Narratives of White Resentment

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If it’s possible to say that something is not surprising yet utterly shocking at the same time, I would like to share a particular statistic as a prime example.

In 2014, the Public Religion Rsearch Institute conducted a survey entitled, “2014 Pre-Election American Values Survey: Economic Insecurity, Rising Inequality, and Doubts about the Future.” In that study, 45% of Americans agreed with the following statement:

“Today discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.”

45 percent.

But that’s not all. When the same statement was read to Tea Party members, 73% agreed.

73 percent.

Is there any wonder why we are experiencing a whitelash of white racial resentment in this nation right now? In hate crimes, in violent policies, in for-profit prisons, in the stalking of immigrants from ICE, in deportations and forced family separations, and in extrajudicial killings by police officers? It’s horrific.

Agreement with this statement is absolutely absurd and worse, thoroughly dangerous. Agreement stands outside of historical knowledge of discrimination and violence that minoritized communities of color have experienced in the United States and are experiencing right now in our collective present. Agreement stands outside of awareness, or at the very least, outside of confession, that white supremacy is both internalized in our beliefs and externalized in our national structures and institutions.

I do not doubt that some white Americans are struggling in a variety of ways, and I have empathy for those struggles, particularly as stagnating economy is leaving many people in financial, social, and physical isolation. This is a serious concern.

But to voice agreement with this statement. . . ? In the wake of recent years, as black activists and activists of color have continued to organize movements against their own discrimination, this belief from white Americans sounds like a serious escalation of white fragility. Activists have further exposed white privilege and the systems that support them, and they have brought this discourse into national conversation. When these realities and systems have come into question, some white Americans have determined themselves to believe that these acts of truth-telling now signal discrimination against whites. That is simply untrue.

That internalization — a belief that discrimination against whites is now as big a problem as discrimination against blacks — does not stay internalized. This internalization expresses itself externally in acts of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, political, and economic violence. White racial resentment is growing (or at the very least, is voiced more openly) while the demographic numbers of white Americans are shrinking. As these population numbers grow smaller over future decades, will violence escalate even further as well?

Much is at stake here. We have to change these narratives.

Renee Roederer

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