There was quite an uproar when word got out about Rick Perry’s racist hunting camp name—Perry himself acknowledged that it was “offensive” and, thus, was painted over. But neither Perry nor Herman Cain, who was quick to denounce the camp name, worked up quite the same fervor just a week later when a pastor backing Perry called Mormonism a “cult.” “The gap between these two episodes—clear condemnations of racism, but silence and ambiguity about anti-Mormonism—illustrates a fundamental weakness in our understanding of bigotry,” writes William Saletan in Slate. “We’re always fighting the last war."
Racism is easily recognized as bigotry—and, at this point in our history, it has been widely eradicated. Not so for anti-Mormonism. The attitude is rampant—Saletan cites several polls showing that anywhere from 22% to 32% of Americans wouldn’t support a Mormon for president—so politicians don’t denounce it, because “challenging a common prejudice could cost you votes." Americans have similar prejudices about gays and Muslims. “These are the prejudices of 2011,” Saletan writes. “The prejudices you need to work on aren’t the ones you recognize in your grandparents’ generation. They’re the ones you don’t recognize in your own generation, and in yourself." (Read more bigotry stories.)