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FreeSymposium on the Challenges Facing Democrats

How Can the Democratic Party Confront Racist Backlash? White Grievance in Hemispheric Perspective

Brown University


In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, a contentious debate has ensued in the Democratic Party, and in the U.S. left more generally, about whether Trump’s victory was the result of racist and white nationalist appeals or was powered by an economically anxious and forgotten white working class left behind by globalization. From a Latin American perspective, this U.S. debate about the relative salience of race and class is strikingly familiar. After decades of denying the existence of racism, Latin America experienced a historic expansion of rights for black and indigenous peoples during a “left turn” that coincided with the expansion of social welfare policies, quickly followed by a “right turn” fueled by racist backlash. Thus, taking a hemispheric vantage point reveals that it would be a mistake to believe that class appeals alone are sufficient to counter the current politics of right-wing racist backlash.

In the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a contentious debate ensued in the Democratic Party and the left more generally about the cause of Trump’s victory. Some stressed his racist and white nationalist rhetoric, noting that the prosperity of many of his supporters made it unlikely that they were driven by economic grievances.1 Others argued that focusing on racism alone neglects the legitimate concerns of an economically anxious and forgotten white working class left behind by globalization. Claiming that his populist class appeals put Trump in office, many in the latter camp feel that the Democratic Party is bound to fail if it focuses primarily on what some see as “identity politics.”2 And, indeed, there is a longstanding view that Democrats win when they stress class and the economy, turning voter attention away from Republican efforts to use race as a wedge issue (e.g., in Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential victory).3 Too often, however, this framing assumes that the working class is only or mainly white, and it treats attention to any distinctive concerns of non-whites as divisive and illegitimate. Put more starkly, it obscures how certain ostensibly class-only appeals are actually a form of white identity politics that traverses the ideological spectrum. As Nikhil Singh observes, in the post-civil rights era, certain segments of the left “viewed most race talk as a distraction from fundamental and more general inequalities of capitalist society.”4 Similarly, the role of sexism and misogyny in Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 also raised thorny questions (which were relitigated in the 2020 Democratic primary) about what role race and gender should play in selecting a presidential candidate in an increasingly diverse Democratic Party.

To be sure, most of the moderates or centrists arguing that the Democratic Party has an identity politics problem are primarily interested in maintaining a Democratic majority, and they believe that the way to do so is to recapture the white voters who have defected to the Republican Party. The two remaining candidates in the race after Super Tuesday, Biden and Sanders, both argued that they could recapture some of these lost white voters: Biden as a centrist who could appeal to suburban and white voters, and Sanders as a progressive who could bring working-class white voters back to the party with his economic agenda. For people of color vulnerable to the racist and xenophobic policies of the Trump administration, this strategy is dishearteningly reminiscent of the politics of white reunion at the expense of African-American rights that followed Reconstruction, even as Biden garnered overwhelming support among older African-American voters in the South who are not convinced that white voters will support a progressive candidate.

In this context, many leftists and progressives, people of color, and feminists, are grappling with what it would mean in 2020 to heed the call of black feminists for intersectional analyses that envision multiple and overlapping axes of domination. In 2017, for example, Briahna Joy Gray, who served as the National Press Secretary for Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign, argued that identity politics has been “used as a weapon to derail progressives whose record of commitment to racial justice, gender equality, and LGBT issues has historically eclipsed that of the Democratic Party itself.”5 In Gray’s view, those who are dismayed that the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination were both white males in their 70s are guilty of substituting identity for policy. Meanwhile, echoing a socialist tradition that insisted on the primacy of social class above all, Nancy Fraser and Liza Featherstone have argued that “Bernie Is the True Feminist Choice” because women stand to benefit the most from progressive economic policies.6 In contrast, historian Brittney Cooper has observed that “progressive white feminists and feminists of color alike [who] continue to argue for a socialist revolution on the grounds that gender would be covered [are mistaken]. They make this same case about race, and that, too, is dubious.”7 There is thus a curious convergence between moderates and (some) progressives that the Democratic Party should focus mainly on (different kinds of) class appeals and eschew identity politics. The unfortunate result of this could very well be that the party will decide that the best path to electoral victory lies in not confronting, but rather in acquiescing to some degree to, the politics of white grievance that has come to dominate conservative politics in the United States.

From a Latin American perspective, this debate about the relative salience of race and class is strikingly familiar.8 Until recently, racial inequality in the region was often dismissed by political elites and many ordinary citizens as a byproduct of social class stratification.9 Beginning in the 1980s, however, almost all countries in the region adopted multicultural policies that resulted in the institutionalization of a wide range of rights for indigenous peoples and rural black communities.10 The multicultural rights won in this period followed the logic of cultural recognition envisioned by liberal theories of multiculturalism: that everyone has a right to their own culture and therefore the state should protect minority cultures.11 The multicultural rights granted by Latin American states in this initial phase did not include rights aimed specifically at redressing the harms of racial injustice. But in the 2000s, at the same time that the United States was undermining its Civil Rights–era legislation against racism, Latin American countries such as Brazil and Colombia began to adopt race-conscious public policies, including affirmative action, aimed at combating systemic racial discrimination.12 This coincided with a “left turn” or “pink tide” in Latin America in the 1990s and 2000s, when leftist parties across the region swept to power for the first time after the transition to democracy in the 1990s. Leftist governments adopted economic reforms, such as expanding social welfare policies, that began to reduce poverty and ameliorate long-standing socioeconomic inequalities. Social welfare policy and race-targeted measures were pursued simultaneously, in some countries, but not all, and to different degrees.13 Colombia cut social programs during this period, and other leftist governments that expanded social welfare (such as Bolivia) did not adopt race-conscious policies.14

As in the United States, ethno-racial reforms in Latin America were attacked by some as being divisive and distracting from broader social welfare goals.15 A few decades of gains by those at the bottom of racial and skin-color hierarchies, which certainly did not fully erase existing economic and racial wealth disparities, culminated in a backlash and retreat from policies aimed at redressing racial inequality that has powered the current “right turn” and embrace of authoritarian politics in Latin America.16 In light of these developments, Charles R. Hale, Leith Mullings, and Pamela Calla have argued that one should recognize “Trump’s America as a hemispheric scourge,” by which they mean that racial backlash, nostalgia for authoritarian politics, and gutting of social welfare programs are a hemisphere-wide trend.17

The arc of expansion of rights and ensuing racial reaction has had a different temporal timeline in the United States than in Latin America, but it nevertheless follows a similar pattern. As Hale and Mullings argue, contemporary racial retrenchment has been a long time in the making in the United States. However, signs of it began to emerge shortly after the civil rights victories of the 1960s, which were followed by contractions in the welfare state, claims of reverse discrimination that challenged affirmative action, and the rise of mass incarceration.18 This protracted period of retrenchment of racial-justice rights was accompanied by both an explosion of socioeconomic inequality and a discourse of “white grievance” that became increasingly central to U.S. politics and reached a fever pitch with the election of the first non-white president in 2008.19 Thus, while the United States did not experience a left turn in terms of the expansion of social welfare policy as did some Latin American countries, there has been a similar sense of white loss or displacement fueled by largely symbolic gains by non-whites. Viewed from a hemispheric perspective it would thus be a mistake to understand the current politics of right-wing backlash in the United States as rooted mainly in the economic anxieties of the working class or a precarious middle class besieged by the forces of neoliberalism and globalization. Right-wing racist backlash cannot be countered by class appeals alone. Instead, we need analyses that move beyond the false dichotomy between race and class.

Despite its ubiquity since the 2016 presidential election, the concept of the white working class is a recent and highly imprecise construct. As historian David Roediger observes, “the white working class” as a distinct social group emerged at a particular historical moment:

It descended in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 presidential election. During the campaign itself, as in all other such campaigns, mainstream candidates mentioned the “working class” hardly at all. Even Bernie Sanders directed his avowedly socialist appeals, as trade union officials now also do, primarily to the “middle class” or to “working families” … the “white working class” has been absent from US language throughout history … But after November 8, 2016, invoking the white working class suddenly seemed to explain everything.20

While there is much confusion surrounding how to define the concept—are these Reagan Democrats or Obama-Trump voters?—a persistent narrative developed about the 2016 election ascribing Trump’s victory to the overwhelming support of white working class voters.21 Indeed, ever since Trump’s ascendance as the Republican presidential candidate, U.S. news publications have repeatedly churned out pseudo-anthropological journeys “into the heart of whiteness” (to paraphrase Joseph Conrad), which is apparently to be found in small-town diners across the Rust Belt and West Virginia.22 Most of these analyses imagine the working class as overwhelmingly white, overlooking the existence and different political choices of working-class people of color. Jon Green and Sean McElwee have shown, for example, that for black voters, economic distress was associated with non-voting in 2016, and people of color who endorsed color-blind narratives were also less likely to vote. Taken together with other findings that racial attitudes were crucial in explaining support for Trump among white voters, they conclude that “both racial attitudes and economic distress mattered in 2016—but they mattered differently among different subsets of the electorate.”23

Indeed, framing the decisions of white voters in 2016 as a binary choice between economic anxiety and racism overlooks the fact that historically, in Stuart Hall’s famous formulation, class is lived in the idiom of race. In Hall’s words, race is “the modality in which class is ‘lived,’ the medium through which class relations are experienced, the form in which it is appropriated and ‘fought through.’”24 Du Bois provides a somewhat different account of the relationship between race and class, arguing in Black Reconstruction that white workers set aside their common class interests with black workers in order to become part of a cross-class alliance grounded in a common white racial identity instead. On Du Bois’s classic view, white workers define their identity around race rather than class. A Du Boisian reading of 2016 would thus appear to endorse the claim that race trumped class (pun intended) as the primary driver of white working-class votes. But as Du Bois’s own text reveals, the issue is more complicated. Discussing the end of Reconstruction, Du Bois observes that the economic depression that began in 1873 resulted in “complete disillusion not at Negroes but at the world.” Faced with this crisis, a few voices in the South acknowledged that racial justice was necessary, but for the majority there “prevailed a bitter hatred and cry for vengeance from people who could not brook defeat because they had been used to victory.”25 Du Bois’s brief reference to white loss as a catalyst for white grievance points beyond the frame of race versus class to an understanding of how discourses of white grievance channel anxieties and desires grounded in both race and class.

As I have argued elsewhere, white grievance has become one of the key forces shaping contemporary racial politics in the United States.26 Crucially however, the discourse of white grievance is expressed and resonates across income levels and social positions. Not all white citizens are motivated by a sense of racial grievance, yet (as a number of scholars have argued) whiteness is a political category that continues to confer certain privileges in the United States, even after the civil rights victories of the 1960s. As Joel Olson has noted, “individual whites may consciously defend their privileges, reject them, or deny they exist, yet the structure of the racial order makes it difficult for individual whites to ‘jump out’ of their whiteness at any given time. The category does not explain every belief or behavior of every white person but encompasses the structures and social relations that produce white privilege and the ideas that defend it.”27 More specifically, analyzing the phenomenon of white grievance involves grappling with the ways that white political imaginaries have been shaped by white supremacy or the expectation of social and economic dominance and the absence of political loss. The result of this “unwillingness to brook defeat” is that when white privilege is experienced as being in crisis—because of the election of the country’s only non-white president in its more than 200-year history, for instance, or the presence of brown immigrants speaking languages other than English—many white citizens mobilize a sense of white victimhood in response.

Yet political loss is a necessary feature of democracy. Theoretically, since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, whites as a group have faced the possibility of sharing political rule with non-whites in the United States. In practice, however, the representation of non-whites and women in the U.S. political establishment still lags behind their proportions of the population, especially in the Republican Party; in addition, increases in the number of elected representatives has not led to meaningful power sharing, particularly at the national level.28 More centrally, voter suppression campaigns and systematic efforts to prevent non-whites from voting (via racial gerrymandering and strict voter identification laws, for example) continue to mean that whites and non-whites still do not exercise equal citizenship, and that the United States remains a Herrenvolk democracy in the sense that disenfranchising non-white citizens is still legal and permissible if achieved via ostensibly race-neutral means.29 White citizens as a group have thus historically been able to exercise political rule in the United States. They have been conditioned to expect white dominance as a key feature of their political identity.

A key factor driving resurgent white nationalism in the United States is thus the compounded losses that some sectors of whiteness see themselves as having suffered since 2008. First there was Obama’s presidency (including his initial election and then reelection), coupled with the reemergence of a highly visible and energized black protest movement, i.e. the Black Lives Matter movement, which led to a level of sustained black protest not been seen in the United States since the 1960s.30

Paradoxically, however, the racist backlash that has characterized the Obama and Trump eras has emerged during a time of racial retrenchment, as argued above, so that white grievance has been fueled by at best symbolic or tenuous gains by non-whites. The question then is, if this is how we got here, how should the Democratic Party respond to the politics of white grievance? Recent Latin American experiences with the entanglement of race and class offer a few clues.

While political developments across Latin America are hardly uniform,31 one of the countries where one can mostly clearly observe how white or mestizo grievance is fueling racist backlash and authoritarianism is Brazil, which shifted from an era of expansion of ethno-racial and social-welfare rights under the successive Workers’ Party (PT) administrations of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff to the ascendance of right-wing, patriarchal, white supremacist political leaders. The shift began in 2016 with Rousseff’s impeachment and culminated in 2018 in the presidential election of Jair Bolsonaro, whose campaign rhetoric explicitly endorsed sexism, racism, violence, and authoritarianism. Just as the dizzying shift from the wildly popular Lula (who could no longer run because of term limits) to Bolsonaro in Brazil parallels the shift from Obama to Trump in the United States, there are striking similarities between Bolsonaro’s ascent and rhetoric and Trump’s. Despite decades as a politician, Bolsonaro positioned himself as an anti-establishment outsider uniquely capable of tackling Brazil’s problems, especially crime and corruption, and his tough-talking macho persona and proficient use of social media lent him an aura of authenticity.32 He assembled a coalition that included pro-business sectors that reject climate change and environmental restrictions on development; cultural and religious conservatives attracted by his vocal opposition to same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and gun control; and those drawn to racist appeals such as rejection of both affirmative action and the preservation of indigenous territories. Bolsonaro’s voters were majority white and male, from the middle to upper class (although he also received working-class votes), and college-educated, and they reside mainly in the southeast region of Brazil.33 As in the United States, there were striking regional divisions in the electoral results, whereby the disproportionately black and impoverished north/northeast regions voted for the Workers’ Party, while the disproportionately white and relatively affluent south and southeast voted for Bolsonaro.

Analyses of the resurgence of right-wing politics in Brazil have centered on the threat to democracy, or on the appeal of authoritarianism and populism in the midst of economic contraction, widespread corruption, and political instability.34 Yet, as João Vargas and Jaime Alves have argued, racism (and, they claim, anti-blackness specifically) was a key factor in Bolsonaro’s election. The repudiation of the Workers’ Party, they argue, was partly a result of the “transformative social programs” it implemented, “which often benefited rights for Black, Indigenous, and impoverished communities.” In effect, the PT’s robust social policies “targeting social exclusion in the areas of nutrition, employment, income, access to consumer credit and homeownership, urban infrastructure, rural land, education, and health,” which were not racially targeted, could be cast by Bolsonaro as examples of “identity politics” and “special interests,” because the overrepresentation of blacks among the most socially vulnerable meant that they “were disproportionately benefited by [the] PT’s anti-poverty policies.”35

If racist backlash was an important element in the far-right turn in Brazil, there is also an important gender dimension to rising racism in the Americas. Nostalgic racial discourses harkening back to prior historical eras also have a gendered dimension, as they are often associated with calls for a return to patriarchal, heteronormative family and social arrangements. For instance, Trump’s repeated claim that Mexico is sending “rapists” rather than their best people exemplifies xenophobic narratives about the need to protect women from violent male migrants that are also present in contemporary Latin America. In Ecuador, for example, President Lenín Moreno blamed Venezulean migrants for Ecuador’s femicide crisis.36 The racial and gender politics of the Michel Temer (the interim president who succeeded Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached) and Bolsonaro administrations has also been reflected in the structure and composition of their cabinets, which in Temer’s case included no women and in Bolsonaro’s, only two; neither has included any Afro-Brazilians. Temer also eliminated the Secretariat for Racial Equality and the Ministry for Women. As a result, black women’s movements that had been mobilizing to develop an intersectional vision for the country’s future that combined racial and social justice were “left without a state interlocutor.”37

Racist reaction in Brazil and the U.S. thus emerged in opposition to leftist (or in the case of Obama, a centrist Democratic administration branded as such) governments that were not able to alter fundamental structural racism. As Luciane Rocha argues with regard to Brazil, in the wake of the 2018 election:

political polarization reached its highest point in Brazilian society: Bolsominions against Petistas (adherents of the Workers’ Party) … this is a conflict between: racist thought that came out of the closet and shows itself clearly using the guise of anticorruption, and the memory of a contradictory government that, despite fostering some advances in public policies and rights for the black population, also contributed to the anti-blackness of the country.38

Class and race converge to fuel right-wing racism in the sense that both unequal gains from capitalism (which produce material losses for working-class whites that are attributed to racialized immigrants) and universal social welfare policies can be demagogued as special handouts to racial minorities. The Brazilian case shows that race cannot be separated from class in our analysis of the success of right-wing reaction and the necessary strategies of the left, because white grievance can be pinned even to class-based social welfare programs. Indeed, this should not be surprising, given that in the United States support for cuts to universal welfare programs in the 1980s and 1990s was generated by representing them as unequally benefiting non-whites. Indeed, “one of the fundamental challenges for combatting rising inequality in the United States by expanding welfare provision is the tendency of white voters to ignore the transfers that have flowed to their families for generations, while simultaneously demonizing the state for attempting to equalize access to minorities.”39 Focusing only on class-based appeals thus does not avoid the problem of racial reaction. Yet in Brazil—as in the United States—few on the left seem to have an analysis that clearly identifies racial capitalism as the common foe.40 Instead, the response is often calls to abandon what are claimed to be divisive identity politics, which in turn allows racial reaction to go unchallenged.

Indeed, in the United States, the prospects of the Democratic Party acting as an effective counter to the politics of racial reaction appear bleak. Given how multiracial the Democratic Party voter base is, one might assume that confronting the politics of white grievance would be at the forefront of the party’s agenda. But instead there is very little consensus about what the party stands for and even whether to confront racist backlash head on. This is evident from incendiary debates about whether comments supporting the rights of Palestinians by the country’s first two Muslim congresswomen were anti-Semitic, to the fact that the 2020 presidential nominee to emerge from the most diverse primary field ever will be white and male, to struggles between centrists and progressives about how much to embrace various social welfare proposals. Democratic leaders and donors, meanwhile, seem more interested in embracing superficial diversity than in adjusting the party’s positions to reflect the views of its diverse coalition. Many progressives, meanwhile, continue to argue for a focus on class and to dismiss concerns about racism and sexism as resorting to so-called identity politics.

Yet in an era when white grievance and growing economic inequality go hand in hand, eschewing race (in order to court disaffected white voters) or focusing only on class (because progressive economic policies will address racism and sexism) are not the solution. In the past I have argued that black people and other disadvantaged groups should not be expected to do the work of democratic repair—that is, taking on the burden of activism on behalf of racial justice for the benefit of the polity as a whole.41 And perhaps one of the lessons of the Brazilian case is that progressive movements are more effective when they work outside the state. But a Democratic Party that is concerned only with incivility or threats to the rule of law is not equal to the task of countering racist backlash. This is especially true since these issues are related: voter suppression, for example, is both a racial justice issue and also central to overcoming structural problems with U.S. democracy. The Democratic Party must simultaneously address racism head-on and embrace the kind of economic policies championed by progressive candidates. Neither is sufficient on its own. If Trump’s election exposed problems with the design of U.S. democracy, it also exposed a deep and enduring tension within the Democratic Party about whether it will remain a mainly white party with the occasional black or brown face, or whether it can become a truly multiracial, anti-racist party with a vision of social justice for all. In Brazil, the black women activists left without an interlocutor in the wake of right-wing victories powered by racist backlash articulated just such an expansive political vision that encompassed a future for all: “the promotion of racial equality; the right to work, employment, and the protection of black women workers in all occupations; the right to land, territory, and housing/right to the city; environmental justice, defense of shared resources, and the non-commodification of life; the right to a safety net (health care, social assistance, and social security); the right to education; and the right to justice.”42


Juliet Hooker is Professor of Political Science at Brown University. She is a political theorist specializing in racial justice, multiculturalism, Latin American political thought, and Black political thought. She is the author of Race and the Politics of Solidarity (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Theorizing Race in the Americas: Douglass, Sarmiento, Du Bois, and Vasconcelos (Oxford University Press, 2017), which received the American Political Science Association’s 2018 Ralph Bunche Book Award and the 2018 Best Book Award of the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. She is currently working on a book project entitled Black Grief/White Grievance, which explores the role of loss in contemporary racial politics in the United States. She can be reached at .

1. See, for example, Brian F. Schaffner, Matthew MacWilliams, and Tatishe Nteta, “Understanding White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism,” in Political Research Quarterly 133 (2018): 9–34. There is now an abundant empirical literature analyzing the results of the 2016 election; for a related argument that status threat rather than economic anxiety motivated Trump voters, see Diana C. Mutz, “Status Threat, Not Economic Hardship, Explains the 2016 Presidential Vote,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, no. 19 (2018): E4330–39.

2. Mark Lilla, for example, famously argued that “one of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end.” See Mark Lilla, “The End of Identity Liberalism,” New York Times, November 18, 2016.

3. For an argument along these lines by two of Bill Clinton’s top advisors, see James Carville and Stan Greenberg, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! (New York: Plume, 2013).

4. Nikhil Pal Singh, “A Note on Race and the Left,” Social Text Online, July 31, 2015, at

5. Briahna Joy Gray, “How Identity Became A Weapon Against the Left,” Current Affairs, September 3, 2017, at

6. Nancy Fraser and Liza Featherstone, “Why Bernie Is the True Feminist Choice,” Jacobin Magazine, February 10, 2020, at

7. Brittney Cooper, “It Matters That Elizabeth Warren Is a Woman: Why Do So Many on the Left Insist That It Doesn’t?,” Time, January 16, 2020, at

8. My arguments here draw on insights developed in two collaborative research projects that analyzed race and class inequalities and anti-racist struggles in hemispheric perspective. One was the American Political Science Association’s Presidential Task Force on Race and Class Inequality in the Americas, at Another was the Antiracist Research and Action Network of the Americas (RAIAR), collected in Juliet Hooker, ed., Black and Indigenous Resistance in the Americas: From Multiculturalism to Racist Backlash (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2020).

9. Despite longstanding claims that racial discrimination was not a problem in Latin American societies, ethno-racial and skin-color hierarchies established during the colonial era continue to impact the lives and opportunities of black, indigenous, and darker-skinned people in the region. In Mexico, for example, dark-brown Mexicans with indigenous features (across all levels of education and income) report having less access to private and public goods and services, such as clean water and education, than white Mexicans, a service gap that persists at all levels of wealth and income. See Guillermo Trejo and Melina Altamirano, “The Mexican Color Hierarchy: How Race and Skin Tone Still Define Life Chances 200 Years After Independence,” in The Double Bind: The Politics of Racial and Class Inequalities in the Americas, ed. Juliet Hooker and Alvin B. Tillery (Washington, D.C.: American Political Science Association, 2016), 3–16. Similar patterns have been documented in Brazil, where since the 1970s scholars have used official statistics to show “that the effect of race was significant and independent of that of class, and that racial inequalities were stronger between whites and nonwhites than between blacks and browns … racial inequalities have been documented in nearly all realms of social life … [and they] are strong and persistent.” See Graziella Moraes Silva and Marcelo Paixão, “Mixed and Unequal: New Perspectives on Brazilian Ethnoracial Relations,” in Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America, ed. Edward Telles (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 172–217, at 199. Across the region, large-scale empirical studies, such as the Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America (PERLA), have shown that skin color continues to be a central axis of social stratification in Latin America, independent of ethno-racial classification and self-identification.

10. These included recognition of the “multicultural” and “pluriethnic” character of the nation; inclusion of the history of black and indigenous peoples in public educational curricula; recognition of indigenous languages as official languages; and the right to collective land ownership and to control natural resources in territories traditionally occupied by black and indigenous communities. See Juliet Hooker, “Indigenous Inclusion/Black Exclusion: Race, Ethnicity and Multicultural Citizenship in Latin America,” Journal of Latin American Studies 37 (2005): 285–310.

11. This multicultural logic redresses the harms suffered by groups that can demonstrate a distinct cultural identity, and in Latin America this meant that indigenous groups were better positioned to gain multicultural rights from the state than Afro-Latin Americans, with the exception of those who were able to claim an “indigenous-like” identity, such as rural black populations. See ibid., 285–310.

12. See Tianna Paschel, Becoming Black Political Subjects: Movements and Ethno-Racial Rights in Colombia and Brazil (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2016). Brazilian universities began to experiment with affirmative action in 2001, and in 2012 the federal-level Law of Social Quotas was passed which mandated that all of Brazil’s public universities should reserve half of their admission slots for public high school graduates by 2016. Of that 50%, half of the slots were to be reserved for Afro-descendant and indigenous students in proportion to their share of the population in each of the 26 states in Brazil’s federal system. The aim of the law was to ameliorate the dominance in the country’s public universities of middle- and upper-middle-class students educated at private elementary and secondary schools, since public universities are largely free of charge and generally of better quality than are private universities.

13. Brazil, for example, pursued both affirmative action in education and universal social welfare programs such as the Bolsa de Familia or Family Stipend. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, one of the principal factors that reduced inequality in 14 countries in Latin America between 2000 and 2010 was gains at the bottom due in part to the increase in transfers to households, primarily from targeted social programs. See Jeronimo Giorgi, “América Latina es más equitativa, pero sigue siendo la región más desigual del mundo,” El Observador, June 2017, at However, as the U.S. example of affirmative action shows, targeted race-conscious policies that benefit a small percentage of disadvantaged racial groups do not eradicate wealth and income disparities between groups, nor do they address large-scale poverty or structural inequalities. On continued racial inequality in the United States, see Thomas M. Shapiro, The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004); on the persistent under-representation of non-Asian-American racial minorities at U.S. universities despite affirmative action, see Jeremy Ashkenas, Haeyoun Park, and Adam Pierce, “Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago,” New York Times, August 24, 2017, at

14. As the U.S. example shows, targeted race-conscious policies such as affirmative action that benefit a small percentage of disadvantaged racial groups do not eradicate wealth and income disparities between groups, nor do they address large-scale poverty or structural inequalities. Race-neutral social policies in and of themselves also do not address racial disparities. In Brazil, for example, Mala Htun argues that the emphasis of educational quotas shifted from a tool to combat racism to one “promoting redistribution and combatting socioeconomic disadvantage,” as “only those who suffered from a combination of racial and class subordination were entitled to benefit from quotas for university admission” despite data showing that race affects educational outcomes independent of income and family education. See her “Emergence of an Organized Politics of Race in Latin America,” in Double Bind, ed. Hooker and Tillery, 39 (see note 9 above).

15. Some scholars worried that the push for race-conscious policies would lead to “organized backlash” in Latin America that would in turn imperil race-neutral efforts to address poverty implemented during the Left turn. See Mara Loveman, “New Data, New Knowledge, New Politics: Race, Color and Class Inequality in Latin America,” in Double Bind, ed. Hooker and Tillery, 47–55, at 55 (see note 9 above). Social movements scholars, meanwhile, worried that black and indigenous movements would adopt a posture of accommodation with the state in the wake of multicultural and race-conscious policies and would be coopted or become too financially dependent on the state to be able to challenge it when necessary, as activists and key organizations took up positions in state institutions charged with implementing the policies these movements had successfully fought for. See Paschel, Becoming Black Political Subjects (see note 12 above); and Jean Muteba Rahier, ed., Black Social Movements in Latin America: From Monocultural Mestizaje to Multiculturalism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

16. While there is some disagreement about whether it is a region-wide phenomenon, the idea that the “pink tide” was followed by a right-wing revival since 2015 is becoming widely accepted by scholars of Latin American politics. See, for example, the journal special issue entitled, “Right Turn: The New and the Old in Latin America’s Right-Wing Revival,” in NACLA Report on the Americas 48 (2016): 301–400.

17. Pamela Calla, Charles R. Hale, and Leith Mullings, “Race Matters in Dangerous Times,” in NACLA Report on the Americas 49 (2017): 81–89, at 84.

18. Charles R. Hale and Leith Mullings, “A Time to Recalibrate: Analyzing and Resisting the Americas-Wide Project of Racial Retrenchment,” in Black and Indigenous Resistance in the Americas, 21–66 (see note 8 above).

19. Juliet Hooker, “Black Protest/White Grievance: On the Problem of White Political Imaginations Not Shaped by Loss,” South Atlantic Quarterly 116 (2017): 483–504.

20. David Roediger, “Who’s Afraid of the White Working Class? On Joan C. Williams’s ‘White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America,’” Los Angeles Review of Books, May 17, 2017, at

21. Majorities of white voters at all income levels voted Republican, and 53% of voters in households making less than $50,000 voted for Clinton. Indeed, Clinton voters tended to be much more economically distressed than Trump voters, and even non-college educated Trump voters were “relatively affluent.” See Philip Bump, “Clinton Voters Express More Economic Distress Than Trump Voters—Including Among Whites,” Washington Post, September 17, 2018, at; and Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu, “It’s Time to Bust the Myth: Most Trump Voters Were Not Working Class,” Washington Post, June 5, 2017, at

22. See, for instance, George Packer, “The Hardest Vote: The Disaffection of Ohio’s Working Class,” New Yorker, October 6, 2008, at For a parody of the genre, see Pete Reynolds, “I Am a New York Times Reporter, and I Have Been at This Midwest Diner Since 2016,” McSweeneys, March 29, 2019, at

23. Jon Green and Sean McElwee, “The Differential Effects of Economic Conditions and Racial Attitudes in the Election of Donald Trump,” Perspectives on Politics 17 (2019): 358–79, at 376.

24. Stuart Hall, “Race, Articulation and Societies Structured in Dominance,” in Sociological Theories: Race and Colonialism (Paris: UNESCO, 1980), 305–45, at 341.

25. W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 262; emphasis added.

26. See Hooker, “Black Protest/White Grievance” (see note 19 above).

27. Joel Olson, The Abolition of White Democracy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), xix.

28. While the 2018 midterm elections resulted in the most racially diverse and most female composition in the House of Representatives, most of that diversity was on the Democratic side, as white men now comprise 90% of the Republican caucus.

29. In Texas, for example, where there were reports of waits of up to seven hours to vote in the Democratic primary, the state had closed 750 polling places after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. These changes have disproportionately affected communities of color, as the 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latino residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites. See Julia Craven, “Black and Latino Texas Voters Get Stuck in Long Super Tuesday Lines,” Texas Monthly, March 4, 2020, at

30. Hooker, “Black Protest/White Grievance,” 490–91 (see note 19 above).

31. The election of leftist Manuel López Obrador to the Mexican presidency in 2018 appears counter to the argument that right-wing politics driven by racial resentment is a regional phenomenon. Despite his leftist rhetoric, however, López Obrador’s administration has continued to pursue a neoliberal economic development model based on natural resource extraction that is opposed by indigenous peoples. He has also continued the trend of securitization of the state whereby public spending shifts from social welfare to militarized policing and has moved to criminalize and crack down on immigration in accordance with U.S. policy. See Mariana Mora Bayo and Jaime García Leyva, “Racist Criminalization, Anti-Racist Pedagogies, and Indigenous Teacher Dissidence in the Montaña of Guerrero,” in Hooker, Black and Indigenous Resistance in the Americas, 217–48 (see note 8 above).

32. Rosana Pinheiro-Machado and Lucia Mury Scalco, “The Bolsonaro Effect,” NACLA blog, October 4, 2018 at; see also Brian Winter, “System Failure: Behind the Rise of Jair Bolsonaro,” Americas Quarterly, January 24, 2018, at

33. According to Wendy Hunter and Timothy J. Power: “the four best predictors of support for Bolsonaro were income, education, religious affiliation, and region of residence.” See their “Bolsonaro and Brazil’s Illiberal Backlash,” Journal of Democracy 30 (2019): 68–82, at 77.

34. See, for example, David Miranda, “Bolsonaro Wants to End Democracy in Brazil: Here’s One Way He Could Do It,” Guardian, November 21, 2019, at; and Gianpaolo Baiocchi and Marcelo K. Silva, “The War on Brazilian Democracy,” Boston Review, May 27, 2019, at

35. Jaime A. Alves and João Costa Vargas, “Antiblackness and the Brazilian Elections,” NACLA blog, November 21, 2018, at

36. See José María León Cabrera, “La xenofobia en Ecuador empuja a migrantes Venezolanos a salir del País,” New York Times en español, January 28, 2019, at

37. Luciane Rocha, “Estamos em Marcha!: Anti-Racism, Political Struggle, and the Leadership of Black Brazilian Women,” in Hooker, Black and Indigenous Resistance in the Americas, 159–88, at 179 (see note 8 above).

38. Ibid, 188.

39. Juliet Hooker and Alvin B. Tillery, “Executive Summary,” in Hooker and Tillery, eds., Double Bind, xiii (see note 9 above).

40. For one such analysis, see Hale and Mullings, “A Time to Recalibrate” (see note 18 above).

41. See Juliet Hooker, “Black Lives Matter and the Paradoxes of U.S. Black Politics: From Democratic Sacrifice to Democratic Repair,” Political Theory 44 (2016): 448–69.

42. Cited in Rocha, Estamos Em Marcha!, 179 (see note 37 above).