Throughout its history, the United States of America has seen the rise of hate groups like the KKK, the American Nazi Party, and movements like the Boogaloo Movement which emerged in white power communities calling for a race war and the rebirth of America as a fascist state. These may be the historical extremes, but they have left scars on this country that cannot be healed. Now, white supremacist groups thrive on social media platforms like Facebook, where many still call for a boogaloo uprising, government overthrow, and mass persecution of ethnic minorities. Recently, these groups which consist of mainly Caucasian males, the ethnic majority peoples in America, are feeling increasingly discriminated against because of their race. In a 2018 PRRI-MTV poll, they found that 55% of white respondents felt that discrimination towards whites is now just as bad as discrimination towards other minority groups.
This is just simply not true. The statistics show that the poverty rate within the white population is 8.8%, while poverty rates among the black population are almost 22%. African American students are also less likely to have access to quality education resources. A study from UNCF showed that in 2011-12 only 57% of African American students had access to ample math and science resources, compared to 71% of white students. Furthermore, the black employment-population ratio (49.6% March 2020) has been consistently lower than the white employment-population ratio (53.4% March 2020) and race-related hate crimes towards white people are significantly lower than those towards black people, Asian people, and other minorities. It's difficult to picture a police fatally shooting a white 12-year old boy for playing with a toy gun like they did to Tamir Rice in 2014. Or for white people to fear wearing face masks during the pandemic because they could be attacked for their race like many Asian-Americans do.
Why are ethnic majorities claiming to be experiencing racism?
In 2018, the new census projections suggested that by 2045, the nation will become minority white, who will account for 49.7% of the population. This has led to fear of white-extinction in a country of increasing diversity. But is this projection itself powerful enough to shift the very thoughts and behaviors of people? A study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science suggests that when one group hears that there is a rise in the population of another group, they will automatically fear a decline in their own. This may be one of the contributing factors to this new mindset. But another factor is the political climate of our world. With white nationalistic, white-supremacist-supported presidents like Trump leading America, Brexit in the EU, and other nationalistic backlash instances across the world, the world seems to be growing more divided. In fact, it has led to the rebirth of "replacement theory" among many white-nationalist groups who believe that Jews are planning mass migration to destroy the white race altogether.
It's not just in America, there's been cases all across the world. In Sri Lanka, the country is plagued by cross-cutting cleavages of race and religion, yet the majority group will say that they are the ones being destroyed and attacked. In Northern Ireland, there has been an ongoing conflict between the majority Protestants and minority Catholics. The latter feared being "outbred" by the Roman Catholics, which fuels the decades-long conflict between the two.
These mindsets are not only wrong, but they can be dangerous. I don't know enough about the situations in other countries to speak on them, but in America, I know for a fact that the rise of this kind of "ethnic majority extinction" mindset has caused everything from public temper tantrums to mass shootings.
Can ethnic majorities experience racism?
While we understand the definition of racism: "prejudice towards someone of a different race based on the belief that your race is superior" we must also understand the causes and different elements that impact it. Racism is upheld by a power structure. Inherently, white people have been at the top of that power structure in modern-day America, which was founded on Eurocentric religion, beliefs, and values. Let's take the government, for example, we see a massive disproportionality in the government, even as it is improving. This year, Congress had 22% non-white members, although compared to the 39% of the non-white population, that still is very much under-representative.
However, I do believe that white people can be discriminated against, and they can face prejudice. That is not the same thing as experiencing racism. Unless their way of life is severely negatively impacted by discrimination and prejudice, they have not experienced racism. I'm not saying that all white people have an easy life or haven't faced any hardship, but it just simply means that our society and our country's history has been built on foundations that favor and give more power to white people than people of color.
Prejudice towards the majority may be hurtful, but it will not have severe negative ramifications due to this power structure that promotes racism.
However, prejudice from the top of the power structure downwards will result in severely disproportionate opportunities and many disadvantages in education, employment, and healthcare for the minority group. Thus, in the U.S., white people would only experience racism if the current power structure made it so they also faced these unequal and unfair negative effects that affect POCs currently with discrimination.
But that's not how our current society works.
And there will be no change in our society unless we alter the foundation of our country's inherent power structure, and we continue to advocate for more representation, more equality, and more opportunities as POCs.
Author: Carina Sun