ESSAY: A taste of discrimination envy

Two weeks ago, I wrote a short news item about two golfers who got into club-swinging throwdown with each other over a skipped turn. When I uploaded the story to SN&R’s Page Burner blog, I chose a cheeky headline: “White male entitlement goes nuclear on the golf course.”

This upset a few people.

“Ok article except for the title,” an anonymous reader posted to our website. “Isn’t this 2014? Why make this a race thing instead of sports thing?”

On SN&R’s Facebook page, a few more chimed in, with one user calling the headline “awful and telling,” and another chastising me for making it “racist when race [wasn’t] even stated or the issue. [WTF] is wrong with people!?”

I’m still waiting for the vanguards of the Associated Press Stylebook to chew me out. As far as I can tell, no one took issue with the hyperbolic use of the word “nuclear” in the headline, so I’ll count my blessings.

But I get it. My bad. Mea culpa. I am sorry, white people. My intent wasn’t to start a race war—especially against the one I belong to, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But this seems like a good opportunity to talk about discrimination envy. This is when a privileged group feels excluded from dialoguing about inequality, and starts reacting to perceived injustices. Like when Fox News pretends that Christians are under attack because a mall Santa somewhere said, “Happy holidays.”

Discrimination envy seems to be on the rise, and not just because we elected our first black president five years ago. My guess is that as the demographics of the United States change so that whites relinquish their numeric dominance, they (or we) are going to get more anxious about surrendering our status and influence.

And yet, white America has rarely had it better, according to a study released last year by the Pew Research Center. Between 1967 and 2011, the report found the gaps in household income and household wealth widened between blacks and whites. Disparities shrank a bit when it came to high-school completion and life expectancy, but remained mostly unchanged regarding poverty and homeownership rates.

I doubt anyone experiencing discrimination envy would like a taste of the real thing. But when it comes to complaining, I guess we really were all created equal.

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