A friend complained to me recently that his son wasn’t getting into Ivy League colleges because it’s so hard for a middle-class white kid to be admitted, even with straight A’s. I asked if the advantages of being a middle-class white kid might be part of the reason his son had become a straight-A student in the first place. It got awkward.
As our politics have fractured increasingly around race, there seems to be more and more confusion about who’s discriminating against whom. For example, a national survey reported that both blacks and whites believed that discrimination against blacks had declined over the past few decades, but whites believed that discrimination against whites was now more common than discrimination against blacks.
The reason, say the study’s authors Michael Norton and Sam Sommers, is that whites see discrimination as a zero-sum game. The more they thought discrimination against blacks was decreasing, the more they felt discrimination against whites was increasing. That’s consistent with other studies showing that if you remind whites that the American population is becoming more diverse and that whites will soon be less that half of the population, their concern about anti-white discrimination increases. Whites tend to view increasing diversity as anti-white bias.
These kinds of data capture an important snapshot of public opinion, but that is the problem—surveys treat the question as a matter of opinion, like which basketball team you like most. But the question of whether discrimination disadvantages whites or blacks is not really a matter of opinion. It is a factual question that can be answered by science. In fact, it has been. [Continue reading…]