Are white Americans being discriminated against? Some might be aghast at the idea that one might have such a thought, and, considering the historic discrimination that people of color have endured throughout American history, one might dismiss the thought as a foregone conclusion. However, I challenge those people to think rather than foreclose this idea. There is presently an increasing number of white Americans who are starting to feel that they are being discriminated against. “Reverse racism,” as highlighted by researchers at Tufts University, reveals that America isn’t living in a “post-racial” society. What this means is, despite the outcry from many members of the public and their political allies regarding our society’s horrid obsession with race, many still regard race as a critical way to classify others. Yet, many white Americans feel that the tide has shifted in the American consciousness whereby anti-Black was formerly the mainstream, and now the mainstream is anti-white. To those who just read that sentence and are nodding their heads in support of that sentiment, and who are thinking, “that’s right, that’s the way it should be,” I ask you to reconsider your support and understand that retributive racism will only cause an endless cycle of back-and-forth hatred that will cause further degradation of our society.
Racism, America’s original sin, continues to plague Americans from making true progress as a united nation, free of racial division and bias. Just as one group appears to be making significant progress, it seems that another suddenly finds itself moving backward. The cause of this, I believe, is that many have a distorted version of racism, that is to say, rather than viewing racism as the principle that we should not judge another by the color of their skin, racism has instead been modified as a principle of power dynamics; that the powerful class is the only class that can be racist, and less powerful classes cannot. In practice, as we have seen, that means white people cannot say things about colored people that colored people can say about white people, no matter how vile and racist the statement may be. And this does not mean that white people should have the right to say these things, but that also does not mean that colored people can say them either. Without needing to conduct a poll, I would say (or rather hope) that most Americans would agree that one should be judged by the content of their character as opposed to the color of their skin. Yet, despite our nation’s exceptional praise for the late Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr., it seldom happens that we practice what we preach. After all, if Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. truly believed racism to be class-based rather than race-based, his “dream” would have been that people be judged by their class, rather than the color of their skin.
Race does not exist in any discernible way outside of the power we give it. At the most basic biological level, race has no significance in the actions of men, and yet we continue to use race to divide men into groups, a misguided practice that has had severe consequences for us since our great country’s inception.
A joint survey from NPR and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that more than half of white Americans believe discrimination against white people exists in the U.S. today. According to the study, “more than half of whites—55%—surveyed say that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today.”
These feelings breed a sense of resentment, anger and distrust that leads to further division and distrust between Americans of all races and all classes. The house remains divided, yet the question that all Americans must pose to themselves is the length by which this divided house can endure, for a house divided cannot stand. The United States must rid itself of racism if it is to remain a dominant and prosperous nation, otherwise, our focus will remain on race and not what really matters. The United States is built on diversity—it is the preeminent “melting pot” of the world—but, because internal divisions lead to instabilities, is impossible for a nation as diverse as the United States to prosper in its fractured state; instabilities that have historically led to the demise and ultimate collapse of every great society before ours.
It is as if the sins of our forefathers and slavery have come full circle. Racism has existed for as long as man has inhabited Earth, and America’s history of slavery only served to amplify the racial divide towards Blacks, but have the tides turned? Many white Americans are beginning to feel that being white is a negative thing. This subjective feeling has taken an objective stance in the hiring field, where many companies are overtly advertising positions, and choosing employees for positions, based on their race rather than their skills. It is easy to see the irony in this: that hiring, or not hiring, someone based on the color of their skin is the very definition of racism. However, to these companies, their minds are clouded in a way such that they do not see the obvious racism that they are producing. As I mentioned before, racism has become a thing of class rather than a thing of race, and to the many people and companies that view retributive racism as a thing that is good to society, our society will crumble before our feet before we get anywhere near peace among the races. However, the dogma surrounding race has become a big business for some who evidently have no interest in seeing people united around ideals rather than divided because of race.
I pose a few questions to those who believe that hiring for diversity purposes, in order to remedy past discrimination, will actually remedy discrimination: Do you really believe that denying a person of a particular race a position that they have tirelessly worked for because of their race will not cause them to resent the very race of the person who took their spot? Do you really believe that people should just sit back and let another person out-compete them as a result of something that they never did because it is the “right” thing to do? And, to those who believe that the answer to the previous questions is that those people ought to be okay with it, do you really believe that, despite what you think people ought to feel, that they actually will feel what you think they should feel? People are not as simple as you would believe them to be, and the audacity of some to believe that they can move others around like chess pieces on a board is nonsensical and despicable.
I cannot help but envision our true potential as a nation if we are able to defeat America’s original sin of racism. I see so much potential in our ability if we work together and form a united front that can combat poverty, crime and poor education while encouraging innovation and economic opportunities that would benefit every American. I can envision a country that tackles homelessness and defeats cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other ailments. Yet, these goals cannot be accomplished unless they are given our full and united attention. Racism has sucked up all of the oxygen, it has disabled our abilities to tackle big problems because we are too busy attacking each other. I can only hope that we leave race behind to focus on what really matters: each other.