A recent psychology paper suggests a bit of trouble on the road to our glorious multicultural future. The title says it all: “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing” by Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers (Perspectives on Psychological Science 6(3), 215-218, 2011). The paper documents “an emerging belief in anti-White prejudice” — the belief “that Whites have replaced Blacks as the primary victims of discrimination.” Participants were asked about their perceptions of discrimination against Blacks and against Whites in each decade going back to the 1950s. Here are the results:
The claim by Norton and Somers that Whites view discrimination as a zero sum game is based solely on the fact that the lines in the above chart cross: perceptions of Black discrimination against Whites have risen as perceptions of White discrimination against Blacks have fallen. But to say that this implies that Whites see discrimination as a zero sum game is a non-sequitur, since the curves could be going in opposite directions for quite different reasons. (As all first-year psychology students are aware, correlation does not imply causality.) As indicated below, there are very real reasons why Whites feel discriminated against increasingly in recent decades, and this is likely independent of the reality that there is demonstrably less discrimination against Blacks.
A paper like this published in a first rate academic journal has to follow certain ground rules. The authors imply that Whites’ belief in anti-White discrimination is irrational because “by nearly any metric—from employment to police treatment, loan rates to education—statistics continue to indicate drastically poorer outcomes for Black than White Americans.” This comment fits well with the general the general tenor of the comments by several academics (including Norton and Somers) invited by the NYTimes: Yes indeed there is discrimination against Whites via well-publicized affirmative action cases, but Whites are still dramatically better off than Blacks, so get over it.
Of course, the unmentioned 800 lb gorilla in the room is Black IQ — along with the data showing that IQ is substantially heritable and not substantially changed in currently available environments. Given the reality of average Black IQ of around 85, it is quite possible — indeed quite reasonable — that Blacks in general would do poorly even in the presence of large-scale affirmative action that Whites would see as an unfair practice that limits their chances in life.
Patricia Williams, a Black law professor at Columbia, implies that zero sum thinking is irrational and a sign of prejudice—without ever denying the effects of affirmative action in allowing less qualified students into high position. But Paul Butler, a Black law professor and self-proclaimed beneficiary of affirmative action, states that affirmative action is just fine even though we do in fact live in a zero sum world. Why? Because “African-Americans still are owed big time.” For Butler, the past history of Blacks in America means that there is a huge debt owed to Blacks. I suppose he will let us know if and when it is paid off, but it’s certainly not going to be any time soon. And in the meantime it’s only fair that government policy continues to support affirmative action .
Both Abigail Thernstrom and David Bernstein correctly note that it’s not surprising that Whites feel discriminated against given the high profile examples of affirmative action. Thernstrom calls attention to the fact that Blacks are admitted to law school with “dramatically weaker” test scores, and Bernstein notes that
with the approval of the U.S. Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger and at the insistence of American Bar Association accrediting authorities, law schools blatantly prefer African-American and Hispanic admissions candidates with weaker credentials than their white (and Asian) competitors; law firms advertise summer positions that are limited to minority candidates; and general counsels of major corporations insist that the law firms they hire impose staffing quotas for minority attorneys. Besides the reality of affirmative action, I can think of several other reasons why Whites would feel more discrimination against them.
Thernstrom’s comment on ““dramatically weaker” scores for Blacks may be a subtle indication that liberal intellectual elites are starting to wake up to the intractable reality of low Black IQ. She could have just said simply ‘weaker’ rather than “dramatically weaker” if she was trying to cover up the truth. She talks about law school where students have already graduated from college. The implicit question is: after four years of college why are Blacks still dramatically less academically competent than Whites?
Most liberal White Americans desperately want to believe that Blacks are equal to Whites on IQ, at least potentially so — if they were put in a proper environment. Or perhaps they have a tad lower IQ, but it’s no big deal. Talking about “dramatically weaker” scores among college graduates–scores that everyone knows are related to IQ–suggests something far deeper is operating after all these decades of uplift. The message starts to sink in: “Maybe it’s all a lie.”
A point that is not mentioned is the demographic reality that Whites will soon be a minority. The revolution in “rights” for minorities has coincided with the revolution in immigration policy, The Collision Course Between Immigration and Affirmative Action, as Hugh Davis Graham phrased it. It’s one thing to have affirmative action in a society that is 90% White and 10% Black. It is a whole new ball game when Whites are 65% of the population and rapidly declining. This means that when people say that they want elites to “look like America,” it means including not only Blacks, but ever increasing percentages of Latinos and Asians. Whites are expected to cede positions to “underrepresented” minorities via affirmative action while at the same time passively accepting that Asians are now being admitted to elite institutions at far higher rates than Whites. For example, 46% of the undergraduates at the University of California’s flagship university, UC-Berkeley, are Asians despite the fact that Asians are only 12% of the state population. (Less noticeable because it goes unmentioned in the mainstream media is the fact that on average 24% of undergraduates at Ivy League Universities are Jews.) These consequences are hardly trivial for Whites.
Patricia Williams makes a fleeting reference to this issue. Immediately after saying Whites are “the most privileged human beings on the planet,” she notes “The world is changing, however, and the realignment of wealth, power, jobs and resources has been deeply challenging to the notion of American exceptionalism.” It’s changing indeed, and Whites have every reason to worry about the future for themselves and their children. But Williams follows it up by showing that, for her, the culture can’t change fast enough: “That exceptionalism, consciously or unconsciously, is infused with racialized hierarchies — normative whiteness and masculinity still marking the ‘worthiest’ inheritors of the American dream.”
Related to this is the perception by Whites that their culture has been hijacked, thus leading to anxiety and feelings of victimization. Norton and Somers note:
Consider the rhetoric associated with some members of the Tea Party, whose emphasis on the perceived values of the founding fathers implicitly centers on the notion that the founders were white heterosexual Christians. Or the oft-voiced concern that political correctness has stifled traditional American values, as with the idea of a “war on Christmas.”
They are exactly right that the Tea Party is implicitly White–and that there is indeed a War on Christmas. But it is absolutely reasonable for people to feel threatened with the loss of their culture. Public culture is a zero sum game. We can either have White, Christian, heterosexual culture predominate or not. The Civil Rights movement was never advertised as ending the traditional culture of America, simply as granting Blacks rights. The great majority of Whites accept ending biases against Blacks. What they don’t accept is the loss of the traditional culture of the country.
It’s not at all surprising that Whites would feel embattled and discriminated against as they see their culture being taken from them. Any Whites who think that White culture will persist when Whites become a minority are dreaming.
Patricia Williams is a good illustration of this attitude that White culture will cease to have any priority in the future–but only an illustration. The entire academic establishment in the social sciences and the humanities are on board with this–along with the elite media that never tires of letting elite liberal academics espouse their views to large audiences of educated people, exactly as we see here.
Another unmentioned issue is that White Americans may not feel any bias against Blacks while at the same time feeling threated by the increasing hostility they see around them—the continual negative portrayals in the media, the instant crushing and pathologizing of any assertion of White identity or interests even as strident activists for other groups are free to spew anti-White venom. In my experience, even White people without any explicit consciousness of being White notice the deluge of ads, TV shows and movies in which Whites are depicted as evil, stupid, and hopelessly uncool, while non-Whites are cast in the role of eternal victim of Whites. Black political figures like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton are free to castigate Whites and blame them for all the problems of Blacks. Rev. Wright’s diatribes and his association with Pres. Obama that surfaced during the 2008 election campaign were very widely distributed and commented on by mainstream conservatives in the media. Paul Butler’s comments on owing Blacks “big-time” hint at a deeper hostility behind the cool academic demeanor.
Whites therefore are already living in a media-hostile environment in which they see themselves victimized. Whites are also quite aware that they are victimized by crime by non-Whites, particularly Blacks and Latinos, far more than the reverse. It’s not at all surprising that this would rub off on White attitudes, making them believe, with considerable truth, that they live in a hostile world of non-Whites.
Norton and Somers state that
as a result, there’s a “jockeying for stigma” among groups in America today. This competition is surprising because being marginalized often equates to being powerless, yet many whites now use their sense of marginalization as a rallying cry toward action. Already, this sentiment is affecting political discourse, as shown by the rise of the Tea Party and the growing number of lawsuits alleging “reverse racism.”
This is wild non-sequitur. Being marginalized probably always leads to political action. The whole point is to increase your power. Whites see their political power declining and, like any other group, they are taking the first steps to restore their predominance. They are doing this while they are still a majority but a majority that sees themselves as becoming a minority within their lifetime. The first steps are tentative and unsteady; they are implicitly rather than explicitly pro-White. But the first step is to realize that that you are being victimized and that the future is bleak indeed. Whites seem to have taken that step.
Perhaps the real lesson here is that a scientific report like this can be so easily framed by the liberal elites in a way that does not in any way threaten the status quo. One day’s read in the NYTimes and it’s on to business as usual. No calls for rethinking American immigration policy to head off deep alienation among Whites as we head into the future where Whites are sure to feel far more marginalized and embittered than they do now.
The report calls attention to a major sociological shift for Whites that continues to play on the American political scene—particularly the racialization of American politics. Where that may lead is anybody’s guess, but if the research on multiculturalism is to be believed, it will certainly lead to greater conflict—conflict that will not be so easily papered over by academics giving a day’s entertainment to the educated folks who read the NYTimes.