Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's about a loss of white privilege

You may had heard the news this week about a study by researchers at Tufts University's School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School.

The authors of "Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing" found that both whites and blacks agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years. That sounds pretty reasonable. But the kicker is that whites surveyed believe that anti-white racism has increased and is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism.

I guess that to some people this is news. But to those who have been listening to the conversation over the last couple of years whenever racism comes up, its no surprise. And this is not the first time research has shown this phenomena.

We're going to have to grapple with this - as distasteful as it may be. And to do so, we have to understand what's happening. It certainly isn't about racism. Its about white people beginning to feel their loss of white privilege.

Leonard Pitts did a good job of explaining it a couple of months ago.

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.

I hope you get a sense of how deeply his tongue is planted in his cheek when he suggests that "sympathy is in order." But the truth is that, as I've written before, the game is changing a bit. Our movement towards "a more perfect union" when it comes to racial equality has now moved into a phase where "whiteness" is loosing its power as the default assumption about our culture. As Pitts says, we're (white people) going to be feeling our "loss of primacy." What we're seeing in this kind of research is the backlash to that reality. And we should be prepared to name it for what it is.


  1. 'Afternoon, Ms. Pants

    Trustin' you are well.

    GAWD I LOVE how you make it plain!

  2. Good afternoon Mr. Blackman.

    I'll tip my hat to Mr. Pitts on this one. He has a way of seeing the big picture and communicating it well.


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