A Majority Of White People In Trump's America Say They're Discriminated Against Because Of Skin Color
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, a poll related to perceived racism in America was released by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The poll measures people's perceptions of discrimination against members of their own group. And to much dismay, the poll indicated that a majority of white Americans believe white people are discriminated against in the United States.
According to the poll's results, 55 percent of white people who participated believe that discrimination against white people exists in the modern-day United States. According to NPR, the poll surveyed 3,453 adults in the United States from Jan. 26 to April 9, 902 of which were reportedly white.
But while a majority of white Americans seem to believe that discrimination against white folks exists, not many reported experiencing that discrimination firsthand. To give you an idea, 19 percent of white people claimed they were discriminated against while applying for jobs, while 13 percent said they were discriminated against with regard to equal pay and promotions. Another 11 percent reported discrimination while applying to or attending college.
As NPR's Don Gonyea pointed out in an assessment of the report, some people interviewed apparently believe that racism against white people persists even though data shows that "whites continue to be better off financially and educationally than minority groups." If anything, this makes the poll's findings all the more astonishing.
In contrast to the results published regarding white respondents, almost all black Americans who participated said that there is discrimination against black people in the United States today. Ninety-two percent, the highest amount of all groups polled, reported that racism against black Americans exists today. The second highest amount reported was by LGBTQ folks, who came in at 90 percent.
The poll's release, almost a year following Donald Trump's presidential election win, comes at a precarious time. Discussion of racism and white supremacy has once again become mainstream in American culture, and sometimes it appears that white supremacists are growing more confident expressing their view in public.
In fact, white supremacy is oftentimes fueled by notions that white people are mistreated, demeaned, and/or unappreciated by society. Reportedly, Ku Klux Klan membership has been on the rise, and according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, American neo-Nazi groups have been making themselves available to European sympathizers. A massive report by Joseph Bernstein, detailing ways in which the alt-right has bolstered and magnified racist viewpoints, was also published earlier this month in Buzzfeed.
This was especially the case following the fatal white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. In the immediate aftermath, Trump condemned "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides." Many understood this to be a resistance to specifically condemning the white supremacists who organized the rally, and instead, a willingness to lend equal culpability for violence to the counter-protesters. In the same speech, Trump also underscored that violence related to racism has existed long before he became president.
Two days after the rally, and following a bombardment of criticism, Trump called out white supremacist groups by name:
Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.
However, a few days later, he backtracked and, in a press conference, again blamed both sides for violence.
I have condemned neo-Nazis. I have condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.
The Charlottesville comments were just one instance in which Trump found himself embroiled in controversy related to white supremacy. Back in September, after ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill called Trump a white supremacist in a tweet, the White House suggested that Hill should be fired for her comments.
No one can say for sure whether white supremacy has risen solely because of the Trump administration and its preceding presidential campaign, but there's certainly a correlation. As political scientist David Cohen explained to NPR:
I'm not sure that he necessarily created this angst among white voters, but he certainly knew how to take advantage of it.
Trump is credited with starting the so-called birther movement, which sought to discredit President Obama's status as a natural born citizen. He also famously, albeit slightly indirectly, called for the execution of the Central Park 5, five young black and Latino boys who were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park in the late eighties. As Sarah Burns wrote in The New York Times last year, Trump has never apologized for this, even though sentences for the five teenagers were eventually vacated based on DNA evidence.
"Why the continued belief in the guilt of the Central Park Five, despite all the evidence to the contrary?" Burns asked of those who refuse to afford the men their innocence. "Race and racism surely play their role."
While Trump cannot be explicitly blamed for white people reporting that they feel discriminated against, examining the internalized racism of white people through the lens of the Trump phenomenon has the potential to illuminate its pervasiveness.