Practice Spreading Tolerance

Obama’s presidential win is a sign of progress, but it also could lead to conflict.

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The election of Barack Obama as president led many people to celebrate what they saw as a sign of progress on race relations in America. But it also caused the servers of two major white supremacist groups to crash because of excess traffic. "We don't live in a post-racial society, despite the very serious and important accomplishments," says Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which monitors the activities of hate groups. "Historically, a major advance is followed by a backlash."

What to do? Don't be silent. Short-circuit racial slurs by speaking up, and step in to challenge biased assumptions. Encourage local schools and community groups to work with organizations specializing in such programs as the Teaching Tolerance project and the Anti-Defamation League, among others.

And remain optimistic. "The overall arc [of progress] is positive," says Potok. "But we have got to remain vigilant."