a major study about racism was overshadowed by the media centering white people who feel discriminated against
By Hari Ziyad
November 1, 2017
In the track “Moonlight” from Jay-Z’s 4:44, the MC takes on how Blackness is perpetually undermined in the world and media. Harking back to the moment the racist film La La Land was falsely announced as the winner of the Best Picture Oscar over the Black-centered Moonlight, Hov raps, “we stuck in La La Land / even when we win we gon’ lose.”
What Mr. Carter didn’t really get into is the equally true inverse: In a white supremacist society, even when white folks lose they gon’ win. This was recently evidenced by coverage of a major study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, and the National Public Radio. The first report of the study, “Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of African Americans”, showed white America taking major L’s in the intelligence department, with more than half of white respondents stating they believe they are victims of racial discrimination.
This prevalent belief is absurd, but predicable. 60% of them voted for Donald Trump, after all. But rather than delving deeper into the more insightful parts of the report—which was primarily about Black views on discrimination—the media took this small point and ran with it, turning the entire study into just another thing about white people.
Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis in both the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, expressed his frustration over the media decision to highlight “10 percent of the study” to overlook the 90 percent that was about Black people in an interview with Think Progress.
“The individual problems reported by white Americans are not of the same scale as reported by black Americans,” Blendon said. “It’s just turned out to be odd that all the news coverage took to reporting the aggregate views of white respondents as the major news of this report.”
The report’s other findings are far more illuminating, as far as issues we can actually and need to address. For example, the study found that 57 percent of Black people say they have been discriminated against when being considered for a promotion, 56 percent applying for a job, 50 percent interacting with police, and 45 percent trying to rent or buy housing. The latter dispels the myth that redlining is over, and further analysis could necessarily highlight how anti-Blackness takes on different forms even as the laws change.
The study also found that Black people making more than $75,000 per year are more likely than Black people making less than $25,000 per year to have personally experienced various forms of individual discrimination because of their race (65 percent versus 40 percent). This begs the question of how we de-contextualize anti-Blackness to be about person-to-person violence rather than to be systematic, and also flies in the face of the idea that you can earn your way out of it.
In focusing on their absurdity—on their losses—at the expense of ourselves, they still win. Trump voters are deplorables, but they have the presidency. A majority of white people think they are victims of the racial oppression they enact and benefit from, but we don’t pay any attention to the other important findings of a major, insightful, study, because they are about what Black people experience.
Part of escaping being stuck in La La Land is trying to get out of it.
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