Wonky data aside, a second problem with the ‘hidden evil’ narrative is how incredibly insulting it is to most Americans. The complaint that ‘microaggressions’ and ‘implicit bias’ contribute to racial oppression implies that many or most of my fellow citizens are extraordinarily bigoted, and are either lying to me about this while pretending to be my friends or are completely lacking in self-awareness. But, aside from the self-serving, worthless results of implicit-bias tests, there is very little evidence that this is actually the case.
Social scientists have been designing good surveys on this for decades now, and we have a very solid idea of how prevalent racism actually is. At the most basic level, a good way to find this out is to ask people anonymously about their views. One fairly typical result comes from a well-known 2015 Gallup poll, which asked people whether they were put off voting for election candidates based on their race. In response, eight per cent of Americans said they would never vote for a qualified black candidate for president, even if he or she represented their favoured party. That’s awful, to be sure. But seven per cent would not vote for a Roman Catholic, eight per cent would not vote for any woman, nine per cent would not vote for a Latino or a Jew, and 19 per cent would never vote for a well-qualified Mormon. This discrimination cuts across racial boundaries.