Racism is a disease based out of fear. Fear is probably one of the most basic of human emotions, and one that people know both the most and least about. As a movie character once pointed out, "fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate." I suspect that the bulk of psychological research would indeed argue pretty strongly that racism (and all of its varied cousins) is situational, not permanent; that it is simply "fear" dressed up as "hate". It's a disease that anyone can catch, and even if it goes away for a time, it can return with a vengeance to infect ourselves and others. What's dangerous is the belief that nice people cannot catch these urges when the sad truth is that almost any social behavior starts to feel okay when people get the message that such behavior is 'the norm'. One major problem right now is that it's difficult to tell what the true norms are because the plurality of the messaging is fake, cooked up by people and bots on social media.
"Sometimes I freeze until the night comes. Sometimes I fly into the night. Sometimes I fight against the darkness."
Racism is the plague of 2020. The best metaphor for the psychology of racism in the American culture of 2020 is that it is not a trait, like someone's eye color, but rather a plague, not unlike that which struck Europe in the late 1300's. And the “rats” carrying this plague are social media propaganda and messages that 'hate is normal'. Some outlets even propose a distorted reasoning that it's best for everyone to just wait and see, to be accepting, to go along. Not only is this simply terrible advice, but it implies that nothing can be done; that everything is always okay. Neither conclusion is true, and we all have to make clear that racism is not normal and should not be accepted or acceptable. This plague can easily come and wipe all of us out, so we have to protect ourselves against it with both defensive messaging (i.e., positive messaging about tolerance) and messaging on the offense (i.e., protesting intolerance).
"Coiled for the spring or caught like a creature in the headlights, into a desperate panic or a tempest of blind fury."
Racism can be stopped. It seems to me that we, as Americans (and no doubt others), believe that education is the “fix” for all such evils. But it also seems to me that even really good education does not automatically fix evils in a person's heart and mind, attitudes and beliefs, behaviors and actions. People CAN change; they often don't like to -- or want to -- because there are no guarantees that a change will always be for the better. But we have hope that it will. We learn combat tactics in the Marines and we're very good at it. "Improvise, adapt, and overcome" is a key axiom. Change, it is said, has to have action, and so this cure for our plague requires action on our part to counteract the scurrying plague rats that infest our social media, otherwise they will take advantage of our inaction to spread their infection. We need to fight against those who have been infected by it, some of whom may be our family and friends. We (you and I) need to psychologically combat racism by supporting the people who are trying to do exactly that -- combat it -- with the understanding that it might take a lot of tactical support to affect a societal cure.
Racism is a disease, and we need to treat it as such.