For many, the election of Barrack Obama represented hope in the dawn of a new day, in a new era where all will be able to maximize their human potential without fear of discrimination based upon race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or handicap. As we welcomed and celebrated the election of Obama, many questions emerged. I find it more than coincidental that no sooner had the dust settled from the electoral screens and even before the actual inauguration - a strange and not so subtle shift could be seen in America's racial terrain. This shift-what some allude to as a new racial narrative - has already assumed tsunamic proportions and seems destined to distort, transform, or obfuscate the racial landscape. It is characterized by what I call Covert Racism—a “hidden racism” that crouches behind the façade of politeness or “political correctness” and expediency, and exists in the coded language, symbols, and calls for “color blindness” that profess equality but continue to limit, discriminate and oppress. Covert racism underlies much of what people call our post-racial narrative.
The language we speak, while basically derived from English, is often interpreted through a racial code which holds differential meanings depending upon ones experiences within the racial matrix. Our views of social reality and how we interact with others tends to reflect these racial nuances. While some may feel that they can navigate various realities without regard to race or as if they were color blind, many others experience race daily as pain, objectification, marginalization, or minimalization. Color-blindness is a luxury afforded to racial elite, whereas colorization is the reality of the racial non-elite. Covert racism, especially, is related to how we as individuals come to perceive, evaluate and experience racial realities.
Have you ever experienced a paper or grass cut? The cut often goes unnoticed, even unfelt, until you actually take the time to observe it. All too often, it is only after we have focused upon this wound, that we experience pain. Covert racism, experienced psychologically, is much like the paper cut that often goes unnoticed until the sweat of struggle or tears of indignity flow through them and burn. These wounds, experienced as micro-aggressions, are
In some cases individuals or groups may not realize or be aware that they are guilty of covert racism until it is pointed out to them.  This often happens when one grows up in a society with a history of racism. It has become so embedded within the national culture that many seem impervious to its existence or impact. In the past, the codes of the racial matrix were much more visible, objective, and identifiable. These codes - lodged in the laws, customs, and practices of a segregated America - helped define the racial matrix. The success of civil rights activism, laws, and judicial decrees not only served to decode but also to nullify the more obvious forms of the racial matrix. But today’s racial codes are more subtle, more hidden, and less obvious. These subtle, hidden and less obvious racial codes have served to create a new racial matrix which we characterize as covert racism.
Covert racism, subtle in application, often appears hidden by norms of association, affiliation, group membership and/or identity. As such, covert racism is often excused or confused with mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion, ritual and ceremony, acceptance and rejection. For example, hanging the Confederate flag “isn’t meant to be racist, it’s about tradition,” say some Southern advocates. But the “tradition” while perhaps not wholly subsumed by is inherently saturated by slavery and Jim Crow. Covert racism operates as a boundary keeping mechanism whose primary purpose is to maintain social distance between racial majorities and racial minorities. Such boundary mechanisms work best when they are assumed natural, legitimate, and normal. Yet, research on such tools like high stakes testing, for example, continues to demonstrate how such mechanisms are racially and ethnically discriminatory. We believe these tools discriminate simply on natural intelligence and effort but they don’t.
Covert racism obscures the realities experienced by racial non-elites. These realities, experienced within institutional structures, are often confounded or confused with personal or group attributes. Covert racism, as implied above, produces specific outcomes typically confused with or legitimated as economic inertia and decline, catastrophic institutional failure, and the resulting political and social morass, fatalism, and nihilism. All too often these systemic failures are presumed to reflect personal choices or group failure. Misdiagnosed, covert racism, results in blaming the victim, defining the debilitating plight as a culture of poverty, or a poverty of will. In such situations we often speak of cultural deficits, deficient human capital, and the like. These situations, made worse by the presumption that racism is a thing of the past, posits that any failure to achieve parity is a failure of the individual or group. Unfortunately, this view is not only naive, but dangerous as well. Rather than looking toward the racialized structure for remedies, we turn to trying to reform and transform the victim. Racism, stripped of its more overt racial components, yet remains systemically within the institutional structures of society.
Covert Racism is evident both in the U.S. and Globally. Systemically, covert racism operates across several societal institutions, structures and societies. Globally, since 9/11, increasing fears of the racial others has fueled anti-immigrant hostilities, racial profiling and intimidation. Xenophobic fears have surfaced in Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, France, and Italy, to name but a few. Covert racism –evidenced in racial codes, profiling, and colorblindness –is not however new. Covert racism, born out of the imperialist needs to maximize profit at the expense of racialized others, stands shielded by institutions, cultures, stereotypical assumptions, and tradition. Whereas overt racism assumed blatant and insidious forms, covert racism hides behind the façade of ‘politeness’, political correctness and expediency. Racially coded words and calls for racial blindness obfuscate the reality of this subtle, subversive, and often hidden form of racism. Covert racism, just like its twin overt racism, is neither innocent nor harmless. The scars of covert racism -often seen in terms of increased levels of disease, negative sanctions, inadequate information, and lost opportunities –serve to continually victimize racial non-elites.
 Note: These are excerpts from my recently published edited volume on Covert Racism: Theories, Institutions, and Experiences published by Brill. You may view the volume here.
 Much like the sexist jokes of the past, many individuals claimed innocence until we learned that they were indeed sexist.