First, in identifying the root causes of racism and other forms of prejudice we must first differentiate between contemporary racism and traditional racism. Traditional racism is that which was present prior to and during the civil rights movement of the 1960s; it is, according to Phillip J. Bowman, Ph.D. of the University of Michigan, “beliefs about biological inferiority, racial hatred and explicit discrimination.” But as we move further into the 21st century we have seen more and more contemporary racism in which certain subgroups are associated with negative ideals that then lead to instances of discrimination: mass incarceration of Blacks, and the rejection of Hispanic Immigrants.
In a report on the roots of prejudice, UNESCO asserts that “the most obvious cause of prejudice is that it creates advantages and material benefits for those who are prejudiced. Prejudice can provide an excuse or rationalization for economic exploitation or political domination.” For example, many who are against the immigration of Hispanics and Syrians into the United States often state economic concerns or safety concerns. They believe that immigrants steal our jobs and put us in immediate danger. While on the surface this may seem less detrimental than the “in-your-face” racism of the 60s it is specifically concerning because this new, contemporary racism is becoming politically mainstream. Regardless of your political views the fact that David Duke, a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, feels that the political climate today is favorable enough for him to run for the US Senate is at the very least concerning.