Racism and stereotyping is something we usually learn as children, and it poisons us. It makes us lose empathy and do things like blowing up buildings, spitting on young school kids, or attacking people because of the color of their skin.

How else explain the decision by a 32-year-old New York woman to try to tear hijabs off the heads of two mothers pushing strollers the other day while reportedly yelling, “You don’t belong here.” How else explain that there’s now a party with neo-Nazi roots in the Swedish parliament, or that a Danish school is segregating kids by ethnicity?

How else can we explain the fact that the man who is now within a fighting chance of the White House has millions of supporters even though he’s called Mexicans rapists and promised to ban Muslim visitors to the United States? (Or, wait, does his plan call for “extreme vetting?”)

On this 15-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a time when the nation came together to mourn and the world showed its support, bigotry is alive and well. We haven’t learned a thing in 15 years.

Today we have people in our country who believe Donald Trump was telling the truth when he said that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims were celebrating when the twin towers fell.

Charles Dew, a history professor at Williams College, notes in his new book that the making of a racist in the Jim Crow South was a “process of osmosis” – years of mostly unspoken cues that form a world view of us and them, and ultimately of hate.

Americans are safer today than on that terrible September day in 2001, the Washington Post reported this morning. And yet, we’re more scared and more hateful.

How explain?

Photos: Mark Yokoyama