The Not-So-New Southern Racism
The Not-So-New Southern Racism
Abstract and Keywords
During and after the Civil Rights Movement, GOP leaders capitalized on white racial angst to attract southern white voters. However, in order to do so without alienating Republicans nationwide, the GOP utilized coded language as an end-around of public displays of prejudice and championed an “us vs. them” cosmology. The decline of overt, Old-Fashioned Racism seemed positive, but the decline masked the persistence of white supremacist attitudes so dominant in the South. Since whiteness functions as a vantage point, supremacy can be maintained as long as the gap between whites and an “other” is also maintained. When denigrating minorities publicly was no longer socially acceptable, the GOP manufactured a host of increasingly threatening “others.” These common enemies catalyzed both an elevation of and a clinging to whiteness, which, in turn, preserved the “not-so-new” racial hierarchy key to southern white voters that only relative measures of racial animus can expose.
Writ large, the Southern strategy sought to drum up white resentment toward the “other” in American society, i.e., minorities, and present the Republican Party as the institution that was on the side of the resentful.
IN THE SPRING of 1988, Republican strategist Lee Atwater assembled focus groups at the mall in Paramus, New Jersey, hoping to find a way out of the 17-point deficit plaguing his candidate, then vice president George H. W. Bush, in the presidential contest against Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. Atwater’s idea, which he was there to test, was sparked by a debate comment made by Dukakis’s Democratic challenger, Senator Al Gore, in the days leading up to the New York primary. Gore criticized Governor Dukakis for permitting “weekend passes for convicted criminals,” a furlough program aimed at rehabilitation that Dukakis conceded had been terminated. According to Sidney Blumenthal, at that time a Washington Post journalist covering the election, the remark went largely unnoticed except to the Bush campaign’s research director, Jim Pinkerton. “I thought to myself,” noted Pinkerton, “This is incredible . . . it totally fell into our lap.”2 Atwater, an expert in southern politics, along with Bush campaign media director Roger Ailes,3 knew exactly how to keep the GOP’s Southern Strategy going. Take a black prisoner, in this case Willie Horton, accused of committing a violent crime while on furlough and use fear of “the very scary looking, disheveled, wild-eyed black man”4 to portray Dukakis as soft on crime. The focus groups told Atwater what he wanted to hear: “Tell Dukakis voters about Willie Horton and they stop being Dukakis voters,” and if it worked in New Jersey, then the white South would prove putty in Atwater’s hands.
White southern identity was constructed on the backs of such Willie Horton imagery, with white power necessary to control some manifestation of black threat for centuries. There was, however, a moment of hope in the years following the victories of the Civil Rights Movement. A reconstructed white South seemed possible, perhaps primarily because federal legislation ending Jim Crow (p.44) had seemed so impossible. If segregation could fall, then maybe the consciousness of southern segregationists could rise at the very least to mirror the rest of the country. The sociology journals first noticed the shift in research published in the 1970s and 1980s. Studies such as those conducted by Glen Firebaugh and Kenneth Davis, Harold Schuman and Lawrence Bobo, and Steven Tuch,5 among others, did not suggest that southern white racist attitudes had vanished, but that they were no worse—not distinct—from non-southern white racist attitudes. Moreover, based primarily on cohort analysis, research began to suggest that among younger white southerners, the racist tide had turned. Leading southern sociologist John Shelton Reed concluded in his 1993 book Surveying the South that “the differences in racial attitudes between white southerners and other white Americans are now differences only of degree, and of relatively small degree at that.”6 Even as late as 2001, Byron D’andra Orey claimed in the American Review of Politics that “to be sure, the South no longer serves as the haven for racist demagogues and the home of Jim Crow laws. Similar to the rest of the country, overt racism is no longer tolerated in this region.”7
The waning of overt or what political scientists have called “Old-Fashioned Racism” to levels consistent outside of the South seemed to many a radical step forward for a region built upon and devoted to white supremacy. Even as social scientists developed new theories of indirect racism, including Racial Resentment, racial threat, Ethnocentrism, status threat, authoritarianism, neo-conservatism, and social desirability, to name a few,8 the notion that racism functioned differently now carried a note of optimism. Yet, masking these attitudes does not make them less egregious or any less dangerous. To be fair, scholars, for the most part, intended only to deconstruct the way in which “new racism” worked and its impact on a post–Jim Crow country. James Glaser even spliced “Racio-political attitudes” from traditional measures of prejudice, separating individual beliefs from political preferences;9 others, however, question the notion that they can be separated in the first place. So this dissection, as necessary as it may have been, obscured the forest for the trees. Because it turns out that white Americans, and even white southerners, may have been less willing to cop to beliefs in racial stereotypes or overt racism, but white superiority once planted has proven to be perennial.
In their new book, Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Post-War America, Doug McAdams and Karino Kloos point to the current blooms. They dismiss the Tea Party, cable news networks, and even Obama’s 2008 victory as catalysts of contemporary American partisan polarization—“our present morass,” they call it. Harkening back to the groundbreaking work on the political evolution of race by Edward Carmines and James Stimson,10 McAdams and Kloos argue that the civil rights victories of the 1960s actually “spawned a (p.45) powerful national ‘white resistance’ countermovement.”11 And they were writing long before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 election. While this countermovement surely blanketed the country as a whole, white southerners were primed by history and needled by the GOP’s Long Southern Strategy not just in the 1960s when Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon went “hunting where the ducks are,” but in every decade since. These racial “dog whistles” functioned at a psychological level, using coded language as an end-around of public displays of overt prejudice, tapping and even breathing life into the “new racism” in all of its varied explanations. Moreover, it worked particularly well in the South because despite the shifts in public rhetoric, white superiority remained the foundation upon which the entire southern house was built. The racial arm of the Long Southern Strategy tugged at not just one aspect of personal identity but two: whiteness and southernness—two cosmologies that share a common structure.
Neither whiteness nor southernness has a definable essence. Both remain not only socially constructed, but also, exist only in opposition to an “other”—an “other” that shifts and moves over time.12 Of all of the scholarship on whiteness, Ruth Frankenberg’s 1993 definition remains the clearest. Drawing on the feminist scholarship of Nancy Hartsock, Frankenberg frames whiteness as a “standpoint,” a location “from which white people look at ourselves, at others, and at society.”13 Therefore, whiteness can morph constantly depending on where one stands and in which direction one is looking. Ever elusive, both whiteness and southernness are so pliant that they can be molded by politicians. Over time, southern whiteness, in addition to being constructed in opposition to blackness, has stood against a pantheon of shifting others, including northern troops, the teaching of evolution, industrialization, union organizers, and the intervention of the federal government in general. The list, ever expanding, created a collective sense of persecution and a perception of victimhood.14 Civil rights legislation, a foe to both southernness and whiteness, entrenched the two mutually reinforcing vantage points, making the labels almost indistinguishable and bonding those who wore them in a common defense.
The production of a common enemy, from war to segregation to politics, is how southern white supremacy is manipulated and politicized over and over again, and it is one of the key ways in which the Long Southern Strategy effectively launched a realignment, the impact of which remains as powerful as ever. The coded racial rhetoric—the “dog whistles”—both subtle and unsubtle polarized the parties, not just in the 1960s but exponentially during the campaigns and administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and even under the leadership of Donald Trump. Now, well into the twenty-first century, five of the top six issues on which Republicans and Democrats are most polarized—as indicated (p.46) in the Pew Research Center’s 1987–2012 “Trends in American Values” study—are rooted in maintaining white racial dominance. They include opposition to the social safety net, labor unions, federal equal opportunity programs, and immigration, as well as disagreement on the size and scope of government.15 Four years after this study and only months prior to the 2016 election, Reuters found that Trump’s supporters, specifically, were more likely to hold negative views of African Americans.16
However, “dog whistles” are not just heard; they are felt. And coded language, and stories about black criminals on furlough, do not speak to a physical place, but to—as Benedict Anderson proposed—an imagined one as well.17 The “new racism” and realignment research has centered almost exclusively on the geographic South, as was and still is common practice. Nevertheless, emotions shape identity. And identity persists, at times irrationally, beyond economic concerns, an expression of unspoken fear and unmanageable anger. As recently as 2011, Pew released a report investigating southern identity and—perhaps the greatest of all race-based campaigns—the American Civil War. Whites who identify as southern are still significantly more likely to cite states’ rights as the source of Confederate motivation, to respond positively to the Confederate flag, and to deem contemporary politicians praising Confederate leaders as appropriate.18 One hundred and fifty years later, southern white identity still burns red hot, fueled by partisan messaging intended to stoke the fire. Different party label. The not-so-new southern racism.
THE SOUTHERN STRATEGY and the “new racism” scholarship had one thing in common. Both reflected an understanding that the nature of white racism had changed in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement. Republican strategists had to reframe racial issues in order to let white southerners “vote their conscience on defensible grounds while retaining the antiquated and indefensible traditions,”19 and “new racism” studies attempted to understand how this dynamic worked. The operating assumption, however, was that the tempering of public, unmasked prejudice reflected a positive and major change in American, and more specifically, southern politics. Indirect racism seemed not as bad as direct racism. Emerging scholarship in the late 1990s even began probing for implicit, subconscious racism. Project Implicit, founded by researchers at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington, created an online test that prompts participants to match words with faces. Both the content (which positive and negative words the respondent matches to white and black faces), as well as the speed at which the associations are made, comprise an implicit bias score and direction.20 Similar techniques, including the Implicit (p.47) Association Test, the theory of evaluative priming, and the Affect Misattribution procedure, are all aimed at unearthing buried prejudices.21
Yet the notion of implicit bias has more significant political repercussions. Political correctness, rather than being the first step toward an egalitarian society, may have just covered up racial animus, which burrowed privately and safely in the subconscious mind, providing deniability while resentment grew. Thus, it was no longer necessary to mention that Willie Horton was black, rather only to show his image repeatedly, recount his crimes, and call for law and order. In fact, Lee Atwater “denied that the menacing image for Horton was an appeal to racial animus, especially in the South,” claiming, as did other Republicans, that they’d have been “just as happy if their villain were white.”22
This buried racism, misleading on the surface, can be reinforced by political messaging. It remains capable of responding to dog whistles, even silent ones that can only be heard at a psychological frequency. If threatened, it is still poised to reemerge at any given moment. Thus, it should come as no surprise that in 2013, political scientist Michael Tesler, writing in the Journal of Politics, marked the resurgence of Old-Fashioned Racism in the wake of the Obama presidency.23 Gauged most often by a scale of three questions, Old-Fashioned Racism—sometimes called “Jim Crow racism” due to the historical time when racial stereotypes dominated the public landscape—asks respondents to indicate how hard-working, intelligent, and trustworthy they think various racial groups are. Tesler finds an increase in white Americans who are willing to confirm these previously declining racial stereotypes of blacks as lazy, unintelligent, and untrustworthy, and that Old-Fashioned Racism significantly predicted opposition to Obama in 2008. Moreover, Tesler demonstrates that statistically Old-Fashioned Racism is related to party identification (as Republican), was a strong determinant of 2010 midterm voting preferences, and helps to explain white respondents’ change in party identification from Independent or Democrat to Republican from 2006 to 2011.
Maybe Old-Fashioned Racism, built on the fundamental notion of white supremacy, has been resurrected, catalyzed by the election of the first African American president. White supremacy groups are, indeed, surging throughout the country. Stormfront.org, the leading website for white supremacist activity, has seen its membership jump from 5,000 in 2002 to 286,000 one decade later. The Southern Poverty Law Center now counts 160 active Ku Klux Klan chapters.24 That being said, critical race theorist Frances Lee Ansley is quick to define supremacy broadly, as not to limit the association only to extremist groups: “I refer instead to a political, economic, and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources.” This dynamic, Ansley finds, is “daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”25 In (p.48) “Rethinking White Supremacy,” David Gillborn reaches a similar conclusion after analyzing two case studies—that “racism can operate through the accepted and mundane processes.”26 That is why it can so easily be hidden in politics.
Or maybe white supremacist attitudes have been there all along, masked by calls for candidates who were tough on crime, so that whites could be protected from the Willie Hortons of the world (whom an anonymous George H. W. Bush campaign staffer called “a big black rapist”27) or disguised by language attacking welfare dependency as rewarding laziness among African Americans. “We have reaped from these programs,” announced Nixon in his acceptance speech for the 1968 Republican nomination, “an ugly harvest of frustrations, violence and failure across the land.”28 White superiority, after all, is a tough expectation to cast aside, particularly for many white southerners, or so it seems. Scholars like Josh Adams and Vincent J. Roscigno argue that the Internet has actually facilitated the rise of supremacist groups by linking social threats and creating a “collective identity”29 for many white supremacy advocates. Moreover, Michael Kimmel, author of Angry White Men, highlights the increasingly rural nature of these “far-right groups.”30 Of course, both collective identity and rural isolation are characteristic of the South. Yet others, such as Desmond S. King and Stephen G. N. Tuck, contend that the white supremacist order that was reestablished in the post-Reconstruction South was not confined to regional borders, but rather characterized the country at-large. By “de-centering the South” as the hub of white supremacy, King and Tuck seek to explain the racial violence that breaks out in the North during the Red Summer of 1919 and during the late-1960s riots over housing and busing accommodations.31
It is a fair point. White supremacy has never been exclusive to white southerners. Perhaps they have just had unapologetic spokesmen. Antebellum southern writer and US Ambassador to Italy Thomas Nelson Page, for example, could and did champion racial hierarchy publicly, professing to “the absolute and unchangeable superiority of the white race—a superiority not due to any mere adventitious circumstances, such as superior education and other advantages during some centuries, but an inherent and essential superiority, based on superior intellect, virtue, and constancy.”32 Supremacy to Page was innate, primal, and, thus, unquestioned. The absolute, almost divinity of southern white superiority caused it to be ingrained fully in every public institution and rigidly protected in private life in a comprehensive manner that was lived and performed every day. Therefore, it was not just talk (which might have been easier to shake). Moreover, although Jim Crow existed beyond the confines of the Mason-Dixon Line, in no other region was the superiority of whiteness so systematically codified into modern law. From black codes to state constitutions, legalized white supremacy underscored the disenfranchisement, segregation, and oppression of African (p.49) Americans in the South. The effort remains ongoing, most notably in the passage of contemporary voter identification laws. “If you know the history,” claims the North Carolina NAACP president, Rev. William Barber, “you understand why every North Carolinian ought to be sick to their stomach.”33
Beyond the institution of slavery, it is this codification—the de jure racism—to which scholars point as the source of southern distinctiveness. However, there is another southern experience, more recent and yet too often overlooked, that contributes to the steadfast, seemingly immutable, belief in white superiority. For when the legal trusses of southern whiteness were dismantled by fresh Supreme Court interpretations of centuries-old Constitutional amendments and by federal civil rights legislative initiatives, the GOP propped it up. In no other region did Republican politicians consistently appeal to racial anxiety and fears for decades in order to realign white southern voters with their party. Mimicking homegrown third-party presidential candidate and governor of Alabama George Wallace, the Long Southern Strategy framed inequity as the result of minority weakness, which, in turn, championed white superiority without saying a word.
Just as Jim Crow translated the white supremacy of slavery into the language of the twentieth century, so too did the Long Southern Strategy carry it to modern audiences, protecting a belief system that should have long been abandoned. And so it makes sense that the political change that Obama represented would activate bolder expressions of white supremacy, as Tesler noted, particularly in the South where it has never been allowed to die. Illustrations of this resurrected brazen prejudice are not limited to scholarly articles. From Mississippi judges using the “N-word,”34 to Texas students flashing white power signs at football games,35 to elementary teachers in Georgia using references to slavery in math word problems (“if Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings would he get in one week?”36), to more collective expressions such as Ku Klux Klan flyers circulating in Selma, Alabama, on the same day as the 2015 anniversary march37—all are examples of public, unmasked racism that still mark, sometimes literally, southern life. In December 2013, media outlets reported on two banners that were hung on interstate 640 in Knoxville, Tennessee, that read, “Diversity is a code word for White Genocide.”38 In Harrison, Arkansas, a billboard sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan that proclaimed, “It is not racist to love your people,” was finally taken down in September 2017.39 Funding for the billboard came from donations solicited on Klan website www.whiteprideradio.com with the tagline “the voice of white resistance!”40 Additionally, Floating Sheep, a group of geo-coding academic experts, mapped the racist tweets—comments such as “I really want to meet Obama someday just so I can call him a n****er”—that appeared following the 2012 election with the gold, silver, and bronze medals going to Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, in that order.41
(p.50) Beyond mapping tweets, to measure the legacy of white supremacy in contemporary political culture and to assess whether these attitudes are distinctively southern requires an examination of both general and specific questions regarding whites’ views about themselves. Using “feeling thermometers” ranging from zero indicating “very cold” and 100 indicating “very warm,” respondents in the Blair Center Polls took their own temperature, so to speak. Figure 1.1A reveals whites’ feeling thermometer evaluations of their fellow whites across a range of subgroups. Overall, in 2010 and 2012, the scores for whites, by whites, are well above the 50-midpoint mark, meaning they have a general positive view of their racial group, but these feelings are even more positive among whites who happen to live in the geographic South (72.5 degrees in 2010 and 72.4 degrees in 2012). More important, the highest praise for whites was reported by whites who identify as southern (75.6 degrees in 2010 and 74.6 degrees in 2012), temperatures that are significantly higher than those reported by non-southern whites.
Defining what constitutes that superiority, however, is more difficult than locating it. The results of digging deeper into specific characteristics that might account for this positive view are shown in Figure 1.1B. In 2012, white respondents were asked to evaluate the Old-Fashioned Racism questions regarding the work ethic, intelligence, and trustworthiness of a racial group—but this time their own—using a 7-point scale, with 1 indicating, for example, that the respondent thinks that whites are hard-working and 7 indicating they are lazy.
Despite the general positive view of whites, the specific evaluation of their work ethic was moderately positive, with average scores of 2.8, with 4 being the midpoint of the scale. Scores evaluating trustworthiness and intelligence hovered at 3 and 2.5 respectively for all whites. The largest gaps between whites who live in the South and those who do not were in their evaluations of work ethic, and between whites who claim a southern identity and whites who do not, the greatest gap was on their evaluations of intelligence. In both cases whites in the South or white southerners give their fellow whites slightly (0.11 points) better marks.
The fact that southern identity remains linked to a “warmer” evaluation of whites, though no specific characteristic such as intelligence, trustworthiness, or work ethic stands out as substantively distinct, points to how empty this notion of white supremacy is within the construct of southern identity. Yet that belief, brazen or masked, persists. And more so among white southerners who, as can be seen in Figures 1.2A and 1.2B, lay claim to their whiteness at dramatically and significantly higher rates than non-southern whites. According to the 2012 Blair Center Poll, close to three-fourths of whites who do not identify as southern still claim their whiteness strongly or very strongly. That number jumps to 90 percent among whites who do claim a southern identity, with 70 percent of that group disclosing that the attachment to whiteness was “very strong,” compared to 51 percent of non-southern whites. No other subgroup of whites, geographically or in terms of identification, comes anywhere close to those kinds (p.52) of numbers. So the whiteness part of southern identity is embraced and elevated, yet hollow.
THE REASON THE Long Southern Strategy is so important to understanding southern whiteness, in addition to its historically unique regional experience, is that identity constructs are not inherently political. Therefore, how they become politicized and stay politicized is a key piece of the current political puzzle. Cohesion and, more important, political action, as noted by Leonie Huddy, David Sears, and Jack Levy in the Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, have three fundamental requirements: group strength (via saliency and positive feelings toward the group), clear political meaning (the group will be affected by (p.53) certain policies), and the presence of group threats (real or imagined).42 Southern whites clearly have positive feelings about their whiteness, despite the elusive justification for those feelings. Nevertheless, they lack clear political meaning. The hollowness of southernness and whiteness makes both politically malleable. Each exists only in opposition to something else, allowing for their continual transformation.43 Without blackness, for example, whiteness had no meaning; over time, each defines the other. Journalist W. J. Cash recognized this dynamic in southern whites in his 1941 book The Mind of the South. “Negro entered into white man,” he wrote, “as profoundly as white man entered into Negro—subtly influencing every gesture, every word, every emotion and idea, every attitude.”44 However, the relationship was not merely relative; it was hierarchal. Whiteness was both defined not only in opposition to blackness, but also as superior to it. Southernness is so similar in its structure and function that historian George Tindall attempted to define it as an ethnicity. Really, Tindall was making a case for southern distinctiveness and registering his rejection of the “consensus” notion of American identity “extolling homogeneity” that was popular at mid-century. Ironically, Tindall’s primary evidence for the distinctiveness of white southerners was their preoccupation with race. Quoting James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 observation, with which Tindall firmly agreed, “no group of southern white men could get together and talk for sixty minutes without bringing up the ‘race question.’ ”45 That preoccupation is a symptom of the emptiness of the racial and regional construct.
Maintaining that hierarchy of southern whiteness required fluidity. Any loss of white power (which nicked away at white supremacy) increased suppression of the black community in equal measure. The most radical retaliations accompanied threats to white political or economic dominance. Sociologists E. M. Beck and Stewart Tolnay presented the most tangible example in their 1990 study of lynchings. Using time-series analysis between emancipation and the Great Depression, Beck and Tolnay found that the frequency of southern lynchings (3,959 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and 1950, the majority of whom were taken from prisons)46 corresponded to decreases in cotton prices. They concluded that “mob violence against southern blacks responded to economic conditions affecting the financial fortunes of southern whites—especially marginal white farmers.”47 Too often, poor whites were encouraged or manipulated by southern elites who even sanctioned violence to avoid an interracial, class-based coalition from forming. Southern writer Lillian Smith describes this dynamic in a fictional conversation that appears in her groundbreaking 1949 book, Killers of the Dream, in which “Mr. Rich White” tells “Mr. Poor White” that
if you ever get restless when you don’t have a job or your roof leaks, or the children look puny and shoulder blades stick out more than natural, all you need to do is remember you’re a slight better off than the black man. . . . But if you get nervous sometimes anyway . . . and you think it’ll make you feel a little better to lynch a nigger occasionally, that’s OK by me too.48
More often, white supremacy was used to create a political distraction. In 1960 future president Lyndon Johnson waxed candidly about this exact sentiment to then staffer Bill Moyers in a late-night, private conversation. Johnson and Moyers saw racist signs in the crowd, and the senator could not shake the images. “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it,” he started; “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.”49 Identity-based hierarchies can, indeed, serve political ends if superiority is watered or even if its planted.
Politicians can serve that function to their own benefit. Smith’s fictional conversation elucidates this point as well when “Mr. Rich White” tells “Mr. Poor White” that
if folks are fool enough to forget they’re white men, if they forget that, I’m willing to put out plenty of money to keep the politicians talking, and I don’t mind supporting a real first-class demagogue or two to say what you want him to say—just so he does what I want about my business. And I promise you this: Long as you keep the Negro out of your unions, we’ll keep him out of our mills.50
Most important, politicians can provide the group threat needed to politicize an identity construct—in this case southern whiteness. The Long Southern Strategy is flush with cases of southern whites being made to feel threatened by minorities, and the GOP offering to defuse that threat. For example, the fact that Ronald Reagan as governor of California oversaw a similar prison furlough program to the one that released Willie Horton did not stop the GOP from manufacturing a black criminal threat in order to activate white solidarity for their candidate. Even when two men who were granted leave (of approximately 20,000 passes) committed a murder, and a defensive Reagan noted, “obviously you can’t be perfect,”51 the GOP ignored the hypocrisy and vigilantly attacked Dukakis anyway. Nearly 200 articles in a single Massachusetts newspaper detailed every aspect of the Dukakis furlough program; Georgia representative Newt Gingrich “read each installment aloud on the House floor.”52 Bush, himself, mentioned Willie Horton every single day on the campaign trail,53 the constant buildup of a menacing “other” against which southern whites and the GOP could coalesce. (p.55) Moreover, it is no coincidence that the effectiveness of the Willie Horton ad corresponded to the rise of black leadership in the Democratic Party. Though his father had served on a South Carolina chain gang,54 Willie Horton is portrayed by the GOP as protected by Democrats, implying that Horton’s rights—despite his impoverished upbringing—trumped the safety of law-abiding Americans. Horton is so loved by Democrats, chided Atwater to southern Republicans, that he might be chosen as Dukakis’s running mate. Atwater also described to his audience a rumored meeting between Jesse Jackson and Dukakis,55 painting Democrats as the champions of black advancement and thus a threat to white supremacy. The “us vs. them” mentality consequently reaffirms the GOP as the protector of white power.
At its core, southern white identity when politicized “weaves a White worldview that attributes positive qualities to Whites and negative traits to People of Color.”56 Whether or not contemporary appeals to those beliefs are false threats, cloaked in politically correct language, or denied altogether, they are visible from a distance, a continuous pattern stretching back in time. Even anthropologist John Dollard, who published his groundbreaking fieldwork in the South in 1937, recounted a significant conversation with a man he called “a naïve Negro.” “He was aware, of course,” Dollard commented, “that southern white people say they do not hate Negroes and sometimes even assert that they love them. His view seemed to be that maybe once they did love the Negroes when they were all comfortably in their places and seemed likely to stay there permanently.”57 Maybe Dollard’s subject was not so naïve after all. The violence and spectacle of lynchings and the politics of fear plagued the South then and perhaps always will. But it is the “us vs. them” impulse, in defense of southern white superiority, that proves so critical to understanding the not-so-new southern racism and its relationship to the Long Southern Strategy.
That impulse dovetails with one of the most popular emerging research topics in contemporary race relations. The measure of Ethnocentrism has been reinvigorated by the work of Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam in their 2009 book, aptly named Us against Them: Ethnocentric Foundations of American Opinion. The argument, as Kinder and Kam note, can be traced back to William Graham Sumner, who concluded that Ethnocentrism was the “technical name for this view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything.”58 At a theoretical level, Ethnocentrism is the tendency of individuals to see people like them as part of a community and to view others who are different as belonging to another group. According to Kinder and Kam,
ethnocentrism is a predisposition to divide human society into in-groups and out-groups. People vary from one another in their readiness to look (p.56) upon the social world in this way: that is, they are more or less ethnocentric. To those given to ethnocentrism, in-groups are communities of virtue, trust, and cooperation, safe and superior havens. Out-groups, on the other hand, are not. To the ethnocentrist, out-group members and their customs seem strange, discomforting, perhaps even dangerous.59
Measuring how respondents feel toward their in-group compared to various out-groups has proven popular among scholars assessing the power of “otherness” in shaping views on racial inequities60 and immigration.61 Kinder and Kam specifically find Ethnocentrism predictive of American support for “providing for the national defense, dealing harshly with enemies abroad, withholding assistance to foreign lands in need, stemming the tide of immigration, pushing back against gay rights, cutting welfare, and putting an end to affirmative action.”62 International scholarship even points to extreme ethnocentric attitudes as the source of modern genocides.63 The explanatory power is, indeed, powerful.
Considering how it is measured, it should be, and for two critical reasons. First, Ethnocentrism, unlike the indirect and even implicit theories of prejudice, is relative. Whiteness, in this measure, functions as a vantage point. Rather than just examining how whites view themselves, the Ethnocentrism score indicates the size of the gap between how whites view themselves and how they view others. Political psychologists have confirmed that Ethnocentrism is “conceptually and empirically distinguished from . . . outgroup negativity and mere ingroup positivity.”64 Rather than solely measuring differences, the formula accounts for superiority, making it a perfect match for assessing southern whiteness. Second, because of that relativity, Ethnocentrism is less likely to overlook persistent white supremacy because even though white respondents may report less racist assessments of blacks than they did fifty years ago, if they still report much higher evaluations of themselves as whites, then the gap remains wide open. And it is the gap that really matters.
Kinder and Kam actually offer two ways in which white-to-black Ethnocentrism can be measured. The first more general measure of Ethnocentrism utilizes feeling thermometers. The Ethnocentrism score results from subtracting the average of whites’ “warmth” for blacks or other minority groups from their “warmth” toward their own ethnic group. Figure 1.3 shows the average feeling thermometer evaluation of whites toward African Americans and Latinos, presented alongside their evaluation of their fellow whites. In 2010 and 2012, both whites who live in the South and outside of the South, and among whites who claim a southern identity and those who do not, the average temperature toward African Americans hovers in the moderate-to-warm upper 50s.
This slightly positive evaluation, considered in isolation, can be misleading. For example, Byron Shafer and Richard Johnston, in their book The End of Southern Exceptionalism, used feeling thermometers to show that by the 1990s whites’ racial feelings toward blacks, when considered alongside whites’ views on social welfare, did little to influence votes for Republican candidates.65 However, white “warmth” toward African Americans has little meaning without knowing how whites feel about themselves—which is substantially warmer. In 2012, the average white southerner’s feeling thermometer rating of African Americans was 57 degrees while the average white southerner’s feeling thermometer rating of other whites was 74.6 degrees—a difference of 17.6 degrees.
The gaps are even greater when whites’ view toward their own in-group is compared to their “warmth” toward Latinos. Among all whites, southern and non-southern, living in the South or outside of the South, “warmth” toward Latinos averaged around 54 degrees, compared to 72 degrees on average toward (p.58) themselves as whites. Once again, the gap is greatest among self-identified white southerners. The size of these gaps, which is one way to measure Ethnocentrism, is presented in Figure 1.4A. In both 2010 and 2012, the regional difference by geography is minimal. However, claiming a southern identity widens the gap, with white southerners well into the twenty-first century still reporting a nearly 20-point difference between how they see themselves compared to other racial groups.
The second measure of Ethnocentrism—and perhaps more important for evaluating this notion of not-so-new-southern racism—utlilizes the direct Old-Fashioned Racism scale evaluating stereotypes. It is calculated by subtracting the average of whites’ attitudes toward how hard-working, intelligent, and trustworthy they believe blacks and other minority groups to be from their corresponding assessments of whites. It is important to note that if a respondent, for example, has a positive stereotype of whites (positive answers receive a low score) and a negative stereotype of African Americans and Latinos (negative answers receive a high score), then the difference between white stereotypes of whites and the white stereotypes of African Americans and Latinos will be a negative number. The greater the negative numbers, the greater degree of distance and superiority indicated by the white respondent, as shown in Figure 1.4B.
The clear and consistent pattern in both 2010 and 2012 is that white southerners report the greatest distance regarding work ethic, intelligence, and trustworthiness between themselves and African Americans and Latinos, an example of the resurgent direct racism highlighted by Tesler. Their mean Ethnocentrism score (p.59) is followed in size by those who live in South, then those who live outside the South, then those who do not claim a southern identity respectively. These gaps may seem small numerically, but on a scale of 1–7 (as opposed to the Feeling Thermometer 100-point scale), they are substantial. Most notably, the gap reported by those who claim a southern identity is significantly larger than whites who do not call themselves southern, both in 2010 and in 2012.
Moreover, this measure of Ethnocentrism is particularly meaningful because it taps into such derogatory stereotypes—stereotypes that persist both in the South and beyond its borders. For example, in February 2015, seven workers at Matheson Trucking and Matheson Flight Extenders, Inc. based in California were awarded $15 million by a federal jury in a racial discrimination lawsuit. Their bosses were accused of calling them “lazy, stupid Africans.” In an interview with the Denver Post, one of the plaintiffs, Ernie Duke, summarized his feelings toward the name-calling: “I thought I was back in the South again with the same old racist attitudes.”66 To those who have declared the end of southern exceptionalism, the finding may prove frustrating, but it is hardly shocking to others, particularly the accusations regarding work ethic. On average, whites see themselves as better than African Americans and Latinos in general, but whites who call themselves southern position themselves at a greater distance from racial minorities, even five decades beyond the dismantling of “separate but equal.” Partisanship might have actually helped to perpetuate these attitudes, particularly as it relates to southern identity. Over ten years ago, Nicholas Valentino (p.60) and David Sears found a link between ideological conservatism and racial antagonism stretching back twenty-five years. Over time, it has strengthened and now extends beyond ideology to partisan identification.67 It may just be a long-term consequence of the GOP’s decision to chase southern white voters via old-fashioned stereotypes that are made new again.
THESE IDENTITY-BASED GAPS are more than just numbers on a chart. Rather, they reflect the historical—and, for many, the current—lived experience of racial separation that has infiltrated the southern psyche at depths that sometimes seem bottomless. “I can’t feel the same way about a Negro as a white person,” confessed a white woman interviewed in Robert Penn Warren’s 1956 study on the “inner conflict” of segregation; “it’s born in me,” she admits.68 Performed daily, in a thousand ways, both subtle and aggressive, segregation underscored nearly every aspect of white southern culture. For much of its history, the South functioned as “a theater of racial difference, a minstrel show writ large upon the land,” argued Grace Hale in her 1998 book Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South 1890–1940. The “ritualistic enactment of racial difference was vital,” she contends, “and southern whites commanded this performance of segregation for both a local and national audience, to maintain both white privilege at home and a sense of southern distinctiveness within the nation.”69 Performing segregation became inseparable from performing southern white supremacy, and despite increasing diversity in the region, despite greater levels of educational attainment, and despite personal relationships, such a link is not easily broken.
In fact, intimacy too often serves as the basis of self-assessment; cue the token “but I have black friends” comment. Yet, scholarship on contact theory by Mary Jackman and Marie Crane points to this fine distinction, concluding that “intimacy is less important than a variety of contacts.”70 The 2010 publication of Melvin Patrick Ely’s award-winning work of Antebellum history, Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War, pinpoints this exact paradox. Ely’s study of the day-to-day interactions between a free community of blacks in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and white slave owners, reveals the “callousness and closeness”71 of the black-white dynamic, and the resulting—perhaps counterintuitive—result. “The very friendliness that could arise between members of the dominant group and the oppressed,” he writes in his postscript, “may have postponed change by encouraging white people to see their social system as less abusive than it was in fact.”72 Polite behavior and politically correct speech may have provided conscious or subconscious deniability to southern whites, many of whom would insist that they are not racist. Nevertheless, befriending an “other” or growing up with an “other” does not mean one recognizes the “other” need not be “other” at (p.61) all. The opposite, in fact, may be true, particularly if one’s identity—rather than geography—is built on the existence of the “other.”
Thus, the greatest threat to the gap remains the dissolution of the “other” altogether. The purest indication might be attitudes toward interracial marriage, which was, perhaps, the greatest taboo in southern history. Only after Brown v. Board declared public school segregation unconstitutional, and only after the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, did the Supreme Court overturn anti-miscegenation laws via the 1967 landmark case Loving v. Virginia. Many states, of course, had already repealed similar laws, some as early as 1780 (Pennsylvania), but when the verdict came down in Loving v. Virginia, similar laws remained in effect in sixteen states, including all eleven states of the former Confederacy.73 Thirty years later, when John Shelton Reed and Larry Griffith conducted their 1999 Southern Focus Poll survey—one of the few polls that contain the southern identity variable—southerners remained distinct on the issue. The survey, which included 953 white participants, posed questions regarding experience with and approval of interracial relationships. Over 60 percent of self-identified southerners indicated that they had no family members who had dated someone from another race, and 77.3 percent admitted having no family members previously or currently in interracial marriages, compared to 42 percent and 69.7 percent of non-southerners reporting no family interracial dating or marriage respectively. Probing deeper into the respondents’ individual experiences, 82.5 percent of white, self-identified southerners revealed that their own parents would have objected if they, themselves, had dated someone with a different racial background. In this case, the gap between southerners and non-southerners was a distinct 19 points. The participants professed their personal views, as well, which followed the exact pattern. Close to one-third of those who self-identify as southern admitted that they personally objected to interracial dating (32 percent) and marriage (29 percent) compared to 12 percent of non-southerners on both questions. Moreover, when southern and non-southern responses are compared across all five questions, southern identity proves significant every time.
This ultimate defense of the “otherness” of racial minorities persists in southern culture and continues to shape public opinion. In 2009, the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi, which chronicled Morgan Freeman’s effort to finance an integrated prom in 2008 in Charleston, Mississippi, premiered on HBO.74 In 2013, the New York Times covered a similar challenge in Abbeville, Georgia, where students were petitioning for the end of segregated school dances. In 2011, churches in both Tennessee and Kentucky banned members for their interracial marriages.75 In addition, when Public Policy Polling surveyed 400 likely Republican primary voters in Mississippi in 2011, 46 percent said that interracial marriage should be illegal.76 In polls conducted the next year by the same firm of (p.62) both Republicans in Mississippi and Alabama, support for anti-miscegenation laws—forty-five years after Loving v. Virginia—remained at 29 percent and 21 percent respectively, with another 17 percent and 12 percent indicating they were undecided.77 Such gaps provide opportunities for politicians. For example, when George W. Bush trailed John McCain in the 2000 primary race for the Republican presidential nomination, rumors that McCain’s daughter of Bangladesh descent was actually an “illegitimate black child” reversed Bush’s fortunes.78 McCain, in turn, played the not-so-new southern racial card too by expressing his belief that the Confederate flag was a symbol of heritage not hate.79 Politicizing key components of southern whiteness—a primary tenet of the Long Southern Strategy—seems to have become a rite of passage for GOP contenders.
Maintaining these racial gaps won over many southern voters come Election Day, but preserving these gaps hovers just below the surface of other policy initiatives, past and present, many of which have been repackaged in coded rhetoric. The mass incarceration of African Americans, a continuous cycle since the Reconstruction-era convict lease system rebuilt the South with prison labor, has been called the new Jim Crow by scholars such as Michelle Alexander,80 not only because the population is imprisoned and separated from society, but also because of the disenfranchisement of prisoners and parolees both during and after incarceration. From Richard Nixon’s calls for “law and order” to George H. W. Bush’s demand for “more jails, more prisons, more courts, and more prosecutors,”81 each stance reaffirmed southern whiteness and its segregated reality. The Willie Horton ad and accusations that Democrats were soft on crime indicated they were not committed to white supremacy, whether white southerners could articulate that or not. Democrats learned the lesson that on crime “they had to be more Catholic than the Pope, tougher than tough.”82 That overcorrection would result eventually in the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (the “Crime Bill”) now heavily criticized for exploding the African American prison population for the past two decades.
The impact is not limited to the criminal justice system. Even fair employment practices in the South stalled due to efforts to maintain the gaps between blacks and whites. “Appeals to preserve segregation,” argued Michelle Brittain in The Politics of Whiteness: Race, Workers, and Culture in the Modern South, “which commanded extraordinary power as a cultural norm among southern whites, frequently served as the final justification for protecting traditional employment practices.” However, as bold pronouncements, such as “God advocate[d] segregation” as proclaimed by 1940s Georgia Governor Herman Talmadge in his opposition to the Fair Employment Practices Commission, gave way to masked racial appeals, the GOP found ways to activate the same segregationist energy. Senator Goldwater, specifically, championed “qualifications” as a way of building (p.63) a labor force on the implied racial superiority of whiteness and its advantages. Qualifications such as work ethic and trustworthiness and intelligence seem innocuous, but being deemed “qualified,” notes Brattain “incorporated much of the ideological and emotional baggage” of southern white supremacy and segregation.83
The bait-and-switch rhetorical model applies to the use of the word “private” as well, specifically in terms of education. In addition to noncompulsory attendance laws and the advent of homeschooling, which anticipated and/or followed the desegregation of public schools in the South, hundreds of “private” academies allowed white students to continue to prop up Jim Crow. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Hechinger Report, which assesses inequality in American public education, counted thirty-five such white-flight schools still operating in Mississippi, all established between 1964 and 1972.84 Profiled in The Atlantic, one such school in Indianola, Mississippi—a town where less than 20 percent of the population is white—enrolled 434 white students and 2 black students in the 2009–2010 school year. Many times advocacy for vouchers and charter schools in the South are attempts to support such schools financially. Neither are public schools immune to the power of the gap. The Harvard Civil Rights Project assessed that as of 2003, public school integration had declined to its lowest rate in three decades.85 As of 2014, of the twenty most segregated state public education systems in the country, seven are in the South.86 In 2016, sixty-two years after the Brown v. Board decision, a federal judge again had to order a school district in Mississippi to desegregate.87 These schools, these employment practices, even segregated social functions, are not just about staying in one’s own group. The negative ethnocentric score requires a hierarchical perspective, with the in-group on top, and the out-groups kept at an inferior distance.
Increasingly that “other” includes Latinos. Whereas protecting southern white superiority has been tied to criminal justice, employment, and education policies, it has been politicized effectively most recently in terms of immigration reform. Here again, despite coded language that characterized the debate as economic, scholars have shown that Old-Fashioned Racism, measures of indirect racism, and Ethnocentrism all influence white attitudes toward immigration.88 In a working paper for the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, Jessica Brown finds links between the GOP’s Southern Strategy and the “racially divisive appeals (RDAs)” employed by Republicans in the last two election cycles. This “Southwestern Strategy,” Brown argues, relies on a nativist, oppositional appeal and casts undocumented immigrants as “welfare abusers,” “criminals,” and “terrorists.”89 It invokes the “law and order” dog whistle via advocacy for a “stop and frisk” policy to crack down on illegal immigration.90 Masked by appeals to qualifications and fairness, GOP candidates like Ron Paul once (p.64) framed the narrative this way: “There is something said in economics that, if you subsidize something, you get more of it. This is what we do, we encourage it by giving free medical care, free education, and the promise of amnesty. No wonder more will come.”91 Native citizens (often presumed as white) are hard-working, and immigrants are looking for what GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney deemed, repeatedly throughout his campaign, “a handout.”92
In terms of the policy implications of this spirit, when asked whether they favor or oppose “tougher immigration laws like Arizona,” whites who claim a southern identity remain significantly distinct from those who do not, as can be seen in Figure 1.5. Support among southern whites stands at 79.1 percent and 76.4 percent in 2010 and 2012 respectively, compared to 63.4 percent in 2010 and 59.4 percent in 2012 among non-southern whites. Moreover, fewer white southerners are on the fence or opposed than their non-southern counterparts. So powerful is the culture of separation that southern whites cannot be neutral on policies that they perceive as protective of southern white identity and its superiority.
THAT SENSE OF protection has only intensified since Obama’s victory. Pundits and scholars wonder aloud how the country became so polarized, and many were shocked by Donald Trump’s victory over nearly two dozen GOP primary challengers to emerge as the party’s nominee. The shock stemmed from Trump’s (p.65) overt racial appeals, prompting questions as to how he could uncode the rhetoric and still remain competitive. Much of it has to do with how the primary system is structured, giving states in the South hefty influence. Yet, these southern white attitudes, albeit still significantly distinct, both caused and were caused by the GOP’s right turn on race. Many party loyalists—whether living inside the South or not—have let the current take them right along. The “us vs. them” tactic, however, was often abstract. The election of an African American president makes it very real in ways that some whites could not even process until it happened. The ascension of a black man to the height of national power has been met with both a defensive elevation and assertion of whiteness. Trump’s reactionary MAGA became the mantra, with “making American great again,” perhaps meaning “before the possibility of an Obama,” as outlined in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s October 2017 essay in The Atlantic.93
Trump’s desire to wipe Obama’s presidency from the record books94 underscored his “birtherism” movement, which sought to prove Obama was not a natural-born citizen. Doing so would invalidate Obama’s election or, at the least, delegitimize his presidency by casting doubt on his Americanism. Trump’s campaign promises and many of his early actions as president focus on rolling back Obama’s major initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act and his executive order on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).95 Many of these efforts, thus, are clarion calls in support of whiteness, even if they are packaged as “fiscal conservatism” or support for “law and order.” And those are calls that many whites who identify as southern will still answer—perhaps even more so now, as indicated in the 2016 Blair Center Poll conducted in the weeks after the presidential election. As shown in Figure 1.6, southern whites’ evaluations of their own whiteness has increased since 2010 and 2012.
In 2016, when asked on a feeling thermometer scale of 1–100 how warmly whites feel toward whiteness, southern whites report an average temperature of 78.5 degrees, up almost 3 degrees in four years, and still significantly higher than non-southern whites whose scores have stayed relatively the same at 70.4 degrees. Whiteness isn’t just getting “hotter,” so to speak, as Figure 1.6 also shows, it is becoming slightly more popular. Among southern whites, it is borderline unanimous with 91.4 percent indicating that they “strongly” or “very strongly” identify as white, up from 2012 by over 2 points. This remains significantly distinct from non-southern whites, among whom white identity has dropped almost 9 points to 67.7 percent. Moreover, under half (44.6 percent) of non-southern whites fall into the “very strongly” identify as white category, but among southern whites, top-level intensity has held steady at close to 70 percent. This assertion of whiteness is one of the reasons why Trump’s racial dog whistles drew massive white (p.66) crowds across the country and massive margins of victories, particularly in ten of the eleven states of the former Confederacy.
Still, Trump didn’t just blow dog whistles of whiteness; rather, he blew whistles that everyone could hear, making overt statements and campaign promises and tweets that attacked racial minorities. The Black Lives Matter movement, according to Trump, was actually instigating the killing of police offices, for which his administration might have to investigate the organization.96 Pitting Black Lives Matter against the police further demonized black protests as violent and threatening to whites. His words resonated among white audiences, particularly those who claim a southern identity. On a feeling thermometer scale, as shown in Figure 1.7, these whites on average report their “warmth” toward Black Lives Matter at a freezing 28.5 degrees, a solid and significant 10 degrees lower than whites who do not claim a southern identity, and much lower than their general evaluation of African Americans. Police, (p.67) however, receive an 81.4-degree evaluation from southern whites, roughly 8 degrees warmer than non-southern whites.
Trump’s rhetoric also targeted Latino Americans with equal hostility. Mexican “rapists” and illegal aliens became the new Willie Horton. US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who ruled against Trump in a civil case, was denounced as incapable of fairness because of his Mexican ancestry.97 Whiteness is sanctified by this demonized “other,” and protecting its sacred supremacy requires separation, both by removing or deporting this “other” and by building a wall between “us” and “them.” These seeds of fear had been planted for years, and the soil of southern identity proved rich, as can be seen in Figure 1.8. In 2016, almost half of whites who claim a southern identity (46.9 percent) “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the Mexican-American border, even though only one southern state—Texas—is impacted directly. That approval is a significant 15 points higher than whites who do not claim a southern identity. Walls, whether literal or figurative, have long been a part of southern whiteness, which is, in and of itself, a fortress, made to seem, yet again, as if it is under siege.
IT WAS GERALD Ford who first noticed that his party had become associated with white supremacy when he said, “most blacks wouldn’t vote for me no matter what I did.”98 So effective was the Long Southern Strategy at politicizing southern white identity and tapping into that “us vs. them” dynamic that even (p.68) Bob Dole’s efforts to expand its stark white base and to attract more African Americans to the GOP were doomed, with black Republicans characterized as “the loneliest people in the world.”99 The branding was so complete—the hunting so successful—that non-white conservatives, some have noted, who have ambitions in the Republican Party deny their heritage and adopt “a white mental outlook,” which “renders it [racial animus] inoperable.”100 Looking specifically at the careers of former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza, and then South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, Jeet Heer argues in the New Republic that “racial minorities can advance in the GOP by erasing their ethnic identity and/or attacking other minorities.”101 One must be a hunter.
Pointing to the election of Barack Obama or “hiding behind a minority”102 candidate, Republican leaders continue to portray Jim Crow racism as something from America’s past. But they are just as wrong as the “new racism” scholars were premature in announcing Old-Fashioned Racism’s demise. Even a nonprofit organization called the Marshall Project warns that “Willie Horton–style ads have been making a comeback.”103 Perhaps that is because now the GOP must solidify loyalty and secure high turnout among whites in the South, and because whiteness itself relies on such political cues for its meaning. Even when issue framing is coded—“soft porn racism” as Dan Carter calls it104—it still works, triggering an emotional and habitual defense. This is most often and easily accomplished by contrasting whiteness to what it is not—by promoting the gap between white and other. When whites could no longer denigrate minorities publicly, the gap was maintained by an elevation of and clinging to whiteness. That elevation and unity (p.69) is often achieved in reaction to a common enemy perceived as increasingly threatening, which, in turn, triggers a protection of separate, even walled-off, white spaces, as can be seen in white flight schools or support for strict immigration control or the mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of African Americans.
Geographical distinctions between the South and the non-South remain significant, but identity carries a heavier weight. In 2013, political scientists at the University of Rochester announced their discovery of the “slavery effect” (distinctly negative racial attitudes in areas where slavery was most prominent), which they argue “accounts for up to a 15-percentage point difference in party affiliation today.”105 The provocative finding, which connects the southern past to the southern present, is possible over such a long period and despite such substantial changes in society, but only if these attitudes are connected to some kind of persistent personal identification. Then the fire of racial animus must be stoked regularly and strategically over the long haul so that whiteness and southernness and superiority and partisanship become mutually reinforcing. It is a remarkable game plan that is anything but new.
(1.) Ian Reifowitz, “The Republicans’ Southern Strategy Still Works. Here’s How Liberals Can Counter It,” Daily Kos, May 26, 2014, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/05/26/1301173/-The-Republicans-Southern-strategy-still-works-Here-s-how-liberals-can-counter-it.
(2.) “Did Gore Hatch Horton?,” Slate, November 1, 1999, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/1999/11/did_gore_hatch_horton.html.
(3.) Roger Simon, “The GOP and Willie Horton: Together Again,” Politico, May 19, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/jeb-bush-willie-horton-118061.
(4.) T. J. Raphael, “How One Political Ad Held Back a Generation of American Inmates,” PRI, May 18, 2015, http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-05-18/what-willie-horton-wrought.
(5.) Glenn Firebaugh and Kenneth Davis, “Trends in Antiblack Prejudice, 1972–1984: Region and Cohort Effects,” American Journal of Sociology 94 (1988): 251–272; Howard Schuman and Lawrence Bobo, “Survey-based Experiments on White Racial Attitudes Toward Residential Integration,” American Journal of Sociology 94 (1988): 273–299; Steven Tuch, “Urbanism, Region, and Tolerance Revisited: The Case for Racial Prejudice,” American Sociological Review 52 (1987): 504–510; see also: David O. Sears and Tom Jessor, “Whites’ Racial Policy Attitudes: The Role of White Racism,” Social Science Quarterly 77, no. 4 (1996): 751–759.
(6.) John Shelton Reed, Surveying the South: Studies in Regional Sociology (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993).
(7.) Byron D’Andra Orey, “A New Racial Threat in the New South? (A Conditional) Yes,” American Review of Politics 22 (2001): 233.
(8.) See: Thomas F. Pettigrew, “The Nature of Modern Racism in the United States,” Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale 2, no. 3 (1989): 291–293; Donald R. Kinder and David O. Sears, “Prejudice and Politics: Symbolic Racism Versus Racial Threats to the Good Life,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 40, no. 3 (1981): 414–431. Jerry Wilcox and W. Clark Roof, “Percent Black and Black-White Status Inequality: Southern Versus Non-Southern Patterns,” Social Science Quarterly 59 (1978): 421–434; E. G. Grabb, “Social Class, Authoritarianism, and Race Contact: Recent Trends,” Sociology and Social Research 64 (1980): 208–220; Mark A. Fossett and K. Jill Keicolt, “The Relative Size of Minority Populations and White Racial Attitudes,” Social Science Quarterly 70, no. 4 (1989): 820–835.
(9.) James M. Glaser, “Back to the Black Belt: Racial Environment and White Racial Attitudes in the South,” Journal of Politics 56, no. 1 (1984): 21–41.
(10.) Edward G. Carmines and James A. Stimson, Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).
(11.) Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos, “Race and the Modern GOP,” Politico, September 24, 2014, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/race-and-the-modern-gop-111218; (p.438) see also: Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos, Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Post-War America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).
(12.) Laurie Fuller, “Where’s My Body and What’s on It? Theoretical Twists on Notions of Race and Sexuality,” in Dismantling White Privilege: Pedagogy, Politics, and Whiteness, ed. Nelson N. Rodriguez and Leila E. Villaverde (New York: Peter Lang, 2000), 81.
(13.) Ruth Frankenberg, The Social Construction of Whiteness: White Women, Race Matters (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 1. See also: Nancy Hartstock, “The Feminist Standpoint: Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminist Historical Materialism,” in Discovering Reality, ed. Sandra Harding and Merrill B. Hintikka (Dordrecht: D. Riedel, 1983), 283–310.
(14.) See: Angie Maxwell, The Indicted South: Public Criticism, Southern Inferiority, and the Politics of Whiteness (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014).
(15.) “Partisan Polarization Surges in Bush, Obama Years: Trends in American Values: 1987–2012,” Pew Research Center: US Politics & Policy, June 4, 2012, http://www.people-press.org/2012/06/04/partisan-polarization-surges-in-bush-obama-years/.
(16.) Emily Flitter and Chris Kahn, “Exclusive: Trump Voters More Likely to View Blacks Negatively—Reuters/Ipsos Poll,” Reuters, June 28, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-race/exclusive-trump-supporters-more-likely-to-view-blacks-negatively-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKCN0ZE2SW.
(17.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1998).
(18.) “Civil War at 150: Still Relevant, Still Divisive,” Pew Research Center: US Politics & Policy, April 8, 2014, http://www.people-press.org/2011/04/08/civil-war-at-150-still-relevant-still-divisive/.
(20.) Tony Greenwald, Mahzarin Banaji, and Brian Nosek, “Project Implicit,” 1998, https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/aboutus.html; Tim Donovan, “White People Are More Racist Than They Realize,” Salon, January 16, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/01/16/white_people_are_more_racist_than_they_realize_partner/.
(21.) Tessa M. Ditonto, Richard R. Lau, and David O. Sears, “AMPing Racial Attitudes: Comparing the Power of Explicit and Implicit Racism Measures in 2008,” Political Psychology 34, no. 4 (2013): 487–510.
(22.) Beth Schwartzapfel and Bill Keller, “Willie Horton Revisited,” The Marshal Project, May 13, 2015, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/05/13/willie-horton-revisited.
(23.) Michael Tesler, “The Return of Old-Fashioned Racism to White Americans’ Partisan Preferences in the Early Obama Era,” Journal of Politics 75, no. 1 (2013): 110–123.
(24.) Southern Poverty Law Center, “Active Ku Klux Klan Groups,” SPLC Center, n.d., http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/ideology/ku-klux-klan/active_hate_groups; for a map, see: News One Staff, “How Many KKK Chapters Are in Your Area?,” NewsOne, June 19, 2014, http://newsone.com/3062375/text-news-to-71007-get-breaking-news-daily/.
(25.) Frances Lee Ansley, “White Supremacy (And What We Should Do About It),” in Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, ed. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997), 592. The chapter is excerpted from: Frances Lee Ansley, “Stirring the Ashes: Race, Class, and the Future of Civil Rights Scholarship,” Cornell Law Review 74 (1989).
(26.) David Gillborn, “Rethinking White Supremacy: Who Counts in ‘WhiteWorld?,’” Ethnicities 6, no. 3 (2006): 335.
(27.) “Did Gore Hatch Horton?,” Slate.
(28.) Richard Nixon, “Accepting the Republican Nomination,” PBS: American Experience, August 8, 1968, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/nixon-accept68/.
(29.) Josh Adams and Vincent J. Roscigno, “White Supremacists, Oppositional Culture, and the World Wide Web,” Social Forces 84, no. 2 (2005): 759–778.
(30.) Michael Kimmel, Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era (New York: Nation Books, 2013).
(31.) Desmond S. King and Stephen G. N. Tuck, “De-centering the South: America’s Nationwide White Supremacist Order After Reconstruction,” Past & Present 194 (2007): 213–254.
(32.) Thomas Nelson Page, quoted in: James W. Vander Zanden, “The Ideology of White Supremacy,” Journal of the History of Ideas 20, no. 3 (1959): 393–394.
(33.) Sue Sturgis, “NAACP Links Proposed NC Voting Changes to Historical White Supremacist Politics,” Facing South, July 24, 2013, http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/07/naacp-links-proposed-nc-voting-changes-to-historic.html.
(34.) Shaun King, “Mississippi Judge Gets Indicted for Assaulting and Calling a Disabled African American a N*gger,” Daily Kos, February 16, 2015, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/02/16/1364750/-A-Mississippi-Judge-gets-indicted-for-assaulting-and-calling-a-disabled-African-American-a-nigger.
(35.) David Ferguson, “Texas Students Flash ‘White Power’ Signs During Basketball Game Against Rival High School,” Raw Story, February 17, 2015, http://www.rawstory.com/2015/02/texas-students-flash-white-power-signs-during-basketball-game-against-mostly-black-high-school/.
(36.) Chuck Thompson, “What Paula Deen Could Teach John Roberts,” New Republic, July 1, 2013, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113708/paula-deen-melts-down-supreme-court-declares-southern-racism-dead.
(37.) Don Terry, “A Weekend in the Fairytale Kingdom of Post-Racial America,” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 9, 2015, http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2015/03/09/a-weekend-in-the-fairytale-kingdom-of-post-racial-america/.
(38.) “Knoxville Police Remove White Supremacy Banners from I-640 Overpass,” WATE.COM, December 30, 2013), http://www.wate.com/story/24327762/knoxville-police-remove-white-supremacist-banner-from-i-640-overpass.
(39.) Matt Mershon, “Controversial ‘White Pride’ Billboards Taken Down in Harrison,” KATV, September 19, 2017, http://katv.com/news/local/controversial-billboards-taken-down-in-harrison.
(40.) Bret Schulte, “The Alt-Right of the Ozarks,” Slate, April 3, 2017, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/04/what_harrison_arkansas_fight_with_the_kkk_says_about_the_alt_right.html; see also: Matthew Rowza, “5 Reason ‘White Pride’ Is Always Racist,” Salon, January 9, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/01/09/5_reasons_white_pride_is_always_racist_partner/.
(41.) “Mapping Racist Tweets in Response to President Obama’s Re-election,” Floating-Sheep, November 8, 2012, http://www.floatingsheep.org/2012/11/mapping-racist-tweets-in-response-to.html; see also: Josh Wolford, “Alabama & Mississippi Win the Most-Racist-on-Twitter Award Surrounding the Election,” WebProNews, November 8, 2012, http://www.webpronews.com/alabama-mississippi-win-the-most-racist-on-twitter-award-following-the-election-2012-11.
(42.) Leonie Huddy, David O. Sears, and Jack Levy, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).
(44.) W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South, rev. ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 1969), 51; Cash’s book was originally published in 1941.
(45.) James Weldon Johnson, quoted in: George Brown Tindall, The Ethnic Southerners (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press), 60.
(47.) E. M. Beck and Stewart E. Tolnay, “The Killing Fields of the Deep South: The Market for Cotton and the Lynching of Blacks, 1882–1930,” American Sociological Review 55, no. 4 (1990): 526; see also: Stewart E. Tolnay and E. M. Beck, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882–1930 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1995).
(48.) Lillian Smith, Killers of the Dream (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1949), 176.
(49.) Bill D. Moyers, Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times, 2nd ed. (New York: Anchor Books, 2005), 194.
(51.) Ronald Reagan, quoted in: Schwartzapfel and Keller, “Willie Horton Revisited.”
(55.) “Did Gore Hatch Horton?,” Slate.
(56.) Derald Wing Sue, “The Invisible Whiteness of Being: Whiteness, White Supremacy, White Privilege, and Racism,” in Addressing Racism: Facilitating Cultural, ed. Madonna G. Constantine and Derald Wing Sue (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006), 27.
(57.) John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town, 2nd ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), 316; the original version of Dollard’s book was published in 1937.
(58.) Donald R. Kinder and Cindy D. Kam, Us Against Them: Ethnocentric Foundations of American Opinion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 1; see also: Cindy D. Kam and Donald R. Kinder, “Ethnocentrism as a Short-Term Force in the 2008 Presidential Election,” American Journal of Political Science 56 (2012): 326–340.
(60.) Cheryl R. Kaiser, Benjamin J. Drury, Kerry E. Spalding, Sapna Cheryan, and Laurie T. O’Brien, “The Ironic Consequences of Obama’s Election: Decreased Support for Social Justice,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45 (2009): 556–559.
(61.) Ward Kay and Jeremy Mayer, “Immigration in the 2008 Virginia Presidential Election: A Cultural Issue Remains Puissant Despite an Economic Crisis,” The Social Science Journal 47 (2010): 646–658.
(63.) Kasomo Daniel, “Historical Manifestation of Ethnocentrism and Its Challenges Today,” International Journal of Applied Sociology 1, no. 1 (2011): 8–14.
(64.) Brian Bizumic and John Duckitt, “What Is and Is Not Ethnocentrism? A Conceptual Analysis and Political Implications,” Political Psychology 33, no. 6 (2012): 887–909.
(65.) Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston, The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Postwar South (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), 127.
(66.) “Workers Called ‘Lazy, Stupid Africans’ Awarded $15 Million in Discrimination Suit,” NewsOne, February 22, 2012, http://newsone.com/3093060/colorado-trucking-workers-awarded-15m-in-discrimination-suit/.
(67.) Nicholas A. Valentino and David O. Sears, “Old Times Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South,” American Journal of Political Science 49, no. 3 (2005): 672–688.
(68.) Robert Penn Warren, Segregation: The Inner Conflict of the South (1956; reiss., Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994), xiv.
(69.) Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998), 284.
(70.) Mary R. Jackman and Marie Crane, “‘Some of My Best Friends Are Black . . .’: Interracial Friendships and Whites’ Racial Attitudes,” Public Opinion Quarterly 50, no. 4 (1986): 459.
(71.) Benjamin Schwarz, “The South in Black and White,” The Atlantic, November 2004, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/11/the-south-in-black-and-white/303566/.
(72.) Melvin Patrick Ely, Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s to the Civil War (New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010), 443.
(73.) See: Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).
(74.) Prom Night in Mississippi, directed by Paul Saltzman (Return to Mississippi Productions, 2009).
(75.) Robbie Brown, “A Racial Divide Closes as Students Step Up,” New York Times, April 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/27/us/in-rural-georgia-students-step-up-to-offer-integrated-prom.html.
(76.) Tom Jensen, “MS GOP: Bryant for Gov., Barbour or Huckabee for Pres.,” Public Policy Polling, April 7, 2011, http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_MS_0407915.pdf.
(77.) Tom Jensen, “Very Close Race in Both Alabama and Mississippi,” Public Policy Polling, March 12, 2011, http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_SouthernSwing_312.pdf.
(78.) Ann Banks, “Dirty Tricks, South Carolina, and John McCain,” The Nation, January 14, 2008, https://www.thenation.com/article/dirty-tricks-south-carolina-and-john-mccain/.
(80.) Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010).
(82.) T. J. Raphael, “How One Political Ad Held Back a Generation of American Inmates,” PRI, May 18, 2015, http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-05-18/what-willie-horton-wrought.
(83.) Michelle Brattain, The Politics of Whiteness: Race, Workers, and Culture in the Modern South (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 243–245.
(84.) Sarah Carr, “In Southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ Are Still Going Strong,” The Atlantic, December 13, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/in-southern-towns-segregation-academies-are-still-going-strong/266207/.
(85.) Michael F. Higginbotham, Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America (New York: New York University Press, 2013), 151.
(86.) Janet Loehrke and Jolie Lee, “Still Apart: Map Shows States with Most-Segregated Schools,” USA Today, May 15, 2014, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/05/15/school-segregation-civil-rights-project/9115823/; see also: Jessica Epperly, “UCLA Report Finds Changing U.S. Demographics Transform School Segregation Landscape 60 Years After Brown v. Board of Education,” The Civil Rights Project, (p.442) May 15, 2014, http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/news/press-releases/2014-press-releases/ucla-report-finds-changing-u.s.-demographics-transform-school-segregation-landscape-60-years-after-brown-v-board-of-education.
(87.) Emma Brown, “Judge Orders Mississippi School District to Desegregate, 62 Years After Brown v. Board of Education,” Washington Post, May 16, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/05/16/judge-orders-mississippi-school-district-to-desegregate-62-years-after-brown-v-board-of-education/.
(88.) Lingyu Lu and Sean Nicholson-Crotty, “Reassessing the Impact of Hispanic Stereotypes on White Americans’ Immigration Preferences,” Social Science Quarterly 91, no. 5 (2010): 1312–1328; Justin Allen Berg, “Opposition to Pro-Immigrant Public Policy: Symbolic Racism and Group Threat,” Sociological Inquiry 83, no. 1 (2013): 1–31; Nicholas A. Valentino, Ted Brader, and Ashley E. Jardina, “Immigration Opposition Among U.S. Whites: General Ethnocentrism or Media Priming of Attitudes about Latinos?,” Political Psychology 34, no. 2 (2013): 149–166.
(89.) Jessica Brown, “The ‘Southwestern Strategy’: Immigration and Race in GOP Discourse,” Working Paper No. 2015-01, Kinder Institute for Urban Research (2015), https://kinder.rice.edu/uploadedFiles/Kinder_Institute_for_Urban_Research/Publications/White_Papers/Brown_WP1501.pdf, 3; see also: Jessica Autumn Brown, “Running on Fear: Immigration, Race, and Crime Framings in Contemporary GOP Presidential Debate Discourse,” Critical Criminology 24 (2016): 315–341.
(90.) Brian Beutler, “Trump’s White Supremacy Platform Comes into Focus,” The New Republic, September 23, 2016, https://newrepublic.com/article/137064/trumps-white-supremacy-platform-comes-focus.
(93.) Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The First White President,” The Atlantic, October, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-first-white-president-ta-nehisi-coates/537909/.
(94.) See: Ian Haney López, “How the GOP Became the ‘White Man’s Party,’” Salon, December 22, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/12/22/how_the_gop_became_the_white_mans_party/; Paul Rosenberg, “It Is All Still About Race: Obama Hatred, the South, and the Truth About GOP Wins,” Salon, November 4, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/11/04/it_is_all_still_about_race_obama_hatred_the_south_and_the_truth_about_gop_wins/.
(95.) “President Donald J. Trump Restores Responsibility and the Rule of Law to Immigration,” TheWhite House.gov, September 5, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-restores-responsibility-rule-law-immigration/.
(96.) Jeremy Diamond, “Trump: Black Lives Matter Has Helped Instigate Police Killings,” CNN, July 18, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/18/politics/donald-trump-black-lives-matter/index.html.
(97.) Sean Sullivan, “Trump Says Judge’s Mexican Heritage Presents ‘Absolute Conflict’ in Trump University Cases,” Washington Post, June 2, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/06/02/trump-says-judges-mexican-heritage-presents-absolute-conflict-in-trump-university-cases/.
(98.) Gerald Ford, quoted in: Earl Ofari Hustchinson, “Gerald Ford: The Conflicted President on Civil Rights,” AlterNet, December 28, 2006, http://www.alternet.org/story/46034/gerald_ford%3A_the_conflicted_president_on_civil_rights.
(99.) Byron P. White, “Moving On with Race and Rhetoric,” Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1996, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-10-27/news/9610270400_1_republicans-dole-and-jack-kemp-bob-dole.
(100.) M. V. Hood III and Seth C. McKee, “True Colors: White Conservatives Support for Minority Republican Candidates,” Public Opinion Quarterly 79, no. 1 (2015): 28–52.
(101.) Jeet Heer, “Making It in (Right-Wing) America: Dinesh D’Souza and the Shame of Immigrant Self-Hatred,” New Republic, February 20, 2015, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/121105/dinesh-dsouzas-anti-black-racism-rooted-national-review.
(102.) Ian Haney López, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 137.
(104.) Dan Carter, From George Wallace to Newt Gingrich: Race in the Conservative Counterrevolution, 1963–1994 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996), 4.
(105.) “Legacy of Slavery Still Fuels Anti-Black Attitudes in the Deep South,” University of Rochester, September 18, 2013, http://www.rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=7202; see also: Sue Sturgis, “How Slavery Continues to Shape Southern Politics,” Facing South, September 23, 2013, http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/09/how-slavery-continues-to-shape-southern-politics.html.