With great power comes great ability to be racist

Illustration by Dominic Davies

In America, white people have a history of privilege. This position has historically been maintained through violence and racist policies. But the main reason those acts of violence and policy have worked so well is simply because white people have been the largest single group in the United States.

That is going to change.

A U.S. Census study released in 2015 found that by approximately 2044, “more than half of all Americans are projected to belong to a minority group.” This change is going to affect all of our racial dynamics — it has already started.

Whether this shift leads to more or less discrimination remains to be determined. What groups will be discriminating and what groups will be discriminated against is also up in the air.

As a culture, we hold white people more accountable for racist beliefs, costumes, jokes and so on. This is how it should be, as white people have this history of privilege and oppression. This means their actions have more implied power and pose a greater threat.

But as power shifts, the line between harmless and dangerous prejudice will as well, especially for minorities.

As someone who is half-black, I feel like I have a unique perspective on race. My skin is dark and my family has a history of facing discrimination. But I grew up in a white community and have never felt discriminated against directly.

From what I have seen and experienced, America’s culture around race is already changing, becoming more nuanced. Previous prejudice is starting to break down, especially for black communities.

New prejudices are starting to form, especially against Hispanic and Middle Eastern American communities.

The strands are there for current minorities and oppressed groups to become the oppressors in the future. Many people like to think that because racial minorities have a history of oppression in America they have a better understanding of the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. This means moving forward we will be better suited to spreading equality.

But that is just one possibility. Another possibility is that this history of oppression leaves minorities bitter and afraid, leading to more discrimination of each other and/or white people.

Now, I do not think it is very likely white people face discrimination as they have a disproportionately large amount of political and economic power.

There have been many times in history when oppressed groups have risen to power and become oppressors.

Christianity’s entire narrative is based around Jesus being oppressed and killed by the tyrannical Rome. But that has not stopped Christians from using their power to commit atrocities such as the witch trials and the work of Spanish Missionaries.

And there is absolutely nothing that keeps an individual from being bigoted.

According to Psychology Today, “Some capacity for favoritism of one’s own group over others appears to be a natural human tendency. In many studies, people attribute more positive traits to their own group than to other groups.”

This happens across culture and affects everyone to some degree. It does not matter how arbitrary the group is. It does not matter if it is tribal groups in East Africa or boys randomly selected to be on competing camp teams.

What is important to remember is race is arbitrary.

According to The Guardian, “There are genetic characteristics that associate with certain populations, but none of these is exclusive, nor correspond uniquely with any one group that might fit a racial epithet.”

Many scientists of the past 150 years have tried to find scientific evidence of a difference between races, mostly to prove a racist point. But the more researchers have looked for a fundamental difference, the more they have found that it is not there.

The hippies were right about at least one thing. Deep down we are all the same. Especially in our capacity to be racist.