Minority-Majority, Us-Vs-Them, and Racism

There is a Science Daily article about the phrasing and hence framing of the minority-majority issue. It is about research on public opinion and how it can shift, depending on the wording used. I take three main points from the article.

First, there is still plenty of racism in the US. When elicited by an us-vs-them framing, this racism motivates public opinion which leads to political action. Racism, unsurprisingly, will turn otherwise independent white Americans into Republicans.

“They found that participants who had read that California is a majority-minority state tended to lean more towards the Republican Party and rate their ideological attitudes as more conservative than participants who simply read that the Hispanic population had become equal in size to the Black population in the United States.

“Importantly, participants’ political attitudes shifted to the right despite the fact that all of the participants had labeled themselves as politically independent.”

Second, the crux of the matter with us-vs-them is status. White Americans become more conservative when they fear losing status. It is a win-lose mentality, when framed as us-vs-them. This is why racism is inseparable from classism in American society.

“According to Craig and Richeson, the possibility of a majority-minority shift may threaten White American’s perceived status in the long term, thereby making them more likely to endorse conservative policies in the short term.

“Indeed, participants who read that “White Americans are expected to continue to have higher average incomes and wealth compared to members of other racial groups” despite a majority-minority shift did not report more conservative attitudes, presumably because they did not perceive a threat to status.”

Third, framing really does matter. There are many important factors to consider in influencing positive change, but the simple issue of wording should not be overlooked. How something is phrased can determine if the majority of the population responds with support or opposition.

“”We’re working on ways to present information regarding these very real and important shifts in the country’s racial demographics that don’t engender these type of threat responses and, instead, promote positive relations among members of the majority and minority groups,” Craig concludes.”

There is plenty of racism just below the surface. It doesn’t take much to bring it to the forefront, without any explicit racism ever being involved. Racism is so integral to our society that we should tread carefully.

3 thoughts on “Minority-Majority, Us-Vs-Them, and Racism

  1. I will say that I don’t disagree with this in principle, but in specifics, there are things lost in the focus on racial privilege exclusively. Take this for example:


    And this comment as a response to it:

    “So wringing your hands about racism and privilege might make you feel morally superior but that isn’t going to get a poor kid a sandwich regardless of what his skin color is. What is going to get him that sandwich is a unified effort pushing for policies and funding to get those kids fed. Unfortunately what I see among fellow progressives is an increasing focus on identity politics and fighting over scraps.”

    Which I think is true. There may be white privilege for those even at the bottom–although the rural poor in those areas generally don’t get aid, only mining companies and military bases in the area do–while there is more aid to “urban areas.” But even this is foolish because “urban” being a code word for minority is misleading. So the poor white guy has white privilege, but that does not feed him or those black starving city kids. The focus on almost nothing BUT framing ensures it.

    • Everything is more complex. There are regional cultural issues, state political traditions, disparities of infrastructure and resources, urban/rural divide, overlapping of racism and classism, etc.

      Even racism alone is more complex than usually understood. Much of the racism isn’t just toward African-Americans but also from African-Americans. Black jurors are more likely to say a black defendant is guilt than a white defendant, for the exact same crime. And much of racism is really about skin shade. Darker-skinned blacks and darker-skinned whites have historically experienced more prejudice.

      Classism is equally as complex.

      “The focus on almost nothing BUT framing ensures it.”

      I’m not for exclusive focus on framing. I would note, however, that your entire comment seems to be about framing. From what I can tell, you are arguing for a different frame and I agree with you are suggesting.

      Race is often a distraction, for that is the purpose of race as a social construct. The black/white frame (and other identity politics frames) is dangerous territory for political action on the left. Us-vs-them is an inherently conservative worldview and will inevitably lead to conservative politics. Identity politics always is mired in an us-vs-them frame.

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