The Disadvantage of Being White

Discrimination Against WhitesIn my lifetime the shift toward equality has been remarkable. Until the late 1960s the preferential treatment of whites and men was so normal that questioning it made headlines.

That form of white male privilege is gone. Quite a few white men are so upset at the loss of that privilege that they now complain about discrimination.

On the online debate forum Debate.org, you can read dozens of white male complaints about discrimination against them. A study by Harvard and Tufts sociologists in 2011 quantifies this white certainty that they are now the underprivileged.

White and black men and women were asked to rate the amount of discrimination against both ethnic groups. They all agreed that through the 1960s, there was significant discrimination against blacks and virtually none against whites.

But then opinions diverge. Whites believe that discrimination against blacks has now nearly disappeared, while discrimination against themselves has greatly increased, well past the amount against blacks. The researchers summarized: “Whites believe…the pendulum has now swung beyond equality in the direction of anti-white discrimination.”

White feelings of discrimination are more common among the working class, according to a 2012 survey: about 60% of white working-class Americans said that discrimination against whites is as great as discrimination against blacks and other minorities, while 39% of college-educated whites believe that.

Those feelings are much more likely among conservatives, older Americans and people in the South.

Such beliefs are comforting to whites, especially men, who are dissatisfied with their lives. It’s all because of discrimination against them! Racist whites were delighted about the results of that study. On the neo-Nazi website Stormfront, one responder had a great idea, expressed in a typically racist manner: “Someone should make a youtube video with White and Black equally qualified job applicants (or even make the White person more qualified to be even more realistic) and drop some hint that one applicant is a Negro. I guarantee that the Black job applicant will be getting a call back while the White applicant is plain out of luck.”

Well, someone has done that, or something like it. In response to job ads in newspapers, the National Bureau of Economic Research sent out 5000 resumes with names that sounded black or white, like Lakisha and Jamal, or Emily and Greg. Although the resumes were the same in every other respect, “white” names received 50% more callbacks than “black” names. That racist result was true across a variety of industries, including employers who advertise “equal opportunity”. Having a “white” name was equivalent to eight more years of experience for a “black” applicant.

A similar study this year of possible racism was done by sending a white and a minority tester of the same age and gender posing as a possible home renter or buyer. Across 8000 tests in 28 cities across the US, blacks were shown 11% fewer rentals and 17% fewer homes than whites. Whites were likely to be offered lower rents, or quoted lower prices. This was a significant improvement over the first time this study was done in 1977, but still far from equality, much less anti-white discrimination.

Some people wondered whether the election of Barack Obama meant an era of racial equality had finally arrived. We know better now. Suppose Hillary is elected President in 2016. Would that mean that women’s equality has been achieved? I know some white men who would probably go further – they would say that being a woman is an advantage, that another nail has been put into the coffin of white men, now always at a disadvantage.

Too much attention is paid to the few women and the few African Americans who manage to reach high positions. What counts is the next election, the next promotion, the next hire. Will a woman have an equal chance? Will an African American have any chance?

Would Hillary’s election mean that a woman, Republican or Democrat, has an equal chance as a man in the next election? Of course not.

All the complaints about affirmative action and the whining by white men that they now suffer from discrimination imply one thing – that less qualified women and minorities are being unfairly put in front. But it’s very hard to find any such examples. Much more likely is that less qualified white men get the nod. Hence the slow pace toward equality of opportunity.

steve hochstadtWe have not reached equality, much less some fantasy world where having been the object of discrimination forever gives one extra power. We have reached a point far enough away from unquestioned white male privilege that the reduction in that advantage is being felt. None of the complainers can cite a single study that shows any real privilege for minorities or for women. But that won’t stop the whining.

Steve Hochstadt
Taking Back Our Lives

About Steve Hochstadt

Steve Hochstadt is professor of history at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and author of Sources of the Holocaust (2004) and Exodus to Shanghai: Stories of Escape from the Third Reich (2012), both from Palgrave Macmillan. He writes a weekly column for the Jacksonville (IL) Journal-Courier and blogs for the History News Network. "His latest work is presented at www.stevehochstadt.com."

Comments

  1. Obviously the writer has no clue on what discrimination is. Obviously the writer does not live in the real world. There are women that discriminate against other women. There are minorities (which are now the majority in many areas) that discriminate against others that are not their race. They hire their own race and not others. No one is talking about that. The truth hurts.
    Discrimination comes in more than one color. And, discrimination against whites is way up. And, people that speak up are not racists or neo-Nazi. And, to call names to those whites that do not want to be discriminated against is wrong. One race can speak up for their rights and not be called names but if a white person does that they are called all kinds of racist names. That is not fair. Fairness for all, not just one race or color or nationality. Discrimination is wrong no matter who is doing the discriminating.
    I live in as a minority in my neighborhood and have had the majority do several hateful things. When is it called a “hate crime” if your white and others are not? The law is on their side.
    This writer is not in the shoes of those claiming discrimination. That is why he is one sided and does not know the truth. Or, like some, they refuse to accept the truth. Interview some whites that have been discriminated against and get educated.

  2. The Disadvantage of being obsessed about race. I feel sorry for the people that endlessly write about race “issues”… to keep the illusion alive. Heaven forbid that we let slavery end… we have to keep it alive! We have to claim victim status for as many generations as possible.

  3. Everyone below the top 1% are getting screwed and need to quit blaming others around them or themselves and get about making a social revolution that takes away the power of the rich and redistributes power so that no one goes without and everyone has the chance for self actualization. Discrimination almost invariably mirrors the perception of struggle over limited resources and a perceived mishandling of the access to the things needed to live decently. Right now a small percentage of people at the top of the wealth pile world wide live beyond luxury while the rest, probably 95% barely get by and feel that they have to hate others and denigrate others in order to justify their pacifism in taking on the rich and powerful and demanding change. It is easy to strike out at someone who is not of the rich and powerful but it takes guts to strike out at the rich or even talk about them in a derogatory manner. We are constantly told to defer to the rich, to celebrate celebrity, and to accept their domination as natural as the “market” decides all things economic.

  4. White people (and I’m one) are forever pathetically clueless about the true extent of our everyday, 24/7 privileges based simply on being born into the lucky sperm club. How many clean cut WHITE men have been stopped by police 25 times before the age of 30 for NO reason other than driving sober and fully licensed while NOT white? Or had your application denied if your last name is Hispanic? Evidence that inequality of opportunity still exists: http://www.demos.org/data-byte/share-all-net-worth-held-race#.UpTgWQl_S10.facebook

  5. JoeWeinstein says:

    As unwarranted discrimination remains but recedes – and meanwhile the economy stays bad – everyone gets a chance to justifiably whine. In absolute terms, for equally qualified job seekers it may still be easier to be white, male or young than to be black, female or old. But – looking back at least over the past 40 years – it’s ever less easy than before. And even for the formerly most privileged categories the economy is not making matters easier. So, in absolute terms black, female and old remain entitled to complain loudest about discrimination. But at the same time white, male and young can correctly moan that for themselves, no matter what their individual merits, times are getting ever tougher.

  6. Michael Novick says:

    I can’t fathom why you began your article (so that it was the main teaser on the website and email) by saying “that form of white male privilege is gone” when the rest of your article contradicts that. That form of white male privilege is still very much with us, and is reflected in jobless figures, salary figures, wealth and income inequality, relations with police (that is to say, the massive number of police killings, which are the tip of the iceberg of police stops), the numbers and percentages of people incarcerated, and treatment by teachers, counselors, principals and other authorities, and in a thousand other ways. It is also affected in the very grievances you cite.

  7. Steve, I agree with your main premise, but think that there is some validity to discrimination being more widespread over all ethnic lines today.
    I am a 58 year old ‘white’ guy that has been looking for more work for almost five years now, with so many applications submitted that I have stopped counting. Jobs that I know I am qualified for never get a return or even a thank you for applying. I attribute this more to age discrimination than to my skin color, though ( and the wretched no-jobs ‘recovery’ ).
    On a funny sidenote, on some jobs that I would not really like, I put on my application that I’m a gay Eskimo; and guess what ? I get called for an interview !

  8. When I was young and growing up with five sisters and no brothers, I sometimes wished that I was Black or Hispanic so that I would also have that close sense of brotherhood that minorities shared due to what I now know as the common oppression they faced.

    • Steve Hochstadt says:

      Dear Mr. Bishop,

      I think it is true that shared oppression can force the creation of stronger bonds. But there is so much that is demeaning about discrimination, that I think the negative far outweighs the positive. I speak from the experience of growing up Jewish, where the discrimination was not nearly as difficult as for blacks.

      Steve Hochstadt

    • You can have my shared oppression. I’ll take your privilege.

      • Where is the privilege? We all have issues and problems with a society that is designed to protect the wealthy. Today most of us face economic oppression especially when 1% have 50% of the wealth.

  9. Margery Black Allen says:

    There are some industries/companies that will choose a woman or non-white male to create more diversity. That is real and to acknowledge that doesn’t make one a neo-Nazi, although you make that leap in this piece. What about age discrimination? What about the fact that veterans get more and more preferential treatment? In government jobs and even the private sector, the veteran wins over the non-veteran. This feeds into the not-so-subtle we-can’t-be-grateful-enough-to-our-military sentiment that pervades the culture. What about gay marriage? Isn’t that about gays getting the same rights and tax breaks as married people? Doesn’t that discriminate against us singles? I pay more in taxes than my married neighbors, right? How is that fair?

    • Your argument is disingenuous. Reading the article makes clear the discrimination that is achieved solely by the names of the applicant.

      • You’re wrong .

        There _is_ still terrible anti Black bias & discrimination , I have to deal with it daily as do my Foster boys .

        That being said , fancy studies do not equal the Blue Collar realities of life I also deal with on a daily basis ~ incompetent and criminal Blacks are always up for promotion first where I work , one was recently arrested for multiple counts of real estate fraud , he’s still on the job and his career advancement future looks very bright indeed in spite of this and his in ability to manage by anything other than threats & intimidation .

        We have crackheads and known thieves in our work force , if they’re Black they can _guarantee_ advancement over anyone else no matter what .

        -Nate

    • Any company intentionally selecting minorities is doing it because there’s a lack of diversity to start with. The EEOC laws apply to companies with over 50 employees, and I’ve seen it happen with tech outfits, where as they grow, they realize they need to hire more women and more non-Asian minorities. Well… they wouldn’t be in that bind if they were more willing to hire with an eye toward diversity at the start.

      I should add that things have improved a little over the years. Also, some small companies I’ve seen won’t have any issues with EEOC as they grow, because they tend to hire for diversity, particularly economic diversity. If people are willing to dig into the resume pile, they will find a lot of diversity – just hire people unlike yourself.

  10. noblegiftfrommars says:

    Great article. My patience for the reverse-racism complaining is wearing thin.

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