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Civil Rights Movement and Construction of US Racism

Racism in the twenty-first century is the focus of online social movements and contentious political polarization. Due to innovations in communications technology and sites such as Twitter and Instagram, people worldwide are learning about the history of institutional racism in the United States. This has caused a vastly different landscape for the civil rights movement compared to a hundred or even fifty years ago. Today, racism is commonly associated with slurs, Islamophobia, police brutality, and Donald Trump. This list signals that racism today is a more insidious, politicized form of discrimination that its perpetrators rationalize in a vastly different way than before.

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Firstly, modern racism is more subtle compared to the 1920s or 1960s. There are fewer displays of explicit violence against racial minorities because modern society has stigmatized discrimination. Overt and ubiquitous racism was the norm in the era of segregation and Jim Crow laws, but this list includes more insidious ways of maintaining racial disparities. Back then, it was socially acceptable to publicly murder a black man for sexual relations with a white woman or forbid black people from entering public facilities reserved for whites (History, 2021). Nowadays, most people and organizations proclaim a policy of unbiased equal opportunity in the public eye. Racism is perpetuated in more underhanded ways, such as racial profiling or negative portrayals of black people in the media. Most people will deny that their behavior or attitudes are discriminatory because they are primarily affected by implicit biases (Payne & Hannay, 2021). Racism today is more stigmatized and has become more insidious than a hundred or fifty years ago.

Secondly, the media has inflamed political polarization, and an individual’s position on modern racism has become an identifier of their political party. News channels reinforce certain viewpoints on racism depending on their target audience (Mills, 2017). Opposing affirmative action and Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality, for example, is now considered a sure sign of Republicanism. Liberals believe that supporting Donald Trump means being a close-minded virulent racist (Pew Research Center, 2019). Meanwhile, advocating for Black Lives Matter or equal representation in the media has become a signifier of Democrat sentiment and is perceived as unpatriotic and immoral by Republicans (Pew Research Center, 2019). An individual’s view on civil rights as a resolved issue or an ongoing battle has become vastly dependent on party identification as the topic of racism becomes increasingly politicized.

Thirdly, racism is rationalized in vastly different ways depending on the time period. One hundred years ago, racism was based on eugenicist ideology and belief in the biological superiority of white people (Tucker, n.d.). Black people were seen as biologically predisposed to being more sexually active, aggressive, lacking in self-control, and intellectually inferior (Tucker, n.d.). Minorities were in an earlier stage of evolutionary development, and it was the “white man’s burden” to civilize them (Roberts, 2020). Nowadays, people justify their racist beliefs by citing statistics and public safety concerns, such as opposing immigration due to the threat of terrorism and increasing crime rates. Instead of leaning on biology, modern racism justifies itself by pointing at statistics as objective, empirical evidence of their racist beliefs without considering the historical and political forces that have shaped the lives of minorities.

In conclusion, the “examples of modern racism” list suggest that racism today is a more subtle form of discrimination based on political party identification compared to the 1920s and 1960s. The list includes less blatant forms of discrimination, and representatives of the Democrat or Republican party would have vastly different positions on resolving them or even their existence. Furthermore, people no longer justify their racist ideology by insisting on the biological superiority of white people but cite news stories and statistics as objective proof of their beliefs. Modern society still has a long way to go before fully eradicating institutional racism and achieving equality.


“Civil rights movement.” (2021). History. Web.

“How partisans view each other.” (2019). Pew Research Center. Web.

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Mills, C. E. (2017). Framing Ferguson: Fox News and the construction of US racism. Race & Class, 58(4), 39-56.

Payne, B. K., & Hannay, J. W. (2021). Implicit bias reflects systemic racism. Trends in cognitive sciences, 25(11), 927-936.

Roberts, A. (2020). Bearing the white man’s burden: American empire and the origin of public administration. Perspectives on Public Management and Governance, 3(3), 185-196.

Tucker, W. H. (n.d.). The ideology of racism: Misusing science to justify racial discrimination. United Nations Chronicle. Web.

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