I've lived all over this country, and I think I speak with some experience when I say that racism exists every bit as much in the North as it does in the South. Don't get me wrong, prejudice is alive and well in the rural South - but no less than it is in rural Wyoming or Colorado. Caucasian dominated urban areas like Seatle and Salt Lake City may give lip service to equal rights, but one wonders how these same folks would hold up in Selma or Atlanta where they have to put their money where their mouth is. The South gets a bad rap, I think.
However, that reputation was earned. The racism prevalent in the South in the 1960's and earlier was disgraceful. It wasn't all that long ago, and for many the memory is fresh. It will take awhile to rebuild an image founded in cruelty and hatred toward their fellow man. I stumbled across this 1961 campaign flyer for the election of George Wallace as Governor of Alabama called "Stand Up for Alabama". It's pretty horrifying.
This guy makes Archie Bunker look like Martin Luther King, Jr.. It's profoundly disturbing that he got to be Governor of Alabama as late as 1970!
The only people Wallace hated as much as African Americans were the hippies (the feeling was mutual I think). He promised to run demonstrators over who got in the way of his limousine, and famously said that the only 4 letter words hippies don't know are "work" and "soap". Kinda funny actually.
Another quote: "The President [John F. Kennedy] wants us to surrender this state to Martin Luther King and his group of pro-Communists who have instituted these demonstrations."
Also, to the hippies he said: ""I was killing fascists when you punks were in diapers." Nevermind that their generation was coming home in body bags by the thousands from Vietnam.
"Stand Up for Alabama" includes this nice little campaign promise....