In one of the strangest recent instances of senseless “alt-right” provocation, a series of posters reading “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” were posted at high schools and colleges around the United States, from Tulane University in Louisiana to Harvard University in Massachusetts. According to forum posts by the planners, the posters were created to cause a public outcry — leaving “the media and leftists frothing at the mouth” — and to drive the white American public toward the “alt-right.” By their logic, it would lead so-called normies to realize leftists and journalists hate white people, so they would turn on them. Though armchair nationalists’ online escapades often fail to show more than their pitiful need for maximum attention with minimum effort, the “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” campaign reflects a larger delusion spreading throughout the U.S., one that contributes to destructive cultural divisions and plays into the political hands of the far-right: white victimhood.
According to an NPR/Harvard poll released last month, 55 percent of white people believe that “generally speaking … there is discrimination against white people in America today.” Yet very few say they have experienced it personally — 19 percent when applying to jobs, 13 percent when being paid equally or considered for promotions and 11 percent when applying to college. However, 92 percent of African-Americans said discrimination against African Americans exists, and far more said they have experienced it personally — 56 percent when applying to jobs, 57 percent when being considered for promotions and 60 percent when dealing with the police. This disparity between theoretical belief in racism and real-life experience makes it plainly clear that discrimination affects black people far more than white people.
But the angst harnessed by the far-right does not appear out of thin air. The pollsters acknowledge that “lower and moderate-income white Americans were more likely to say that whites are discriminated against” and to say that they have felt it directly. Americans live within a convoluted economic system that consistently concentrates wealth at the top — the top three wealthiest Americans are richer than the bottom 50 percent largely because our productivity continues to skyrocket as our wages stagnate. And when many Americans fail to feel the positive effects of an economy they are told is booming, space opens up for the simplistic race-based explanations of Trump and the “alt-right.” An ambiguous sense of economic unfairness is transmuted into racial hatred and victimhood — a belief that our problems must originate from immigrants and PC culture. Internet-forum-based right-wingers bearing “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE” signs, begging for a backlash so they can yell about censorship are childish signifiers of a much wider belief.
Those on the right ought to take a step back and consider their real enemy. Perhaps heavily lobbied congressmen passing an upwardly redistributive tax plan, one guaranteed to transfer even more wealth from people who need it to the tip-top, are more of a threat than regular Americans of any race.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Theo Wayt at [email protected]
A version of this appeared in the Monday, Nov. 13 print edition.