For a moment after the historic election of President Obama many wondered if electing the first non-white president signaled the end of America’s racial struggles. Some even declared America had officially become “post racial” and that our messy issues of race and racism were over.
Well, how quickly things change.
Shortly after President Obama took office, we saw the rise of the Tea Party—an anti-big government (and some say anti-Obama) movement consisting mostly of white folks—and several other groups that have come forward to not only question the President’s politics, but also his parentage, wondering if he is even a citizen at all. While many have written these people off as a few cards short of a full deck, it is hard to deny the growing unrest that some white Americans feel.
Recently, CNN sensed the rising unrest and posed the question, “Are whites racially oppressed?” When I first read the headline, I chucked. The words “white” and “racially oppressed” in the same sentence seems very oxymoronic to me. They just don’t mix. However, when I read through the article I started to get a little worried.
In the article John Blake lays out a series of “signs” that some use to point to a growing anxiety for whites:
- A recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found 44% of Americans surveyed (61% were Tea Partiers, 56% Republican, 57% white evangelicals) identify discrimination against whites as being just as big as bigotry aimed at blacks and other minorities.
- More colleges are offering courses in “Whiteness Studies” as white Americans cope with becoming what one commentator calls a “dispossessed majority group.”
- A Texas group recently formed the “Former Majority Association for Equality” and created a scholarship exclusively for white males.
- The U.S. Census Bureau projects that whites will become a minority by 2050.
- Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly argued that Republicans are an “oppressed minority” in need of a “civil rights movement.”
As I looked through the list, I noticed that it seems to signal a bit of paranoia on the part of some white people. And it boils down to this: Some Caucasians are worried they will no longer be the majority—and therefore the ruling class—in the United States.
Cry me a river.
Conversations and even questions like these irk me. Asking if whites are an oppressed racial group assumes that there are systems in place that actively suppress white people, and that just isn’t true. Although some will argue that affirmative action is such a system, many don’t know (or don’t want you to know), that affirmative action helped to grow the white middle class because it allowed more white women (who are considered a minority group) better access to jobs and higher wages. Moreover, the majority of those in power today—both politically and economically—are white, so the idea that whites are somehow losing their grasp on America is simply a scare tactic by those afraid of the growing diversity in our country.
Sociologist Charles Gallagher of La Salle University aptly captured the surprising view of some whites. He said Caucasians feel they went “from being a privileged group to all of a sudden becoming ‘whites’, the new victims…You have this perception out there that whites are no longer in control or the majority. Whites are the new minority group.”
The fears that some white people hold about no longer being the majority or the norm in America is nothing new, however the dismal economic climate has sent them into overdrive. From heated debates about immigration and the Tea Party’s cries to take their country back, to questions about whether or not our President is an actual American, some white people are not adjusting well to the shifting demographic of the U.S. But all hope isn’t lost. According to Tim Wise, author of “White Like Me,” the majority of younger white Americans could care less about race.
“The idea that we’re losing our country is something that’s not going to have a lot of resonance for someone under 30,” Wise said. “These are white folks who don’t remember the country that their parents are talking about.”
With the debates over race in America continuing, one thing is for certain, we have not and will not reach the Post Racial Promised Land anytime soon.
What do you think? Are whites becoming an oppressed minority group? Sound off!