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Racial conflicts have plagued the United States from its very beginnings, driven in particular by racial prejudice against Blacks. In the period since the civil rights era of the 1960s, old forms of racial prejudice have nearly vanished, to be replaced by newer forms. The most politically powerful is symbolic racism. It is defined as a blend of anti-Black affect with traditional values, accompanied by the acceptance of formal racial equality. It applies a more general symbolic politics theory to the racial context, emphasizing the early acquisition of major sociopolitical attitudes and the symbolic meaning of political rhetoric, rather than interest-based politics. This entry briefly describes the theory of symbolic racism, the empirical evidence that sustains it, and competing points of view.

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