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ANKENY, Iowa — When Donald Trump was elected, John Olsen felt enraged by the racial tension that fueled his rise, the silence of his white neighbors and the stories of racial discrimination he heard from his nonwhite friends.
Black friends said they were followed around department stores, so Mr. Olsen, who is white, became a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He thought that white Americans were scared of the country’s growing Latino population, so he joined the League of United Latin American Citizens. He now registers voters weekly, including with the League of Women Voters, to atone for his “white privilege,” he said.
“I try to have my bases covered,” said Mr. Olsen, 50, who wore a N.A.A.C.P. T-shirt to a campaign rally for Senator Kamala Harris here last week. “It just hurts my heart that white people are afraid of the country’s growing Hispanic population. And I just can’t allow that to continue.”
White liberals — voters like Mr. Olsen — are thinking more explicitly about race than they did even a decade ago, according to new research and polling. In one survey, an overwhelming majority said that racial discrimination affects the lives of black people. They embrace terms like “structural racism” and “white privilege.”
The shift in white liberal attitudes on race might be a permanent one, helped along by a changing media environment and heightened cultural sensitivity, or it could be a more fleeting reaction to the current polarized moment.
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