One of the great cultural and political achievements of the late C20th was to keep racism low status.
By the end of the C20th racism wasn’t just unacceptable, largely illegal and a virtual guarantor of ostracism from civilised company. It had been made a low-status belief. This didn’t quite kill it off, but more than banning it or shunning it, this drove public expressions of racism rare.
Flash forward to the Trump presidency. To Boris’s comparison of the burka with a post box. To the inexplicable feting of Farage by our public broadcaster. The danger these people present is not merely normalising racism or making it acceptable, although both of these are terrible crimes against a civilised society. The danger is to improve the status of racism to the point where racists can walk tall rather than skulk shame-facedly in the shadows. If the people in charge can say these things, well, so might anyone.
Solutions? Not no-platforming (not everyone will no-platform senior government ministers or the president). This plays, in any case, into the disingenuous free speech narrative now adopted by the right to pretend hate-speech and de facto assault is a matter of liberty. The reformation of the Anti-Nazi League? Tempting, and maybe necessary if matters don’t improve, but not as a starting point. No, the solution is to keep racism low status. Continue to ridicule and condemn those who - like Trump and Johnson - say racist things in public from either political opportunism (Johnson) or a heartfelt commitment to white supremacy (Trump). Maintain the status of racists at the very lowest possible point and racism does not prosper. These may be dangerous clowns, but they are still clowns.
Because racism is easily ridiculed. It is a pitiable thing to image oneself special because of an accident of birth for which no credit can possibly be due. Keep racism low status and no-one will want to be associated with it. It worked before, and it can work again.