(Repost from Jan 2016. Rings even truer today).
During a March 2008 campaign speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Barack Obama said:
Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.
Obama then noted the consequences:
When they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed…resentment builds over time.
Obama’s words ring just as true today, as highlighted by the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2015 American Values Survey. While the majority of Americans believe that historically marginalized groups face “a lot of discrimination”, there is a large portion of all Americans (25%) who believe whites face “a lot of discrimination”. Predictably, certain groups (Republican, Tea Party) hold these views even more strongly.
These perceptions fuel what has become known as “Identity Politics“, but what I initially called the “politics of division”. Regadrdless of what you call it, it is the “us” versus “them” mentality, where “we” are hard workers who bust our butts just to make ends meet, while “they” are lazy “takers”…