Sunday, April 10, 2011

Not Always Black, but Always White

The front page of the Sunday edition of the Buffalo News prominently read “Minorities – the New Majority.” Now make no mistake, I don’t make a habit of reading that terrible little newspaper; I just happened across it on this occasion. I don’t read it precisely because it doesn’t take much more than one of their headlines to launch me into a diatribe about their thoughtless reporting, bias, or simple bad journalism. Speaking of which…

It’s not at all unusual for the Buffalo News to run a headline like the above, apparently without anyone on staff raising an objection about the obvious contradiction they’d placed top-center on the first page. But what’s altogether more frustrating than that is that exactly that same oxymoronic reference to “minorities” seems commonplace in the media in general, and in much of public discourse.

How powerfully consumed with our culture biases do we have to be that we never pause and think, “Wait, if they constitute a majority of the population, why are we calling them by a term that means exactly the opposite?”? It seems to me that that’s a natural question, but I’d emphasize that even if more people had the common sense to ask it, they still wouldn’t be asking the right question. A better question would be something along the lines of, “Wait a minute: why are we only calling non-white people minorities, if white people are now in the minority?”

If you think about it for a second, you realize that identifying minorities as a collective majority requires separating all of society into exactly two distinct groups: white people, and everybody else. The fact that the hasty editors of news outlets like the Buffalo News don’t bat an eye at such a move goes to show that much of media, and much of the public dialogue throughout white America identifies the default human being as white, and sets everything else in contrast to that.

There is no statistically valid reason for deciding that blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans constitute one group, termed “minorities,” while Caucasians make up a second group, which is not labeled as being in the minority even if its share of the population is substantially under fifty percent. The only reason there is for such a move is an ingrained cultural bias. It’s the sort of well-intentioned, socially liberal racism and shortsightedness that leads people who are reflective, but not self-reflective, to champion causes of social justice and equality, without ever addressing the most crucial racial and cultural problem of all – the social tendency to actually look at one kind of people differently than one looks at absolutely everybody else.

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