Are White Men The New Racially Oppressed Group in America?
Ever since the media began reporting on various statistics that people of color will become the new majority by 2050 in the United States and throughout most of the globe, there have been parallel reports circulating about the plight of the oppressed white guy.
Yeah, you read that correctly. White men, who have long lived off of the divine privilege of whiteness, are now pulling out of the ole’ proverbial race card and claiming that their whiteness is somehow prohibiting them from moving ahead in society.
You need a second to stop laughing? Sure, I’ll wait. Okay, got that out of your system? Good. Let’s continue.
CNN published a story a last month asking if whites are racially oppressed. In the story, there were various accounts from white folks who thought that they were losing their country, their identity and more importantly, their jobs to blacks, immigrants and Jews. To counteract their impending loss of white privilege, one of the many things these dispossessed white folks are doing is starting courses at colleges called “Whiteness Studies.”
I’ve tried to ignore these stories, but the same premise kept showing up in other places like in a Public Religion Research study that suggested that 44 percent of Americans believe that present-day discrimination against whites has become as much of a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities. Most recently, Newsweek ran a piece called “Can Manhood Survive the Recession,” which highlighted the true victims of the down economy: “The same guys who once drove BMWs, in other words, have now been downsized to BMWs: Beached White Males.”
As defined by Newsweek, these BWMs are the former white corporate suits who are now finding themselves out of work and on the unemployment line with those “other” people. Apparently, its pretty bad for these BWMs—in the first quarter of 2011, nearly 600,000 college-educated white men ages 35 to 64 were unemployed, which equates to a jaw-dropping five percent of the unemployment rate. Shocking, isn’t it?
I find it hard to pity the “plight of the white man,” which so happens to be one of the most entitled positions in our society. Before I can even get to the point of shedding a tear or two for the alleged racial oppression of White America, we must first address the history of racial inequalities against people of color.
Despite Newsweek’s best attempt to garner sympathy, the story failed to acknowledge the other color spectrum of manhood, i.e. men of color who have seen an unemployment rate in the double digits since the beginning of the recession. According to the Center for American Progress, the unemployment rate in 2010 for African Americans and Latinos was upwards of 15 percent compared to 8.7 percent for whites. In that same period, homeownership rate for African Americans and Latinos was 45.0 percent and 47.0 percent, respectively, while the homeownership rate for whites was 74.7 percent.
According to the National Urban League’s 2010 State of Black America report, whites are still more than one and a half times as likely as blacks, and more than two and a half times as likely as Latinos to hold a bachelor’s degree. Also, whites are more likely to have health insurance and six times less likely to be incarcerated.
By definition, oppression is the systematic mistreatment of one group of people by another group of people or by society as a whole, with institutional power as a means of asserting that mistreatment. By sheer birthright, white men have had a historic advantage to feel secure in the fact that when it says ‘All men are created equal’ that it really means ‘all white men.’
So Mr. White Man, if you still feel like society is giving you the short end of the stick than it’s best not to point the finger at blacks, Hispanics or women. Instead, point it at your fellow white men at the very top of this pyramid, who seem to be doing quite well for themselves unlike the rest of us who are losing out on jobs and benefits.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.