What Is Modern Symbolic Racism?

Modern symbolic racism is a new articulation of prejudice towards African-American people in the United States. Its basis is on the presumption that African-Americans disregard basic American values, such as morality, independence and hard work.

Racism in the term is employed because the conviction against African-American people is often accompanied by negative sentiments that lead to discrimination. The word symbolic suggests the fact that the beliefs are not based on concrete experiences and because African-Americans are seen as a generalized concept rather than definite individuals.

Symbolic racism is characterized by four main beliefs: that African-Americans do not face as much discrimination or prejudice as before, that the reason why African-Americans do not progress is because they are reluctant to work hard, that African-Americans' demands are unwarranted, and that African-Americans have obtained more than they merit.

Symbolic racism is subtle and implicit, and is believed to have replaced the old form of racism that supported racial segregation, formal racial discrimination and the belief that African-Americans were biologically inferior to whites. It is acquired through socialization and can occur easily without conscious awareness. A person with a symbolic racist attitude may genuinely be opposed to overt racism while still resisting liberal policies, such as affirmative action.