Prejudice means pre- judging. In the old days one might have to make a split second decision that meant life or death. Those times may seem less today, but we still tend to make judgments quickly and it is hard to change them.
How serious is it? People are dying. People are discriminated against. Society is less efficient/effective and peaceful. "One Night in Miami" starts off with a little vignette that shows Jim Brown (football hero of many including me) being greeted very friendly by a southern gentleman and his daughter who are both very enthused meeting him and bring out to the porch some lemonade. As it happens the gentleman is called by his daughter to help move some furniture and when Jim Brown offers to help he is told "you know we don't allow niggers in our house." It admits that many people can admire black athletes and entertainers, but draw a line at different levels of intimacy.
Today one hears of violent abusive acts against Asians who have been associated with the Coronavirus Virus, an association made by Donald Trump. But he was deflecting from his own guilt and appealing to a racist base.
Racism has been tied to political agendas that favor those with power who are able to consolidate and use it as leverage for their selfish ends such as tax reductions and de-regulations meant to protect citizens. Too many people let their prejudices make their decisions.
One fact to deal with first. It is not desirable to ram down new (even contradictory) thoughts into people.
We know that prejudice is reduced by contact. Those places with most
contact (big cities) have the least prejudice. We also think that
education reduces prejudice and it might be fair to say the contact is
also education. Human attitudes can be very difficult to modify, but
over time attitudes do change and it is in everyone's interest that
racism be eliminated, but realize it will take time. Modern societies
are making progress, but not without resistance.
The first item is to admit that we are all prejudiced and it comes in many harmful forms. While this post is focused on race, our prejudices span all races, liberals and conservatives and includes those of us who feel we are above it. It is a survival mechanism that we distrust differences that are not understood and that includes sexual identity, gender, size, culture, age, etc. etc. With an university course in my past we were asked to write an essay on something we were prejudiced against and I chose old people even though I had two grandmothers that were a big part of my life. I shared some distrust and could see much prejudice all around. My contacts with racial and ethnic minorities have been limited, although I fancy myself a progressive. Another example of prejudice more prevalent than is acknowledged: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/10/what-about-those-hicks.html
Racist dynamics enter many different aspects. History is one area. Culture (music, sports, literature) Youth is key as lifelong habits are being formed from birth.
Contact is an area that would be resisted at racist cores. Anti discrimination laws are a tool that should enforce contact at the government level. Where people live and where they go to school are difficult to control as economic factors enter. We know blacks as a whole are poorer and until that is modified will tend to live in poorer neighborhoods and attend nearby schools. While some use racist strategies for their economic agenda, their economic agenda is a divisive tool that hurts everyone.
Public schools are critical. Some people will use their wealth and power to send their children to schools that are monolithic (not integrated). At this stage we need to make that more difficult, perhaps by restricting current government support to schools that do not have significant racial integration. The eventual goal is that parents would prefer their children learn in an integrated environment. If we could encourage schools in white districts to hire a significant number of minority teachers there would be extra contact with the establishment whites. Rather than have busloads of students torn out of their neighborhood at some expense we should offer exchange programs. There needs to be some incentives for participants, but that should not be as expensive as bus fleets.
Whites with racist attitudes are maybe already in a minority position and will gradually feel less communal support. This can lead to desperation and offers the one issue voter conservatives are looking for. In the meantime they are fighting against the inevitable, realizing it is not pleasant to be a minority.
Hate crimes need to be dealt with more strongly. Not so strong that they stir up further resentment, but with an educational component. Just as sports teams have learned racial diversity and acceptance makes for a better team, businesses also need to appreciate that.