Amy Krosch and David Amodio of New York University have conducted some groundbreaking psychological research that ties economic hardship to intensified racism.

“When the economy declines, racial minorities are hit the hardest. Although existing explanations for this effect focus on institutional causes, recent psychological findings suggest that scarcity may also alter perceptions of race in ways that exacerbate discrimination,” according to Amy Krosch and David Amodio of New York University.

“We tested the hypothesis that economic resource scarcity causes decision makers to perceive African Americans as ‘blacker’ and that this visual distortion elicits disparities in the allocation of resources…”

Scarcity — of food, resources, or power — is a common cause of human conflict, so economic recession naturally tends to evoke the politics of white resentment. During bad times, white people tend to blame darker-skinned people for problems that were in fact created by other, very rich, white people. Conservatives have understood how this works for decades; Lee Atwater knew how to harness white resentment to win elections a generation ago. But it has been difficult for the mainstream media to confront the sublimated racism of conservative economic narratives. Perhaps that can change now that the science of psychology has caught up with political science?