MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A new poll reveals that a majority of whites in the United States believe there is discrimination against whites in this country. However, few white respondents claimed to have actually experienced this discrimination themselves. According to NPR,
A majority of whites say discrimination against them exists in America today, according to a poll released Tuesday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
"If you apply for a job, they seem to give the blacks the first crack at it," said 68-year-old Tim Hershman of Akron, Ohio, "and, basically, you know, if you want any help from the government, if you're white, you don't get it. If you're black, you get it."
More than half of whites — 55 percent — surveyed say that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today. Hershman's view is similar to what was heard on the campaign trail at Trump rally after Trump rally. Donald Trump catered to white grievance during the 2016 presidential campaign and has done so as president as well.
Yet only 19 percent of the same whites thought that they had ever faced discrimination on the job; around 13 percent thought that they had ever been discriminated against in promotions or salary; and only 11 percent thought that they had faced discrimination in relation to higher education. (Plus, of course, even when it comes to the low percentage of whites who said they experienced discrimination, the facts contradict their perception.)
These findings have profound implications because they confirm that many whites -- including Trump supporters -- are engaged in a profound sense of false victimhood (otherwise known as "grievance politics"), which is ultimately grounded in racism. This is particularly true when it comes to resentment based on a belief that "the government" allows non-whites to "jump the queue." This is a false perception, grounded in experience for relatively few whites, that helps fuel the anger that Donald Trump stokes. It's a feeling that white racial identity is under assault, but with scant personal experience to justify the vitriol.
The NPR article, written by Don Donyea, provides some insight into "grievance politics" through the factually challenged comments of respondent Tim Hershman,
Ask Hershman whether there is discrimination against whites, and he answered even before this reporter could finish the question — with an emphatic "Absolutely."
"It's been going on for decades, and it's been getting worse for whites," Hershman contended, despite data showing whites continue to be better off financially and educationally than minority groups.
Even though Hershman believes he has been a victim of anti-white discrimination, he wasn't able to provide a specific example. He describes losing out on a promotion — and a younger African-American being selected as one of the finalists for the job. But the position eventually went to a white applicant, who was also younger than Hershman.
This single example goes a long way toward providing an understanding into some of Donald Trump's intemperate and obsessive tweets. Take for an example, his multi-day tweets and statements condemning some NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. This was clearly an overt attack on Black players, portraying them as unpatriotic and unworthy of competing in the NFL. It was red meat for his ardent supporters.
Those tweets castigating NFL players who "took a knee" were being disseminated while Trump still had not announced the deaths of four soldiers in Niger, days after the killings. The NFL tweets were followed by a still-ongoing spat between Trump, Trump's White House staff, and the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, her mother and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. The latter are all Black.
Trump often uses his Twitter platform to inflame racial tensions and keep the fires of resentment burning in the 55 percent of whites who feel that they are discriminated against.
Recent surveys indicate that Trump's hardcore supporters comprise between 33 and 37 percent of the nation. The Boston Globe asks how he can still maintain this base, given all of his incendiary and frequently false tweets. In an October 25 article, the Globe notes,
With each battle President Trump picks on Twitter, the question arises: Is this the outrageous attack that will alienate his voters? But Trump has not only continued to defy doomsayers, he has shown an ability to actually shape his supporters’ views.
It is one of the elements of his enduring strength despite his historically low poll numbers — a phenomenon bolstered by a conservative media that both amplifies and defends the president, experts said.
“The president commands a group of Americans that are outraged, but he’s the one who tells them where to direct that outrage,” said Evan Siegfried, a Republican political strategist.
The NPR poll clearly indicates a predisposition among a majority of whites to be receptive to racism-tinged attacks by Trump. It is also a characteristic of authoritarian regimes that groups who feel besieged -- even because of false perceptions -- look to a single leader to resolve their grievances through scapegoating.
It may seem startling to see a poll in which a majority of whites claim that whites experience a discrimination that they themselves haven't experienced -- and which can't be proven even for the whites who say they have. Yet it is this type of racism-driven sentiment that fuels stalwart Trump supporters every day.