Research Shows Republican Politics Fueled by White GrievanceBreaking News
tags: racism, culture war, Whiteness
On Nov. 4, 2008, Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois, was elected the first Black president of the United States. His election was seen as a hopeful moment in America and ushered in lots of think pieces and reporting that his presidency was the start of a new “post-racial” society. At long last — in the eyes of many, at least — there was hope that the racial wounds that have long divided Black and white Americans would heal.
That, of course, never happened. Even at the time, certain white voters refused to vote for Obama because of his race, and a rise in hate crimes followed his win. Moreover, in the lead up to Obama’s first election, some polls showed that only about one-third of white Americans (38 percent) thought Obama would help race relations, compared with 60 percent of Black Americans. Moreover, a plurality of white Americans thought (or, perhaps, hoped) that his candidacy would have no impact on race relations, essentially upholding the status quo. What’s more, some white voters during this period started to become resentful of a Black man ascending to the highest political office. And that backlash, in part, spurred the election of former President Donald Trump eight years later.
Trump’s election killed any illusions anyone might have had about a “post-racial” America. Indeed, Trump was successful in finding a predominately white audience who lapped up his overt racism toward people of color and who were eager to embrace a rising sense of white victimhood.
Trump may be out of power, but those feelings aren’t. They may even be growing.
With President Biden having just passed one full year in office, public opinion research shows that white Americans — and especially Republicans — see whites as victims of discrimination more than, say, Hispanic or Black Americans. According to a 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center, for example, only 17 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning Americans said there is “a lot” of discrimination against Black people in today’s society. That number rose to 26 percent when Republicans were asked whether they believed white people faced “a lot” of discrimination. And intense white racial resentment remains present both among Trump’s base and in our politics today. Case in point: Trump, who’s a (very, very early) favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is still hitting that same drum; during a recent political event, the former president went so far as to falsely claim that white people were currently being discriminated against and sent to the “back of the line” when it came to receiving COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.
Trump is not the first white person to feel like a victim of discrimination or to make claims in that spirit. This phenomenon started long before him. But in the U.S., if we look at things like the racial wealth gap, mortgage denial rates, COVID-19 vaccination and illness rates, police violence rates or myriad other data sets, we quickly see plenty of systemic biases against Black Americans and other minority groups (such as increasing hate crimes against Asian Americans). You can’t, however, find such widespread evidence for anti-white discrimination. So why have many white Americans started to see themselves as the victims of racial discrimination?
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