The Social Construction of Racism in the United States

    The Social Construction of Racism in the United States (Executive Summary, Table of Contents and PDF download at link)

    by Eric Kaufmann, April 7, published at

    Foreword by Coleman Hughes

    In the 1980s, people all around America became convinced that day care centers were secretly practicing demonic ritual sex abuse on children. These allegations stayed in the national news for the better part of a decade. Hapless day care workers were falsely convicted of running sex rings. Evidence of their guilt was manufactured as necessary. In hindsight, this episode looks absurd. How could anyone have believed that there were Satanic day care centers throughout the country? Yet at the time, many reasonable people were swept up in the delusion—as were the prosecutors and elected officials who promised to put a stop to the fake problem. Such is the nature of moral panics. What looks like obvious absurdity from the outside seems totally reasonable to those on the inside.

    Some moral panics are mysterious in origin. Others are the product of specific ideas. Since about 2014, we have been facing a new moral panic surrounding race, gender, and sexuality. Unlike Satanic day cares, this one is not a complete fabrication. Bigotry is real. Yet the public perception of bigotry has surpassed the reality to such an extent that it has become a moral panic. White supremacy is said to be rampant. Black people should fear for their lives when going for a jog, one New York Times op-ed argued.

    Yet as political scientist Eric Kaufmann lays out in this paper, the public has a mistaken perception of how much racism exists in America today. This misperception is not only driven by cognitive biases such as the availability heuristic, it is also driven by ideas. Critical race theory and intersectionality—formerly confined to graduate seminars—have seeped into corporate America and Silicon Valley, as well as into many K–12 education systems. With their spread has come an increase in the misperception that bigotry is everywhere, even as the data tell a different story: racism exists, but there has never been less racism than there is now.

    If America’s racial tensions ever heal, it will be because we were able to align our perceptions with our reality and leave moral panics at the door.


    One thing about racism in the US: Americans are so overeducated and take in such media that they often think something like racism works the way professional analysts and academics say it does and not in the fluid way it often does in real life.

    I had a good friend, a black guy, who I knew at work. He was friends with a maintenance guy who was very clearly from a rural country area. All 3 of us got along really well. The maintenance dude dropped the n-bomb really, really loud, with the "full E-R" while just the 2 of us were talking once. He was talking about a traffic altercation he had with a black driver. Based on the liberal analysis of how racism works, I wondered if maybe he faked his friendship with the other guy and secretly loathed him but, as I continued working there, I observed their interaction and realized their relationship was exactly like it seemed at the onset. Also, the black guy in question that he was friends with was no "uncle tom" - he was extremely progressive and voiced it frequently. Cognitive dissonance? Maybe. It is a thing. Spike Lee also depicted people like this at the Italian pizza place "Sal's" in Do The Right Thing.

    I also had a black employer at one point who would very much talk black victimhood - lynchings, police harassment, African immigrants looking down on him as lazy, etc. - but when it came to hiring, seemed racist as hell. He was holding on to dear life to me while making it very difficult for anyone black, especially women, to stay in his employ. He tried putting various white people in the job even though they clearly were not good fits. Self-hatred? Maybe.

    That doesn't mean that the maintenance guy wasn't racist, or that the black employer wasn't genuinely black, only that racism didn't quite operate the way the narrative says. I think that other societies have a more fluid understanding of how tribalism and prejudice works, but we like to see things as simple/black and white here.

    Also, I won't say it was intentional but racial identity in the US has worked to split working class interests. Black people are often conservative about literally everything except race, and that works to supercede everything else and keep them voting for progressives, even when gun ownership is high and you see active churches and pro-life billboard ads in black areas.

    Orion, I always enjoy your personal anecdotes and insights very much; thank you for taking the time to write them up!

    I'm looking for writing jobs. Give me a letter of recommendation!

    you have the best kind of recommendation to cite right there, from a reader


    From your description of the event, the maintenance person used the slur when only the two of you were in conversation. Did your Black friend ever hear the maintenance person use the word in his presence? If the maintenance person never used the word in the presence of your Black friend, the Liberal,analysis would say that your Black took took the relationship at face value and could in no way be called an Uncle Tom.

    Did you ever work for Black bosses who hired on a fair basis? Otherwise, it would seem that the Black boss was simply a hypocrite.

    Do you think Blacks, while conservative, see Republicans as foes because of things like voter suppression? Progressives often the only option.

    The maintenance person never said that around the black friend, that I know of (I was usually working when they talked to each other). The thing about the maintenance guy is he looked like the kind of white person who would drop the n-word and there's no way the black friend didn't know that.

    The only other time I worked for a black man was at a hip-hop magazine in the 2000s. There were similar dynamics - both had a white guy working with him that they were really close to and didn't seem to mind sharing power with. At the hip-hop magazine, it was still majority black being employed. The hip-hop guy was not a hypocrite and that's what the guy I referenced was - there was a big separation between what he said about the world and what he did. He preferred being around white people and working with white people but he liked to use all the grievance to keep the working relationship going.

    I think that mainstream conservatism generally turns off black people. I met black conservatives before Trump but it's like something talked them in to it or it was a rebellious phase. During Trump, I met young black guys who really liked Trump and had very thought out reasons for it.

    If you go back and look at history, you actually see blacks voting for Democrats at the same time Dixiecrats were pushing Jim Crow laws.You see Nation of Islam with George Lincoln Rockwell. I think it is strictly economic. Conservatism isn't overtly hostile to them but it doesn't give them economic opportunity, and therefore is even more hostile than nationalism in their eyes. Conservative era saw mass incarceration, the crack epidemic, a bunch of stuff that was really bad in the black community. And it's not just them - that whole ideology never appealed to a majority of any minorities, even Jews.

    So the Black co-worker was unaware (most likely) that the maintenance guy called him a nigger. Not a real test of anything

    The hypocritical Black boss seems to be a one-off

    White Supremacists and Farrakhan shared a dream of white and Black separatism. They are also anti-Semites. Both are outliers. There are Black members of the Proud Boys, for example.

    Blacks lived in the South where Democrats held power, it seems logical that Blacks knew it was best to show that you voted for those in power. 

    The New Deal changed the dynamics for Blacks in the North

    Republicans currently represent Conservatives

    Do you think that the Republican Party is not overtly hostile to Black voters?

    Maintenance guy never called co-worker anything besides his name. He was referring to someone he had a traffic collison with.

    I would distinguish the Reagan and Bush eras as conservative and Trump as nationalist. Trump saw himself his whole career as an outlier from conservatism and he didn't change much when he became president. He injected ideas and approaches that alienated many conservatives and many conservatives who put support behind him were really under the gun to do so.

    During the Bush years, when mainstream conservatism was big, it was not overtly racist. The people behind the scenes sure may have been, but they took pains to appear inclusive (Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, a diverse cabinet, black people on 700 Club, etc.) and it just flat out didn't work. Somehow, despite overt racism, Trump did better with them than Bush ever could have dreamed of. Of course, he still won over only a small portion but a larger portion than previous GOP presidents.

    When I worked at a conservative think tank back in 2010, a year before Trump made himself a public figure with all the birth certificate stuff, I heard insanely racist stuff. One lecturer in a speech referred to Washington D.C. as "a land of fried chicken franchises." It was stuff like that every day. Nevertheless, they were putting black people all over their propaganda, especially trying to portray themselves as supporting getting black students in to charter schools, etc.

    I will be more specific about one black Trump supporter I met. He worked security, lived in Oakland (which Trump called "like living in hell"), wore gold teeth and supported Trump largely because he was pro-gun. Claimed he couldn't get his glock if Joe Biden became president. He also said that "people don't like Donald Trump don't know why they don't like him. They just know they're not supposed to." He also said he preferred overt racism to "stealth" racism. I did know black Bush supporters but they were not as passionate.

    There's a lot to work out and I'm not sure of the reasoning, but I'd say black voters, even outliers like you mentioned, largely just never saw anything in conservatism for them. It's not meant for them so go figure.

    I think that it is clear that Black voters view themselves as Conservatives and Republicans as reactionaries 

    Tasha Philpot discusses this POV in her book "Conservative But Not Republican: The Paradox of Party Identification and Ideology Among African Americans"

    Left of Black host Dr. Mark Anthony Neal sits down with Dr. Tasha Philpot to discuss her recent publication, "Conservative But Not Republican: The Paradox of Party Identification and Ideology Among African Americans" Dr. Philpot is an Associate Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her particular interests are in African-American Politics, Political Psychology, Public Opinion and Political Behavior, Political Communication, and Political Parties. Dr. Neal teaches Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University.

    Republicans abandoned Conservatism 

    you realize that in this comment you're totally making all kinds of social constructions for yourself? everyone has to be placed within some kind of tribal unit, where there's no such things as individuals with complex independent thoughts? and it's always about politics, everything is within a political frame

    I'm not making any social constructions. I'm reporting on the findings of studies done by a respected sociologist and the studies she refers to. The studies are about Blacks who label themselves Conservative. Their complex thought patterns about why they are Conservative but not Republican are detailed in the book.

    You do realize theres nothing racist in noting where many of a type eat? If you say something about white guys and Bud or yuppie whites and sushi is that offensive? racist? Yeah, i lived in DC and oh so surprisingly it's 80-90% black. Of course you could pick out the whites by going to Whole Foods on Sunday morning. Then there was the whole crop of political Capitol Hill females, blondes with their hair cut exactly the same, bobbed in a couple inches above their i'm-a-professional women's suit with skirt tastefully mid-calf. No, don't try to distinguish. Is that a salad bar she's going for? Now let's talk about professional DC gays around Dupont Circle.... I mean, this is life, no?

    From the book description 

    Conservative but Not Republican provides a clear and comprehensive framework for understanding the formation and structure of ideological self-identification and its relationship to party identification in the United States. Exploring why the increase in Black conservatives has not met with a corresponding rise in the number of Black Republicans, the book bridges the literature from a number of different research areas to paint a detailed portrait of African-American ideological self-identification. It also provides insight into a contemporary electoral puzzle facing party strategists, while addressing gaps in the current literature on public opinion and voting behavior. Further, it offers original research from previously untapped data. The book is primarily designed for political science, but is also relevant to African-American studies, communication studies, and psychology. Including easy-to-read tables and figures, it is accessible not only to academic audiences but also to journalists and practitioners.

    It has nothing to do with the situations you present 


    A performance artist secretly recorded interactions with strangers.

    Here's what resulted.

    Via @christicarras

    — Los Angeles Times (@latimes) April 8, 2021

    edit to add, also in LATimes:


    So if a Chinese mispronounces a Thai or Chinese name is that ok?

    And since when did Middle-easterners become "white"? Churchill called, he wants his colonial racism back.

    (is "Hasan" hard to pronounce? Don't we have a famous actress or singer named "Minaj"?)

    Of course, strange to say, many of these offended long-namers have short versions in their own culture like "P.J." or "Hari" - it's not like Moms gonna hold dinner until she spits out the full names of all her kids.

    reminded only now how my father legally changed his name after getting out of the army because it was one of those long Polish names with "ski" on the end of it. Reasons he would give: In the army they would just call out "ski"; he felt that some WASPS fell for the "Poles are dumb oxes" prejudice and he wanted to climb the ladder; and he tired of spelling it out for people. His father,my grandfather, whose parents came from Poland and he was not close to, was deceased, so no problem there. And his mother, my grandmother, whose parents came from Germany, and was known to tell a Polish joke or two herself, thought it such a good idea that she was thinking of changing it along with him! She didn't, though, she just found a guy to marry a second time with a shorter name. None of the relatives with this name were immigrants, they were all born in the U.S., that was the generation before them, so they absolutely considered themselves American and nothing else.

    It's clearly harder for people with Asian features because of the stupid prejudices of some of our population--just getting rid of their name wouldn't help.

    I guess I was raised to understand that some people could hate their heritage of "the old country", that many come to America to be American. You can't  presume. You can't presume that someone with black skin is of slave heritage, either, they could have heritage of immigrants of choice from Africa. You can't presume AT ALL from physical appearance....

    Edit to add: i do think that one thing you can presume pretty safely is that most if not all immigrants of Chinese heritage are here because someone didn't like China or Taiwan and wanted to be in America instead.

    If we shuffle around names and faces we'll be through with hierarchies forever. So simple.

    absurdly bold in-your-face illogical support of "the narrative":

    it follows, from the huge type in their very own tweet, that 79% of the supposedly unfairly paid college athletes are not black but it's only the commodification of the 21% that have black bodies that they care about! Because I guess that fits nicely with the slavery heritage, and the other color bodies don't.

    Anything to promote the narrative, anything.  It's so absurd, you almost have to laugh. One could at the very least think about spinning logical tales, find something that leaves the inconvenient facts out, something just talking about black college athletes alone!

    And the best women basketball players are in the bottom 10th of the men's league, but sure, pay them the same - people go to watch comparative rankings and relative parity, not top performance. That's why high school basketball's so big.

    I am curious whether they plan to ask the businesses they are considering buying from if the owners are African immigrants.

    Target pledges to spend more than $2B at Black-owned businesses.

    — KARE 11 (@kare11) April 7, 2021

    Is it possible to make a database with *verified Afro-American* business owners? To be in the database, they would have to fill out a form, like when applying for a grant, testifying to the inherited prejudice they have suffered due to being genetically related to those with black skin who have lived in the U.S. for many generations.

    Hard without showing ID?

    Just FYI:

    Media Matters is thankfully watching Fox pushing it's new narrative, they picked out this tweet of a long thread to retweet:

    This needs said: Fox News and the American Right are telling the same white supremacist story and selling the same conspiracy.

    They say "we're losing OUR America," but what they're doing, not so subtly, is saying, "White America is being taken away."


    — Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) April 10, 2021

    It's pretty damn shameful, nearly equal to Trump pumping insurrection against the election. Murdoch cracked down on that, hopefully many more institutions like the ADL will complain about this one too, and give him the impetus to crack down again.

    There are plenty of rational ways to support anti-immigration policies without resorting to "replacement theory". Doing so dangerously stokes the same kind of extremists acting that ended up in Jan. 6. Corporations that want a stable economy to make profit in should be against it. This is a short-term profit from clicks and remotes, long term disaster plan.

    Pride in being American and "race"

    Immigrants came to America because they had a hopeful vision of what the country would be like for them. The country has mostly delivered on that promise.

    The group with the fastest income growth between in the years 2014-2019 were Hispanics, followed by Asians

    — Wesley Yang (@wesyang) April 11, 2021

    More Hispanics are proud to be American than whites; curious about the big gap between blacks and Asians. Why do Asians lag so far behind?

    — Wesley Yang (@wesyang) April 11, 2021


    "Hispanic" you say? Think again? The U.S. is not the only melting pot. wink

    now here's an American celebrity birth announcement that P.R. people of both parents wants to make sure everyone sees:

    Congratulations to Macaulay Culkin and Brenda Song on the birth of their first child, Dakota Song Culkin, who was born on Monday, April 5!

    — The AHS Zone (@ahszone) April 12, 2021

    I bothered to look it up: This American child's heritage will be 1/2 Thai/Hmong and 1/2 Irish-but really of strange Manhattan breed going pretty far back (the latter was a real toughie, I had to click thru numerous wikipedia pages and footnotes and ultimately found myself on to find the Irish forbear immigrant)

    Where is this kid going to fit in the racial divide narrative?

    Oh, wait, doh! on me for asking that question. We already had a president of the U.S. for 8 yrs. who was 1/2 Kenyan heritage and 1/2 American of Irish heritage, raised partly in Indonesia and Hawaii. And now we have a vice-president who is 1/2 SE Asian-Indian heritage and 1/2 Afro-American heritage (with a white husband, yet.) Seems to me the classic racial narrative construction is really screwed!

    no rules

    nice discussion of how race essentialism sucks, not the least of which it leads to divisive counterproductive culture war trolling, unreal narrative wars, Hatfield's vs. McCoy's

    Tweet unaffiliated with the above thread, but applicable nonetheless:

    oops! if you're thinking of doing the racial grievance thing as part of the vicitm olympics, a reminder that the constructions can sometimes get quite tricky:

    Asian Man Mistook Asian Woman as White, Attacked Her as Retaliation for Hate Crimes Spike: Police

    — Law & Crime (@lawcrimenews) April 14, 2021

    .@epkaufm: "My latest report ... shows that being exposed to news and social media, having left-wing views on race, and being anxious or depressed explains a great deal of how much racism a person perceives."

    — Manhattan Institute (@ManhattanInst) April 16, 2021

    Eric Kaufmann @epkaufm is

    Professor of Politics. Affiliated @CSPICenterOrg @ManhattanInst @Policy_Exchange

    From Vancouver BC. (Ice) hockey player. Dad. Located in London, UK. 

    Website link he gives,, promotes his book entitled Whiteshift: populism, immigration and the future of White majorities. It was published February 5, 2019 in North America with Abrams-Overlook. It was published by Penguin (Allen Lane) in the UK and Australia on October 25, 2018 (paperback 29 Aug 2019).

    on the most egregious, most stubbornly ingrained construction of all, one that the even the medical profession and "science" continues to reinforce and our society still cannot even begin to confront:

    I want to share one of the best articles I have EVER read. (Thanks @miri_iron for sharing it.) As always when tackling this topic, I'm turning off responses because ignorant, cruel people and ignorant, well-meaning people will respond without reading it.

    — Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) April 18, 2021

    excerpts, but do yourself and a huge segment of our population a favor and read the whole thing:

    Paradoxically, as the number of larger Americans has risen, the biases against them have become more severe. More than 40 percent of Americans classified as obese now say they experience stigma on a daily basis, a rate far higher than any other minority group. And this does terrible things to their bodies.

    This is how fat-shaming works: It is visible and invisible, public and private, hidden and everywhere at the same time. Research consistently finds that larger Americans (especially larger women) earn lower salaries and are less likely to be hired and promoted. In a 2017 survey, 500 hiring managers were given a photo of an overweight female applicant. Twenty-one percent of them described her as unprofessional despite having no other information about her. What’s worse, only a few cities and one state (nice work, Michigan) officially prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of weight.

    And, in a remarkable finding, rich people of color have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than poor people of color—the opposite of what happens with white people. One explanation is that navigating increasingly white spaces, and increasingly higher stakes, exerts stress on racial minorities that, over time, makes them more susceptible to heart problems.

    But perhaps the most unique aspect of weight stigma is how it isolates its victims from one another. For most minority groups, discrimination contributes to a sense of belongingness, a community in opposition to a majority. Gay people like other gay people; Mormons root for other Mormons. Surveys of higher-weight people, however, reveal that they hold many of the same biases as the people discriminating against them. In a 2005 study, the words obese participants used to classify other obese people included gluttonous, unclean and sluggish.

    And yet, despite weight being the number one reason children are bullied at school, America’s institutions of public health continue to pursue policies perfectly designed to inflame the cruelty. TV and billboard campaigns still use slogans like “Too much screen time, too much kid” and “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.” Cat Pausé, a researcher at Massey University in New Zealand, spent months looking for a single public health campaign, worldwide, that attempted to reduce stigma against fat people and came up empty. In an incendiary case of good intentions gone bad, about a dozen states now send children home with “BMI report cards,” an intervention unlikely to have any effect on their weight but almost certain to increase bullying from the people closest to them.

    This is not an abstract concern: Surveys of higher-weight adults find that their worst experiences of discrimination come from their own families.


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