It’s a Minority Thing … Whites May Not Understand

It’s a Minority Thing … Whites May Not Understand

The white mainstream can be clueless about certain minority related things.  Many whites oppose hate crime legislation that affects large groups of people; many whites are unaware that people of color are often held hostage by the misdeeds of someone of their shared race, and many whites don’t have a problem with racial profiling.  To whites, it seems the world is fair, and people are judged on merit, but to many people of color, the world is a far cry from a meritocracy.  The different experience is described as a “minority thing” and many whites don’t understand.

Hate crime legislation is one of the “minority things” that many people of color feel is necessary, but many whites oppose.  Some whites contend that hate is a factor in all murders or assaults, so to add additional penalties or a different distinction is unnecessary.  This mindset tends to lack empathy or an understanding of the  situation.  Most whites do not feel threatened when a Hispanic, African or Asian American’s home is vandalized with racist graffiti by skin heads, nor do they feel threatened when they hear of a gay person assaulted because of his sexual orientation, or upon hearing a Muslim or Jewish house of worship was desecrated.  The extent of many whites’ involvement would be to denounce the behavior.  But collateral victims of the aforementioned crimes would include people of color in that neighborhood and surrounding areas.  They would have higher stress levels and become more guarded and vigilant about their personal safety and property.  Noises during the night may require further investigation.  Other gay individuals in the area would become more concerned for their safety.  Perhaps they would alter their  behavior by traveling in groups or restrict their patronage of some establishments.  Mosques, Temples and other houses of worship may become more alert and diligent to protect their buildings.   Many churches, heterosexuals and whites would not feel any of these incidents affected them.   This is the “minority thing” that is difficult to understand for many whites because they cannot relate due to being in the majority.

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Another “minority thing” is fear of being judged by the misdeeds of someone who is also from your ethnicity or race.  Many people of color experience a collective sigh of relief upon hearing that the person who’d committed a highly reported heinous crime has been caught, and they are WHITE!  People of color often feel it is difficult, if not impossible, to explain the sense of relief to whites because whites are not judged in the same way.  A white campus shooter’s race is not viewed the same way an Asian campus shooter’s race would be(Wayne Lo and Seung-Hui Cho).  George Washington, FDR or Bill Gates were not viewed as “a credit to their race” like Thurgood Marshall, Sonia Sotomayor, Steven Chu, Colin Powell , Jerry Yang and Ellen Ochoa.  The converse is also true.  When a person of color experiences a “first” accomplishment, many within that group rejoice, but this can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Vanessa Williams, the first Miss America of African descent, and the recently crowned Rima Fakih, the 2010 Miss USA who is of Arab descent, both had scandalous revelations follow their victories.  Ms. Williams had taken nude photos and Ms. Fakih had been involved in risqué pole dancing.  Both ethnic groups experienced a pride to embarrassment leap within a relatively short time frame.  If the winners had been white, no such general pride or embarrassment would have been generated for whites.  The blushing group would have been confined to family and friends.   People of color often carry the baggage of their ethnic group’s most poorly behaved while whites are not judged by the Ted Bundys, Timothy McVeighs and Jeffery Dahmers.  If these men had been people of color, their treatment and the ramifications for that ethnic community would have been terrible.  If you disagree, think about the treatment of Arab men following September 11th.

Finally, the last “minority thing” is being racially profiled.  As mentioned, many law abiding Arab Americans were treated differently following the September 11th attacks.  There was an automatic suspicion that certain American citizens could have divided loyalties.  It was not as bad as the Japanese Internment times, but many Arab Americans felt they were being singled out and experienced a higher scrutiny when traveling by air due to the actions of people with their “look” or coloring.  Again, with all the crimes committed by whites like the Unabomber there were no attempts to profile whites.  A 2010 Arizona illegal immigration law has generated much protest.  Many contend the law legalizes racial profiling against Hispanics by giving police the leeway to question people if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that he or she is illegally in the US. Although the new law says race and color are not to be profiled, many Hispanics feel that will be the determinate of who will be asked to produce documentation showing citizenship.  Canadian or European immigrants do not give the same “reasonable suspicion” that non-white skin does.  Knowing that racial profiling exists also gives rise to false claims by whites implicating blacks in their crimes.  This tactic was so credible that Charles Stuart killed his pregnant wife in 1989 and Susan Smith killed her children in 1994 using this “a black man did it” ploy.  Although their familial murders were discovered, the revelation did not occur until after many black men were racially profiled and questioned.  Many wondered what made the round up of black men in the area acceptable.  In white neighborhoods, if a white person commits a crime, the police do not go door to door insisting on entering homes and roughly handling residents.  To many whites, this concept seems foreign and in direct opposition to rights afforded by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution against unreasonable search and seizures.

It’s a minority thing relates to common, often negative, experiences of people of color. Many whites are totally oblivious to the racial disparities as they staunchly favor racial profiling to fight terrorism, secure the border and find criminals, but they have not experienced the lack of humanity profiling affords the victim because they do not experience it.  Whether it is feeling the collective threat of a white supremacist, having to carry the misdeeds or missteps of those in your race or ethnic group, or experiencing racial profiling, many white people do not understand the different American experience of their fellow citizens.  This can be described as a “minority thing.”

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