By Alan Bean
The title of this Wall Street Journal article is a bit understated. Not only do white Americans see anti-white bias on the rise, they believe that bias against whites is a greater problem than bias against blacks. If this study is accurate (and I suspect it is) it is hardly surprising that references to systemic or structural racism hook so much resentment in white audiences–they think they are the ones getting whooped on!
In one sense, this observation is accurate. White Americans are generally held responsible for past injustice–a catalogue of grievances ranging from the virtual extermination of Native Americans to slavery, Jim Crow and the “Southern Strategy”. White people keep insisting that neither they nor their parents owned slaves and they have never personally exterminated a Native American. Therefore, their hands are clean and the fact that these outrages keep coming up for discussion is an indication of anti-white bias. This justifies the odd belief that white people encounter more social bias in the course of an average day than black people.
Justice advocates may find this perspective baffling, but its out there and we have to deal with it.
By Christopher Shea
Both white Americans and black Americans perceive significant progress in the fight against anti-black bias, but white Americans believe the progress has come at their expense, a new survey finds.
The researchers contacted a random national sample of 209 whites and 208 blacks, and asked them how much discrimination each group faced, on a scale of one to ten, for each decade since the 1950s.
Black Americans saw anti-black bias as declining steadily, from 9.7 in the ’50s to 6.1 in the ’00s. Over the same period, they perceived a small increase in anti-white bias, from 1.4 to 1.8.
White Americans saw an even steeper decline in anti-black bias: from 9.1, in the ’50s, to 3.6, in the ’00s. But more striking, according to the researchers, was the sharp increase in perceived anti-white bias: Among whites, it shot up from 1.8 to 4.7.
White Americans, in short, thought that anti-white bias was a greater societal problem by the ’00s than anti-black bias.
The researchers described the pattern—which did not vary markedly with regard to age or education levels—as evidence that white Americans see race relations as a zero-sum game, in which one group’s gains must be offset by another’s loss.
Source: “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing,” Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers, Perspectives on Psychological Science (May)