Ethno-nationalism – it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more………. These guys are a collection of clowns……….. The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
“The lady Doth protest to much methinks”
In the modern era, individuals can deny the existence of racism on nonracial grounds while still retaining their nonprejudiced self-image (Dovidio, 2001; Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000).
Contemporary, subtle racism is problematic because it defies the widely shared understanding of racism as a blatant, easily recognizable behavior (Essed, 1991). The attributionally ambiguous nature of subtle racism has made a variety of nonracial explanations for instances of subtle racism plausible (Pierce, 1974; Swim, Hyers, Cohen, Fitzgerald, & Bylsma, 2003), because almost all instances of contemporary racism fall below the thresholds of clear intentionality and victim harm typically associated with the more widely recognized forms of blatant racism (Swim, Scott, Sechrist, Campbell, & Stangor, 2003).
The default assumption for individuals higher in prejudice is that racism is an unlikely situational explanation (1). The Civil Rights Movement successfully advocated for a color-blind society where blatant racism is socially unacceptable. Nevertheless, more than 40 years later, individuals continue to demonstrate both explicit and implicit racism (Dovidio & Gaertner, 2004). Prejudiced individuals will advocate egalitarian racial attitudes to maintain a nonprejudiced self-image (Dovidio, 2001) and to avoid appearing prejudiced to others (Plant & Devine, 1998).
One of the primary components of contemporary racial prejudice is color-blindness, or the idea that race is no longer a significant determinant of personal outcomes (Bonilla-Silva, 2006). In contrast to earlier conceptualizations of prejudice that explicitly acknowledge race as an important determinant of social relations, a color-blind racial ideology asserts that because race should not affect personal outcomes, race does not affect personal outcomes. The expression of a color-blind racial ideology insulates individuals from the possibility that their own attitudes or behavior might be racially discriminatory. Consequently, racially discriminatory behavior can continue unchecked. Indeed, this view has been linked to both implicit and explicit racial prejudices (Neville, Lilly, Duran, Lee, & Browne, 2000; Richeson & Nussbaum, 2004). Recognizing the existence of racism contradicts the worldview of prejudiced individuals that racism is no longer a significant factor in social life.
Social dominance theory (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) suggests that individuals higher in social dominance orientation (SDO) should also be motivated to deny the existence of racism. Prior research has found a strong link between high levels of SDO and racial prejudice (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). Individuals high in SDO are more likely to endorse consensually shared, socially constructed myths that legitimize the existing social order (Sidanius, Levin, & Pratto, 1996). One of the most important legitimizing myths is the idea of a meritocracy, where individual outcomes are solely the result of personal ability and effort. The existence of racism directly undermines the validity of a meritocratic worldview.
L.D. Reid & K.E. Birchard, The People Doth Protest Too Much: Explaining Away Subtle Racisim, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, August 2010
(1) The article is building on a core of empirical data and seeking to test out a wider theory, (S.D.T) more here