theme of his presidency.”

Harris and Lieberman conclude, “Although diminished, racism is still clearly alive in the United States, and we should not for a moment relax our vigilance toward its expression and its effects. We should also remember, however, that the historical and structural roots of racial inequality run deep and that, although less visible, they lie beneath the surface spreading their rot. Digging them up will require more than confrontation and condemnation. It will require the hard work of systemic reform and institutional repair.”

Foreign Affairs explored global issues of racism through a series of essays in the March/April 2015 issue. These links bypass the paywall on for one month following the release date. We encourage journalists to share with their audiences. 

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