Why So Many US-American Whites So Messed Up on Race

Thirteen Reasons

Image by Jon Tyson.

Listening by chance to some United States of America (USA) “heartland” Caucasians spew racist nonsense in defense of the fascist teen vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse (the killer of two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin), I was reminded once again that millions upon millions of US-American whites are badly F’d in the head when it comes to race. Vast swaths of white America believe wildly inaccurate things about race in their country, including the notions that Blacks make up 30% to 40% of the U.S. (the nation is 12% Black), that Blacks have become economically equal to whites (median Black household net worth is less than one sixteenth of median white household wealth), that Blacks are moving ahead of whites in terms of economic and political power, that Black people are criminal and indolent, and that whites and not Blacks are now the main victims of racial discrimination and oppression in the USA. For many if not most white Americans outside progressive Left and advanced liberal circles, racism no longer poses any significant barriers (if it ever did in their view) to Black advancement, safety, prosperity, and equality. The problem is especially dire, of course, on the right, amongst those who opinion pollsters label as “conservatives” – the predominantly white right-wingers who are militantly opposed to government action that might begin redress a small portion of the nation’s massive racial disparities.

Insofar as they can acknowledge Black poverty and misery, millions and millions of white USAers understand Black pain and suffering as essentially self-inflicted and deserved. Never mind the plethora of research and investigation showing US-American social, political, and economic institutions function in such a way as to produce stark white-Black disparities in every relevant statistical measurement: wealth, poverty, income, employment, infant mortality, maternal mortality, exposure to pollution, life span, health coverage, criminal branding, incarceration, home ownership, police brutality, access to full service grocery stores, access to green space, access to doctors and dentists, access to banks and loans, exposure to COVID-19, and on and on.

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Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).

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