Obama’s Pollster, Cornell Belcher, says The Real Racial Crisis Is Aversion

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There’s open racism. Then there’s racial aversion—just not wanting to associate with others based on stereotypes. And that, says Obama’s pollster, is our real race crisis.America has taken a bleak turn since Donald Trump’s victory, and our racial tensions have been laid bare for the world and the American public to see. Most Americans thought that our society had moved beyond our nation’s most severe and entrenched racial divisions, and more of them than not voted in favor of a racially inclusive future, yet the fomenting of this racial backlash, or “whitelash,” has been brewing since the day that President Barack Obama won the presidency eight years ago.

As an African American, I’ve felt our nation’s racial tensions building during Obama’s presidency. Obama represented social progress, and many Americans felt that his election had rewritten America’s racial equity trajectory and that the continuation of this progress was inevitable. Yet many African Americans, myself included, knew that in America the promise of black advancement would also bring about a campaign of social regression intent on forging racial divisions and undermining the work of America’s first black president.

It seems contradictory to complain about the state of race relations and the pervasiveness of racial injustices in America as African Americans obtain more positions of influence. Yet pollster Cornell Belcher’s latest book, A Black Man in the White House: Barack Obama and the Triggering of America’s Racial-Aversion Crisis, demonstrates the validity of these concerns.

In his book, Belcher uses polling data to track racial aversion—the avoidance of interactions with people from other racial groups based on assumptions of stereotypes—throughout Obama’s presidency. His data may help explain the rise of Trump. Overall, America’s racial aversion has not dramatically increased over the last eight years. But racial aversion along political party lines has changed significantly. In 2008, Democrats, Republicans and Independents were all about equally racial averse, but by 2016 the Democrats had become less so, Republicans more so, and Independents in between.

Racial aversion is a term that Americans need to become familiar with. Racial aversion is not the same as the overt, intentional racism. A hatred of other ethnic groups is not the bedrock of racial aversion, and racially averse people can easily espouse egalitarian beliefs and staunchly object to perceiving themselves as racist. The hatred and intent that defined racism has been replaced with an ambivalence and avoidance of other races, and an emphasis on staying within your race and fostering tribalism.

Additionally, the increase in racial aversion among some white Americans during Obama’s presidency coincides with the growing prevalence of “white anxiety” as white Americans grow more stressed about the prospect of no longer being America’s dominant majority.

To segments of white America, Belcher told me, “It is a catastrophic moment when someone like Barack Obama is elected: someone who is black and was elected on the back of a very diverse coalition. He was not a choice of their clear-cut majority. There is almost a direct correlation to the rise in the minority population and whites breaking more and more Republican.”

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Source: The Daily Beast | BARRETT HOLMES PITNER