The truth that some opposition to Obama’s policies is a result of racial prejudice offends many conservatives, who complain that they’re being called evil “racists” simply for having different political views. In her latest column, “Prejudice Still Affects Our Polarized Politics,” Cynthia Tucker argues that older white conservatives are not racist, but are less tolerant than younger generations of interracial dating, immigration, and gay rights:
Take the matter of interracial dating. Overall, Americans have become much more tolerant over the last several decades; 87 percent of Americans now say that they “agree” it’s all right for blacks and whites to date each other, according to Pew.
But take a look at the generational break when Pew asked people whether they agreed “completely” with interracial dating: 75 percent of those between 18 and 28 said they did, but only 37 percent of those ages 65 to 83 agreed “completely.”
Notice that neither Pew researchers nor I called those older voters “racists.” The word that I would use to describe the resistance that older white voters have shown toward diversity is “prejudice,” with its roots in the phrase “pre-judge.” They are stuck with long-held notions about such things as gay marriage and interracial dating; those hoary stereotypes are hard to shake loose.
Meanwhile, leading political figures, including Obama, studiously avoid the subject of race for fear of provoking a firestorm. The election of a black president didn’t exorcise our remaining racial demons. Instead, Obama’s rise has made it impolite — even politically hazardous — to speak of them. But they remain there in the background, casting shadows over our politics.