Indeed, one need not travel far these days to encounter signs of acute anxiety emanating from the nation's white majority, a visceral sense of dislocation and lost privilege.
You see it in the hysterical (in both senses of the word) reaction to the election of the first black president. You see it in the spike in the number of hate groups. You see it in the screeching that passes for debate on illegal immigration and in the clangor that seems to confront any Muslim who seeks to build a mosque anywhere. You see it in the apocalyptic rantings of Glenn Beck and in the peevish mutterings of Rush Limbaugh.
You see it also in a 2010 survey by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, which found that 44 percent of us believe bigotry against whites is a significant problem.
Among tea party followers, the number rises to 61 percent.
If you didn't know better, you'd think white kids were being funneled into the criminal justice system in obscenely disproportionate numbers (as black ones are) or that the unemployment rate among white workers stood at 15.3 percent (as it does nationally among blacks). But if the perceptions of four in 10 Americans and six in 10 tea partyers suggest estrangement from objective reality, they also suggest a certain ability to read the writing on the demographic wall.
The Census Bureau says that within 40 years, there will no longer be such a thing as a racial majority. All of us will be minorities. While such fundamental change will challenge every American, it seems to have already panicked some of those Americans for whom being a minority will be a new experience.
Sympathy is in order. It cannot be easy to go from being lead actor to a member of the ensemble — from Gladys Knight to a Pip, as it were. Thus we find ourselves in this odd new paradigm. Those who have felt marginalized by the color of their skin, the name of their God, the double-X of their chromosomes, find themselves joined in their choirs of the put upon by newcomers who feel marginalized by the loss of their primacy.
Nobody knows the trouble they've seen. And, Lord have mercy, we're all victims now.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
"We're all victims now"
From Leonard Pitts: