Sunday, June 05, 2011

Poor whites escape racism, but not discrimination

" ‘Reverse racism’ or ‘failed multiculturalism’ are myths to deflect the real source of blame: an ever deeper economic rift

As the US’ first black presidential couple were being toasted across Europe two weeks ago, a study released by Harvard and Tufts universities suggested that, rather than embracing a “postracial” era, growing numbers of white Americans see themselves as victims of discrimination. Progress toward racial equality is, they believe, “linked to a new inequality — at their expense” — a notion that the Tea Party movement has developed into a political platform.

These findings resonate with a 2008 British government survey that suggested 29 percent of white Britons felt themselves to be discriminated against on grounds of race. Although Britain has no race-based quotas for education or employment, perceptions that ethnic minorities get “preferential treatment” at the expense of whites have gained traction. The statistics still show there are proportionately twice as many low-income ethnic minority households as white ones; and unemployment is much higher for black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

Myths of white marginalization tend to be dismissed as right-wing bigotry, but the danger is that they can exert a wider appeal and stoke conflict, particularly in troubled economic times. Deployed by the far right British National Party (BNP) in impoverished Oldham in 2001, they fomented white rage and violence. On the 10th anniversary of the riots last week, a BBC Newsnight film showed that some white Oldham residents still believe that ethnic minorities get better schools and housing.

The nonsensical idea that “racism cuts both ways” is peddled by the English Defence League (EDL), which has escalated violent campaigns of intimidation in the name of “indigenous” Britons. While the BNP has met electoral disaster and the EDL remains a street-fighting fringe, we must stay alert to the uses of “reverse racism” — which, along with increasingly acceptable anti-immigrant discourse, provides false explanations for worsening economic conditions......."