Are White People Disenfranchised?

Recently, I received some hate mail from a white supremacist. It's a rare, but not unprecedented occurrence.

Her sentiments were ignorant and bizarre, of course. And clearly, they in no way reflect the opinion of most Americans. I wondered, however, how many individuals would agree with one of her statements, which was that white people are being oppressed.

In fact, CNN recently investigated this phenomenon... no, I'm serious; they really did. According to sociologist Charles Gallagher, whites "went from being a privileged group to all of a sudden becoming ... the new victims."

I must admit that this news caught me off-guard. I somehow assumed, based on all statistical and most anecdotal evidence, that white people still held the bulk of the power in America. Clearly, I was wrong.

Yes, white people still account for about two-thirds of the American population.

And yes, in terms of who runs the country, the discrepancy is even greater. About three-quarters of Congress is white. Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices are white (although some would argue that the Jewish members are not really "white"; let's leave that argument alone). And of course, it is only in the last two years that the president has been of another color.

And OK, it is fair to presume that most corporate boardrooms feature an overabundance of white people. And one could point out that rates of poverty and unemployment are substantially greater for ethnic minorities. And we can add that, culturally, most films and television shows focus on white characters.

Still, it is clear who is being crushed under the steel boot of diversity: white people.

Just ask members of the Tea Party, whose members are overwhelming white. A recent poll found that 61% of Tea Partiers identified "discrimination against whites as being just as big as bigotry aimed at blacks and other minorities."

Apparently many white people "are acting like a racially oppressed majority. They are adopting the language and protest tactics of an embattled minority group."

How did this turnabout happen? Well, many sociologists, such as Gallagher, believe that bigotry aimed at white people actually hasn't increased. Rather, factors such as the election of Obama, the effects of the Great Recession, and that old hobgoblin -- illegal immigration -- have combined to scare white Americans into thinking that they are strangers in their own country.

"The very definition of being an American is going through a profound change," writer Tim Wise says. "We can no longer take it for granted that we (whites) are the dictionary definition of an American."

Indeed, I never defined "American" that way, But then again, as a Latino, I am part of the problem.

So what can we do to help disenfranchised white people? Should we restructure affirmative action so it pinpoints at-risk youth in Pasadena rather than Compton? Should we practice tough love and advise white people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps? Should we offer free Spanish classes en masse, as English is clearly on the way out?

Well, at the very least, we will have to change our terms. White flight will now be black flight. And white privilege will now be Asian privilege.

But there I go -- telling people what to do again. I guess I just suffer from liberal Latino guilt.