Is America Becoming More, or Less, Racist? What Do You Think?

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Why you should care

Because hatred is dangerous, and cannot win.

Join us for Third Rail With OZY, a terrific new TV show presented by OZY and WGBH, where we debate provocative hot topics with experts and celebrities every Friday night. The subject of this week’s show: “Is America Becoming More or Less Racist?” Tune in Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on PBS, or online, and be sure to weigh in on social media (#ThirdRailPBS) and/or email us at thirdrail@ozy.com with your take!

Some days it seems like the only thing that will put an end to racism in America is an eruption from Yellowstone’s supervolcano — an end to racism and, well, just about everything else. Think back a bit, though, and you’ll remember it wasn’t so long ago — before modern-day Nazis marched in American streets chanting hate-fueled slogans — that it seemed like there had been decades of progress. Not only has America seen a Black family in the White House, high school dropout rates for Black students are at an all-time low, and there are more nonwhite members of Congress than ever before (though still only 19 percent).

On the other hand, it’s not only loud white supremacists who reflect a rising tide of racism. A quarter of Black Americans say they’ve been harassed online because of their race (compared with just 3 percent of whites), and the percentage of Americans who say racism is a big problem in the country has doubled in the past five years. With landmark civil rights decisions like the Voting Rights Act having been struck down — and veiled racist voter ID laws in vogue — the future could easily see hard-won civil rights rolled back, as old racist attitudes, never entirely gone, claw their way back into the mainstream.

And then there’s the fact that those loud white supremacists make many Americans who have long been seen as “the Other” — Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, first- and second-generation immigrants, the LGBT community — wonder if the U.S. is going down a very dangerous road. While those spouting hatred are clearly wrong — the Third Reich and the Confederacy, after all, went down in flames — we must remember that losing sides often manage to kill a lot of innocent people first.

What do you think? Are Americans making progress on prejudice? Let us know by emailing thirdrail@ozy.com or by answering in the comments below.

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