The new study does not provide direct evidence that those white Southerners are more likely to vote Republican because Republican politicians appeal to their racial anxieties. Rather, it suggests that racial biases along with political beliefs are transmitted from one generation to another as part of the overall culture of a particular place.
“If you think back to that culture, the role of slavery, the role of racial hierarchy, the role of racial hostility was so powerfully embedded,” Sears said.
He created an interracial intellectual salon called the Social Science Forum that featured speakers critical of injustice, a dangerous act at the time. Even more radical were the dinners that preceded the talks. He asked his African American students to come early and sit in every other seat, so that whites arriving later had to sit next to a black person. For many, black or white, it was the first time they’d had a meal with someone of a different race.
Jews, who do not fit neatly into American racial categories, challenge both sides’ visions for the country. Over time, Jews have become more integrated into American society—a process scholars sometimes refer to as “becoming white.” It wasn’t the skin color of Ashkenazi Jews of European descent that changed, though; it was their status. Trump’s election has convinced some Jews that they remain in the same position as they have throughout history: perpetually set apart from other groups through their Jewishness, and thus left vulnerable.