No matter who or what you are, you are likely to occasionally fall victim to looking at the world through a very specific lens. Such is anyone’s right, and ultimately, our experiences are our experiences. However, with a certain level of knowledge and an equal measure of maturity should come one realization: It isn’t all about you, thus, when judging a collective issue, you have to see all sides. And when it comes to topics like race, or better yet, racism, if you’re White, I would like to think you’d entertain the thought of looking outside yourself before trying to gauge such matters. After all, you’re White, you’ve got everything else more often than not. Such a task shouldn’t be considered all that taxing.
And yet, Washington Post reporter Michael A. Fletcher makes an important point in his piece, “Whites Think Discrimination Against Whites Is a Bigger Problem Than bias against Blacks,” where he examines White perceptions of racial disparity and how they “diverge far from reality.” He bases his analysis on colleague Russell Samuels’ report on the clueless White residents of Ferguson who had no idea that racism was considered a problem in the region by its Black inhabitants. Fletcher also points to research conducted by Harvard University professor Michael I. Norton.
Here, Fletcher examines some of the data:
For instance, two-thirds of Blacks think that African Americans make less money than Whites, a view in line with official statistics. But just 37 percent of Whites believe that Blacks make less money than Whites, and a narrow majority think Black and White’ incomes are about the same. Also, although many objective health measures suggest Blacks are in worse overall health than Whites, a majority of Whites think Blacks and Whites are equally healthy.
So it is no surprise that just 16 percent of Whites believe that there is “a lot” of discrimination in America today, a view held by 56 percent of Blacks. What may be surprising is that the polls found that White perceptions of anti-Black bias have diminished to the point where they are more now likely to think anti-White discrimination is a bigger problem than bias against Blacks.
On what planet is discrimination against White folks a larger problem than racial bias against Blacks?
Planet Vanilla where Bill O’Reilly (pictured) and company on FOX News are apparently racial scholars. Likewise, on a pop culture level, Miley Cyrus invented the twerk and cornrows never existed prior to Kendall Jenner. I also imagine that on this planet, consuming diary isn’t a double dare to your stomach to turn up. It sounds like a lovely place to live if you’re White, but we’re not all so lucky so perhaps these White folks who think they lead more challenging lives due to their race than Black people might fly back to Earth with the rest of us.
Even on an anecdotal level, I noticed on social media that when images of Ferguson protestors burning American flags surfaced, the focus was on the loss of cloth and symbolism as opposed to actual life. It was not surprising but no less telling. Flag burning is a sensitive topic – one that will never stop being controversial – but if in 2014 you still cannot understand why so many Black people are frustrated, you are being purposely stupid.
Right around the time those images surfaced, a study came out that Black teenagers are 21 more times likely to be shot by police than White ones. And the study, “Deadly Force In Black and White,” clearly shows that there are no gray areas here. And yet, I’m sure there will be many who try to deny the presence of racism.
Already I can anticipate some of the e-mails I’ll get in response to this article. It happens every single time I discuss racism and the loss of Black life. I’m called a race-baiter and am accused of “hating Whites.” Actually, I hate everyone equally, but I will speak on a racist reality that beats me over the head repeatedly. You see, I don’t have the privilege of being clueless. My race precludes me from leading a life with blinders. If only others in much loftier positions would accept this is the case for millions and develop an outlook on race that denotes such.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick.
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