A recent study led by Harvard and Tuft universities show that White Americans believe they are more discriminated against than black people. In their paper “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing” , Norton and Sommers write that “Despite the rush in some quarters to anoint contemporary American society as ‘‘postracial’’ in the wake of Barack Obama’s election as president, a flurry of legal and cultural disputes over the past decade has revealed a new race-related controversy gaining traction: an emerging belief in anti-White prejudice.” The methodology or the survey is simple: researchers asked 209 white and 208 black men and women to rate on a scale on 0 to 10 the racist bias from 1950 to today. Thus each group had to rate the racism against their own ethnic group, as well as the racism against the other ethnic group. The results show that white and black people both perceive that the racism against Black Americans decreased since 1950. The curve of the perception of the black group about the anti-black bias is very similar to the percetpion of the white group of that same bias, only with a versical shift.
On the contrary, the difference in the perception of the anti-White bias by Black and White test groups is dramatic: if both groups consider that the anti-white racism has increased since 1950, the Black group consider it is still extremely low inside the American society today, the White group consider on the contrary that the anti-white bias is quite strong nowadays, and even consider it to be stronger that the anti-black bias since about the 2000′s. The curves of the anti-black and anti-white bias as perceived by the white group are even anti-correlated: for them, every decrease in the anti-black racism equals directly and automatically to an anti-white racism (this mechanism is called a Zero Sum Game). In other words: not only the White Americans believe that in today’s American society, a white person is a victim of racism more than a black person is (!), they also believe that the improvement since the 50s in the fight against the discriminations against black people is in itself a discrimination against the American White people.
All economical and social indicators show clearly that if black people are, its true, less discriminated than they were in the past, they are still far from receiving equal treatment with white people. Access to labour market, housing, education, healthcare, bank loans: very few are the black people who did not experience these forms of daily and ordinary discrimination. So do the White Americans really believe that in today’s America, being white is tougher than being Black? Norton and Summers study does not allow to answer to that question, but the “Zero Sum Game” that is absent from the Black group and present in the White group might well suggest that aquisition of rights is perceived by White people as being a competitive race (due to a confusion between a right and a privilege), while it isn’t for Black people, maybe because fighting discrimination made to ethnic minorities requires the destruction of the paradigms of the White superiority. All at once, White people who were living inside a system where only white values were ruling things find themselves confronted to the existence of other types of values, making theirs non-universal. The White people not having to follow the rules of the others is not even an issue here: nobody ever asked them to; it’s the simple idea that their own rules now apply only to themselves and don’t extend to other that bothers them, basically.
It would be interesting to see if the same “Zero Sum Game” is observed in other societies where the domination of a group on another one existed and was (or still is) progressively abolished. A few cases could be studied, like for example:
- Men/Women: do men feel that there is a anti-men sexism?
- Rich/poor: do rich feel poor people have more rights than them?
- Nationals/foreigners: do nationals feel they are dominated by foreigners?
And the ultimate one combining all others: is the life tougher for a White Rich man than for a Black poor foreign woman? Who knows…