In effect, that is what a recent Associated Press poll revealed when it measured the explicit and implicit attitudes toward race that are held by Americans today. What pollsters found was that in the four years since the election of the nation’s first black president, racial prejudice has increased.
Today, 51 percent of those polled expressed explicit anti-black attitudes (up from 48 percent), while implicit anti-black feelings are expressed by 56 percent (up from 49 percent four years ago).
True, these feelings are seldom expressed as openly as the cartoons, posters and pictures posted on the Internet — like the one of a man at a Tea Party rally wearing a T-shirt that read “Put a White back in the White House” — but they do reflect a racial antagonism that has grown since President Barack Obama took office.
Although Republicans were found more likely than Democrats to express explicit racism, the implicit questions found little difference between the parties. Or, to put it another way, Republican racism was more open and up front, but Democrats almost matched the GOP when more subtle attitudes were measured.
What this means, according to the survey, is that Obama could lose around 5 percent of the popular vote he received in 2008. However, because pro-black sentiment has also grown, he might gain 3 percent over 2008. Still, a net loss of 2 percent could spell the difference in a close election.
What this also means is that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of an America where people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin remains unfulfilled.