I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Western, and especially American liberals such as New York Times correspondents, have an unrealistic idea of what humans in general are and why they act the way they do. Most of the time, the see fellow humans through glued-on pink specs but once they spot an object of their ingrained bias, the pink turns into hopeless black.
For example, Steven Lee Myers wrote (free registration required) in the NYT on Sept. 13: “Ethnic tensions across Russia have been fueled by the latent racism common among many Russians,” right after giving strong hints that the particular outburst the article focused on, had been provoked by the locals’ dislike of the mafia-like business ethics of “ethnic” newcomers.
Racism and xenophobia are natural residents of the human psyche. (Xenophobia is even necessary, as is the immune system.) When things go smoothly, they lie down sleeping — they are indeed latent, and while latent, disease can’t do much harm. But when something provokes the beast, it rises to its hind legs and starts to roar, and worse. It does not matter if the grievances driving the beast mad are legitimate or trumped-up, real or fictitious — the effect is the same. To prevent violence, society should at least be able to openly discuss those grievances. Blaming ethnic violence on “latent racism” is like blaming a famine riot on the human need to eat every day.