Study: whites believe they are victims of racism more often than blacks

A new study completed by researchers at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School concludes whites believe they are the primary victims of racism. A brief background on the study:

Sommers and his colleagues asked a nationwide sample of 208 blacks and 209 whites to complete questionnaires asking how much racial discrimination each group experienced from the 1950s onward. While both groups agreed on the amount of racial discrimination in the 50s, whites believe that racism against blacks decreased faster than blacks do.

Furthermore, according to a Newswire article:

However, whites believed that racism against whites has increased significantly as racism against blacks has decreased. On average, whites rated anti-white bias as more prevalent in the 2000s than anti-black bias by more than a full point on the 10-point scale. Moreover, some 11 percent of whites gave anti-white bias the maximum rating of 10 compared to only 2 percent of whites who rated anti-black bias a 10. Blacks, however, reported only a modest increase in their perceptions of “reverse racism.” 

“These data are the first to demonstrate that not only do whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do blacks, but whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality – at their expense,” note Norton and Sommers. Whites see racial equality as a zero sum game, in which gains for one group mean losses for the other.

The belief that anti-white bias is more prevalent than anti-black bias has clear implications for future public policy debates and behavioral science research, say the authors. They note that claims of so-called reverse racism, while not new, have been at the core of an increasing number of high-profile Supreme Court cases.

This study doesn’t indicate anything new in my mind. Ever since the 1980s and the rise of affirmative action and quota (yes, they are different), whites have generally hid behind their claims of reverse racism as the cause of minority progress at the expense of white decline.

I do find it ironic in the study that more whites, who are more likely to cling to the myth that racism is no longer a major problem in society, feel that racism against blacks has declined, but has increased towards them…

Since the dawn of the new millennium, we’ve witnessed a collective effort by whites, particularly white  men, on the far right to claim the mantle of the new black race; the new group of people to suffer from blatant, institutional racism at the hands of the government, all in the name of advancing multiculturalism at the expense of what they claim made America so great: the advancement and domination of the white man.

It’s no question that this type of white victimhood became more pronounced–and widely accepted as factual–after this country supposedly elected a so-called Muslim Kenyan Communist as its president. While many progressives and moderates happily proclaimed Obama’s ascent to the presidency as one that will usher in an Utopian post-racial America, a growing sector of whites began to internalize the election as a major factor in the decline of America as they know it. Pat Buchanan had already predicted the white decline with his 2006 book called “State of Emergency,” which pointed to the influx of minorities and “nonnative” people into Western countries that will eventually bring on the demise of the old great, white Western society.

Many of this nation’s Tea Party activists, the vast majority of which are white, echoed these sentiments and even Average Joes, who claim to have black friends (but, of course, stopped short of entrusting a black man in the presidency), begin to believe they were being discriminated against and felt they were being shut out of society as they witnessed minorities take their sons or daughter’s “spots” in university admissions or being denied a job opportunity because an employer chose a minority male (or, what’s worse, a woman of color) over him.

We saw this victimization in Glenn Beck and his followers, as he hijacked the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech during the March on Washington and used it to promote his message of rising up and fighting the tyranny and terrorism imposed by the government onto their liberties and freedoms (sounds familiar?).

Nearly 30 years ago, author Toni Morrison had the perfect phrase to sum this wave of white victimhood, which she noted during the rise of the Women’s Liberation movement. The traditional white feminist movement during the late 1960s and 1970s consistently compared themselves to the African-American experience, often characterizing themselves as niggers. Morrison, on page 308 in Paula Giddings’ When and Where I Enter, noted the mainstream feminists movement appeared ready to reap the benefits the traditional Civil Rights Movement had sown. She saw this as an “effort to become black without the responsibilities of being black.”

This phrase and analysis remains timeless as we’ve seen this type of mentality repeated numerous times since the feminist movement. One of the most recent instances include the mainstream GLBTQ movement, which is overwhelmingly white and male. These gay white men insisted their struggle was similar to–or as vicious and hard fought–to the black Civil Rights movement. In some ways, they are correct. Many GLBTQ folks have died fighting for the right to appear in public with their spouses or lovers without the fear of being attacked or killed. It has taken decades for the GLBTQ to even get places where they can gather without the imminent threat of danger lurking in the air.

However, their lack of concern and interest in black and other GLBTQ  people of color made their efforts appear to be self-serving, superficial on the surface and cold to the touch. The response from black women to the mainly white Women’s Liberation movement was similar to the black community’s overall response to the mainstream GLBTQ movement. Traditional activists in the feminist movement could have cared less about reaching out or broadening their appeal and membership to include GLBTQ, disabled or women of color. These women were also not trusted because many of them, particularly white women in the south, were often complicit or even took part in beatings and killings of black men, women and children fighting for their basic rights.

Institutional white privilege has allowed interest groups to co-opt minority civil rights movements and use them for their own personal gain without understanding how much blood, sweat, deaths and tears went into those movements. White privilege allows these self-serving activists to partner with minorities on advancing their cause only to leave those same minorities out in the cold once their objectives are met.

It’s nonetheless insulting and demeaning for me and, possibly, any person of color listen to white men and women bitch and complain about the very system they help create and implement to retain their dominant, ruling position in society. It’s a swift kick in the gut to listen to men like Glenn Beck and many like him proclaim they make up the majority of victims of racism and refer to themselves as slaves to a black president. It trivializes and demoralizes the work and sacrifices made by those of the Civil Rights Era in the name of dismantling a system set up to oppress them.

The work of eradicating racism will begin once whites begin to understand how our institutions, cultures, values and mores are set up to benefit them at the expense of the oppressed minorities. In order to begin to dismantle racism, these same people complaining about reverse racism will need to begin the process of tearing down the walls of the system they’ve helped create, sustain and continue to benefit from.

10 comments on “Study: whites believe they are victims of racism more often than blacks

  1. You’d have to be a white man to know how much we are victims. Ever since the people of color invaded our once all white land we white men have been put upon and discriminated against. (total snark ya know)

  2. I’ve never understood why white folks have needed to use the black experience as some sort of legitimizing argument for having things tough.

    I’m white guy in my mid-50’s, and there are enough issues I’ve had over the years and bigotries I’ve experienced over various things that don’t need to be enumerated. These things, if they are reasons to bitch, should be able to stand on their own, without trying to put someone else’s history on them to try to legitimize them.

    It is as stupid as trying to say that my issues over the years are identical to women’s oppression over the centuries… ummmm… I’m a guy, and those things can never apply to me.

    One can understand, or try to; one can help to fight the oppression; one can stand in solidarity — but solidarity is not the same thing as personal or cultural experience.

    I’m not black… I can never truly understand what it is like to be so, unless one of my next lives is as a person of color. I’m not female… I can never understand… etc.

    Got enough problems of my own to deal with… why compound them with trying to add someone else’s issues on top of them! *smile*

  3. If a white person makes a generalizing derogatory statement about african americans, in a completely white crowd, its very likely someone will make a comment that the statement is inappropriate.

    If a black person makes a generalizing derogatory statement about white people, in a completeley white crowd, everyone gives them a high five.

    If a black person is walking at night in a rich white suburb, let’s say Grosse Point outside of detroit, he is likely to be stopped by the police, interrogated and mildly harrassed, if there is any reason to ticket him or arrest him, he will get the worst result legally available.

    If a white person is walking at night in a black neighborhood in Detroit, he will likely face violence for the single reason that he is white.

    All it takes to drive people into the teaparty is for them to have 2 disconnected experiences: 1) they make an inane comment and someone states that it is racist (see above) 2) A person of color overtly attacks them on the basis of their being white.

    White people are trying to deal with racism within their group, black people applaud it.

    That said RACISM AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE IS REAL, the 29%’ers hate the president because he’s black. Subprime mortgages were given disprortionately to black people who qualified for better credit. Black farmers were discrimintated in government loans.

    Black people have, and still do suffer from institutional racism, rarely from face to face street racism.

    The face to face street racism commonly displayed by black people to white people, without any societal reprecussion, reinforces the nascent fear of the other and fosters a knee jerk opposition to things that would alleviate racism and make our society more fair to everyone.

    My point is, the GOP is utilizing the petty racism of black people to split the working class and perpetuate the institutional racism that is holding black people down.

    The confrontational accusatory tone of this article won’t alleviate that.

    WHITE WORKING CLASS PEOPLE DO NOT BENEFIT FROM THE RACIST INSTITUTIONS OF AMERICA. But black people believe they do, so blacks are hostile to the white voters, who then vote against black interests aka republican. And in reverse white people think the United Negro College Fund is the richest institution on earth, and that people of color have everything handed to them.

    Poor white people feel oppressed, by everyone, but blacks make an easier target that the richest 1%.

    Everyone now agrees racism is bad, hence the terror of being labeled “racist”, overcoming the continuiing backlash against civil rights, means getting white people not to feel threatened. Expecting some mea culpa give away due to your indignation at other people’s fears. Indignation will get us nowhere.

    (I fear the only real answer is intermarriage, it takes generations but its happening.)

    1.  I just ran across this. This is a great explanation and as I white guy who has felt the effects of racism, I couldn’t agree more with most of what you said. I was thinking about this today. I know people will have a hard time believing white people feel the
      affects of racism. I would like to remind them that white people didn’t
      like white people from other countries when America was being
      formed. Native Americans didn’t like Indians from other tribes. Tribesmen in Africa didn’t like tribesmen from other tribes. Unfortunately, it seems like people behave a lot like people who are incarcerated do.

      What I think would be a good idea to fight the affects of racism is education. I would like to know more about the different countries in Africa (art history, politics, anthropology ect…). A comprehensive festival could be done with all ethnic groups (Asian countries, native American tribes, Mexicans, Western European countries, Eastern European countries, Middle Eastern countries ect…).People aren’t that different from each other.

      The solution will ultimately be with us as individuals. I know people will not like me because I’m white and specially because I’m a white male. However, I will not let the affects of how some people treat me lead me to make broad generalizations about every person in a culture. To do that would mean I’m nice all the time and people from a culture aren’t mean, selfish, and inconsiderate to people of the same culture.

      God Bless

  4. As a white person, I just have to laugh when I hear white people whine about how they’ve been “victims of racism”. I really think for those types, it just means they’re upset because they can’t have things all their own way.

  5. I came here by way of C&L. I found this to be a very good article. I would like to chime in that I currently live in the UK after leaving the southern US. This matches with something I have noticed within the English culture. There is an unusual casualness I have noticed with regards to racism here. To cap it off, there is a constant anger at the ‘swarthy hordes’ (this was actually said to me) coming in and getting the world for free while whites have to work for it. The really interesting thing for me, is that people who I would have thought ‘counted’ as white (Polish in particular) are just as likely,if not more so, to be the target of snide comments. Hope springs eternal however, because there is a definite class awareness that trancends barriers. Thank you again for the very interesting writeup.

  6. Great post — just discovered your blog.

    As to Whites whining about being victims of racism, I can only laugh. The only thing I can say to them is that if they think they are going to get away with discriminating against members of minority groups, they can THINK AGAIN.

    The civil rights movement has come and gone for racial minorities. The last minority that needs to be accorded full equality are gays. And I am dying for the day when they are allowed to marry/adopt/live without being harassed and demonized.

    As a straight Black female (1st generation US Citizen), it alarms me that so many Blacks are so homophobic. Hopefully that will change as more prominent Blacks come out (like Don Lemon).

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