In the aftermath of the civil rights movement, old-fashioned racism—sometimes called Jim Crow racism, declined. Americans were less likely, in other words, to report that African Americans were lazy, untrustworthy, or lacked intelligence, the three 7-point measures most often associated with old-fashioned racism. However, racial animus persisted in various forms. One particular measure, called symbolic racism, proved powerful at predicting attitudes toward a host of public policy issues, such as affirmative action. Whereas old-fashioned racism was rooted in White supremacy, segregation, and disenfranchisement, symbolic racism unearthed notions of racial resentment—as it is sometimes called—and a denial of ongoing institutional racism.

The measure helped to explain how White Americans could support equality for African Americans in general but opposed programs designed to eradicate these longstanding inequities. Scholars ...

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