Summary of The Return of Racism?

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Following America’s 2016 presidential election, political commentators scrambled to explain Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Was racism the catalyst? While political scientists Fredrick C. Harris and Robert C. Lieberman concede that overt racism motivated some voters, they also point out how the candidate spoke to the growing socioeconomic despair felt among working-class whites. By illustrating how a variety of complex factors affected the election, Harris and Lieberman underscore the many difficulties involved in rooting out systemic racism.

About the Authors

Fredrick C. Harris is a Political Science Professor and Director of the Center on African American Politics and Society at Columbia University. Robert C. Lieberman is a Political Science Professor at Johns Hopkins University.  



Some observers attribute Donald Trump’s political ascendency to a revival of overt racism in the United States. The claim that President Obama wasn’t born in America was just the start. Later, racist and nationalistic rhetoric became the cornerstone of Trump’s campaign. Moreover, the uptick in xenophobic incidents after the election indicates Trump’s political success has emboldened white supremacist to promote their cause more publicly.

Still, America’s long history of racism cannot fully explain Trump’s popularity. Important shifts in America’s social...

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