None of this has to be racial, much less racist. Many voters attracted to Trump would also be enthusiastic about electing Ben Carson the second African-American president, to cite just one example. But in a country where racial divisions often coincide with profound differences in outlook, it isn’t hard to see how these trends can turn into something uglier.
Consider: America has an aging, shrinking white majority that in the foreseeable future will become another minority. The symbols and Founding Fathers they once revered are being critically reappraised in light of their more complicated meaning to some members of the growing demographic groups, who identify more strongly with the history of slavery and the displacement of Native Americans.
At the same time, many black Americans feel as insecure in their rights and their persons as they did in the heyday of political figures like Wallace. They don’t see the deaths of young blacks in police custody under disputed circumstances as isolated incidents. They don’t take it as a given that either the country’s political leaders or the white majority believes that black lives matter.
Moreover, all this is happening at a time when U.S. race relations get further from white and black, as the country admits millions of immigrants who don’t necessarily identify as white but also had nothing to do with discrimination against blacks.