When equality is seen as a zero-sum game
Racial equality advocates generally believe that greater racial harmony will create a more diverse and unified society. However, there are others who believe that racial equality will bring about oppression to white people.
Setting themselves in opposition to Black Lives Matter, one such movement for racial equality, proponents of the philosophy White Lives Matter claim to have predicted white genocide. According to their mission statement, “White genocide is a phenomenon where mass third world immigration, integration by force and 24/7 race mixing propaganda are being promoted in all and only white countries to deliberately turn them non-white.” White Lives Matter has predicted minority groups and immigrants are going to steal all of their jobs, money and welfare from them, creating mass chaos in the United States within the next 10 to 20 years.
Other examples of similar groups are Union of White Students’ Facebook pages that exist at various universities across the U.S. including Cornell, NYU, University of Missouri and UC Berkeley. These groups suggest a troubling phenomenon of privileged groups not acknowledging the status and privilege they already hold.
On the other hand, for those who are subject to unfair stereotypes, the status that privileged groups hold is more obvious. Marginalized groups are forced to navigate a structure of implicit and explicit bias every day. People judge them based on appearances and negative representations they see in the media. And this treatment can have damaging effects.
“People are more likely to be aggressive after they’ve faced prejudice in a given situation,” said psychology Professor Michael Inzlicht in a U.S. News article. “They are more likely to exhibit a lack of self control. They have trouble making good, rational decisions. And they are more likely to over-indulge on unhealthy foods.”
Yet it is important to note that these reactions are not conscious decisions, but rather a result of latent implicit biases imposed on marginalized groups by privileged groups that are not often confronted in the status quo. Embedded into culture, racism has been perpetrated through the media, which has a profound influence on our daily lives. It can even be difficult for members of marginalized groups to realize this is happening.
In response, majority groups try to silence minority group’s efforts to rise up. They reinforce outdated, unfair representations of minorities so they can keep their privileged place in society. Their biggest motivator? Fear.
“People fear social change because they fear it will make their lives worse,” said Paul Bloom, a psychology professor at Yale University. Bloom said groups that oppose racial equality think that a balancing of privilege will completely alter their lifestyle.
“Sometimes groups are in a zero-sum relationship, so that if one group benefits, another group suffers,” said Bloom.
An example of this change-resistant mentality is a white supremacist group that was formed at Cornell this past March. Calling themselves the Union of White Cornell Students, they sought to “preserve and advance their race.” They started a Facebook page where they post about their beliefs and the ideas they have to advance their race. In a letter they wrote, “We are a community that attempts to recognize the many accomplishments of the white race and preserve our heritage.”
Protests against equality are not limited to small communities like college campuses. It is even highly present in politics. Donald Trump supporters are just as wary about immigrants, globalization and racial equality as many of the other aforementioned groups. In many cases, they believe that they face greater discrimination. According to an article by the Washington Post from June of 2016, 81 percent of Trump supporters believe that “discrimination against whites has become as bad as discrimination against blacks and other minority groups.”
The irony is that many white supremacist groups support Trump despite Trump’s claims to be “the least racist person that you have ever met” according to an article in the Huffington Post. Many Trump supporters believe that by allowing minorities and immigrants into the U.S., white people are losing their right to the true “American Dream.” They feel threatened and believe that minority groups could take their jobs and powerful positions in society.
In stark contrast to these groups, Black Lives Matter fights for equality for all. According to blacklivesmatter.com, “We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people.” They wish to build a community that restores society into one that is inclusive regardless of gender, race or economic status and places an emphasis on equality for all.
The argument that majority groups are being oppressed loses even more of its legitimacy when looking at the way oppressed groups have been portrayed in the past. Peggy McIntosh, a feminist and anti-racism advocate, explains that history has been constructed not to encourage a greater understanding between different people, but rather to create a one-sided narrative that benefits privileged groups.
“In history, all students study laws and wars and management and territory, which mean they study men,” she said. “Then in the name of equality they add the subject of ‘women in laws and wars, et cetera’.”
McIntosh added that, “History scholars argue that women were not in these laws and wars. By this method of thinking, women should be put in their proper place in the past — giving birth to children and helping carry on the human race.” She said historians view this as equitable treatment because women are mentioned in history in their correct places. But problems emerge because such an approach irreparably shifts how women are seen and the way women see their own identities.
History is very selective in the information it deems important, and sometimes this comes at the expense of marginalized groups. Aja Martinez, a writing and rhetoric professor at Syracuse University, combats this by writing counterstories that allow for history to be more equitable and for the real truth to be excavated.
“Counterstories is a narrative form and a methodology to gather research. It takes stock of what’s available, including data, literature, personal experience, and qualitative data and braids those together to create context and characters that discuss diversity in social settings,” Martinez said.
Counterstories show that there are more sides to an event than are conventionally presented. In particular, Martinez looks at how race works within an institution and how people who are not a part of the racial majority are treated.
In essence, value placed on truth, science, and fact has led to history that has been whitewashed. Stories of marginalized groups are rarely included in history books despite their recognizable contributions. Counterstories strive to bring back these forgotten, overlooked stories and make people think about history in a completely different light. We need to try to rid ourselves of this antiquated, biased and racist thinking in order to understand the history of marginalized groups. It is important that we pay attention to counterstories and give credit to minorities who have done their part to change America. This can be the first step toward more equitable thought.
Katie Siple is a second-year integrated marketing communication major who doesn’t need any convincing to know intuitively that reverse racism isn’t real. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.