Are White People Under Attack?

Are #whitepeople under attack? Many Americans certainly seem to think so. A poll released in September of 2017 found that 39% of Americans believe that white people are under attack in America. Since the election of Donald Trump, a bevy of articles have been published about the decline in standards of living for white Americans.

As one of the whitest people I know, I had to seriously, stop and consider this point. Was I being oppressed? I put down my Avocado Toast, and thought hard on all the moments in my life that I could recontextualize as oppression.

That time a black person called me a cracker for not looking both ways before crossing the street.

All those times waiters made me feel uncomfortable by speaking another language in front of me.

Beyonce’s Lemonade album.

In my own life, I didn't have any major problems, though. The closest thing I could think of was my improv school not taking anymore white, male instructors until they had a more diverse roster. And the only way I could interpret that as oppression is if I believed I were entitled to that position, which I am not. I have been called cracker and pendejo once or twice, but those moments were all temporary, and none of them impacted my overall quality of life.

That's just me. Are the poor, non-college educated white Americans that aren’t me experiencing oppression because of their whiteness?

In an ideal world, I would go to our country’s database for hate crimes, and I would see on average how more likely a white person is to experience a hate crime over other groups of people. The FBI happens to keep such a database, and in 2015, of the 4,216 victims of a race-related hate crime, 18.7% were because of an anti-white bias. This, however, pales in comparison to anti-black related hate crimes, which in 2015 made up 52.2% of the total.

We don’t live in an ideal world, though, and the FBI database on hate crime has longstanding reporting issues (Seriously, if you care about this issue check out the independent efforts being done by ProPublica). Maybe that underreporting has caused us to underreport the number of anti-white crimes? It’s a stretch, and all evidence points to the contrary, but, hey, we are entertaining all sorts of crazy ideas now.

In general, things are certainly worse for white Americans in comparison to white Americans in the past. The average lifespan for middle-aged white Americans is on the decline. White Americans are suffering higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, particularly heroin, than they used to. White Americans without a college degree are also facing a decrease in job prospects, and an overall decline in health outcomes, compared to the same category in the past.

Yet, when comparing these results to other ethnic minorities, the case for oppression is harder to make. Black Americans have significantly more difficulty in attaining housing and employment than white Americans. Blacks and Hispanics are facing more challenges than whites in getting home loans. Black people are also incarcerated at a rate five times higher than white people. The wage gap between whites and blacks is the worse it’s been in decades. We could literally spend this entire article listing relative advantages white Americans have over minorities.

The deteriorating position that lower and middle class white people are experiencing is more easily explained by growing wealth inequality. Since the mid-1960s, research points to a growing disparity between the working class and the upper class. The top one percent of wealthy people (that is, those wealthier than 99% of all families) have seen their wealth grow seven-fold since the 1960s, whereas the bottom 10 percent (those less wealthy than 90% of all families) have seen their wealth decrease. Unsurprisingly, there is a racial component to this phenomenon, and evidence points to white people usually coming out better off than others. In fact, when compared to poor white people, poor, black people are far more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods and attend poorer schools.

After a while, though, this starts sounding like a shit-eating contest. Why does it matter that poor black people have it slightly worse than poor white people? After all, we already said things are worse for everyone now, including white people.

Well, yes, things are worse for everyone, and until we address the root causes of that inequality, they will continue to get worse, but things, on average, are worse for black people. Just as someone is allowed to complain about how shitty things are now for rural, uneducated, white people, black people are also allowed to talk about how much shittier it is for them. One statement does not negate the other.

Yes, we’ve been talking about race a lot recently, however, Kaepernick kneeling, and black twitter tweeting about their lives mattering, isn’t an attack on #allwhitepeople. I know that if society has historically provided for a group, and then it stops doing that, that can be frustrating, but I fail to see how another group raising its hand and saying “me too” constitutes a form of oppression. This decline in quality of life for poor, non-college-educated white people is not because they are white. It's because rich assholes don’t want to provide for their standard of living anymore -- rich assholes who are, themselves, also mostly white.  

Non-college-educated white people shouldn’t feel under attack because of their whiteness. They should look at the rich people hoarding wealth, and ask themselves why those assholes can afford a second home, and they live in a rundown trailer with terrible health insurance and no avocado toast.