From “All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep: Hope – And Hard Pills to Swallow – About Making Black Lives Matter” By Andre Henry
When the Civil Rights Movement made overt racism taboo, white supremacists pivoted to colorblind rhetoric to maintain white dominance. Former Republican National Committee chairman Lee Atwater broke it down in an infamous 1981 interview:
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” – that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, “forced busing, states’ rights,” and all that stuff….Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites….”
Atwater admits that colorblindness was used by white racist politicians as a Trojan horse to preserve racial hierarchy. But American public schools don’t include confessions like Atwater’s in their history curricula. So most Americans have had little exposure to the ways racism evolved between 1968 – the year the Civil Rights Movement began a severe decline – and the present.