In my last essay I noted that those who occupy positions of power (broadly defined) in the United States tend to be white, male, straight, and (profess to be) Christian. Given this fact, it might seem odd that some argue that these groups are the real victims in the United States.
Contrary to the evidence, it is often claimed that white people are the real victims of racism. It is true that white Americans have lost certain advantages arising from being white. In 1865 slavery was abolished and in 1870 voting rights were no longer restricted by race. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also resulted in a relative loss of white advantage. As would be imagined, only open racists point to these as examples of whites being the real victims of racism. But most whites believe they are now the real victims of racism.
When pressed for contemporary evidence of how whites are the real victims of racism, people typically point to things like affirmative action, Black Lives Matter, criticism of systematic racism, and the fact that Kamala Harris is the Democrat’s VP candidate. I do not think that most whites are lying when they claim they believe they are the real victims of racism—but I think they are in error. The obvious reason is the overwhelming evidence of systematic racism in the United States—racism whose targets are not white. I do get why white people can honestly believe they are the real victims—there are ongoing efforts to convince white people that criticism of systematic racism and efforts to offset the negative impact of centuries of racism are racist. There is also the “clever” tactic of accusing people of being racist when they acknowledge the role of the racist’s conception of race as a factor in addressing racism. To pre-empt the likely appeal to anecdotal evidence, I will not deny that there can be cases in which an individual white person is the victim of racial discrimination. In addition to condemning that as morally wrong I will also note that my concern here is at the group level—it is consistent with white generally having advantage because they are white that some specific white people face real racial discrimination.
Contrary to most of the evidence, it is claimed that men are the real victims of sexism. It is certainly true that men have lost many advantages relative to women. In 1920 women got the right to vote in the United States. There have also been laws passed to protect women at work and at home. Divorce has changed over the years and men (have mostly) lost the “right” to rape their wives. As would be expected, few would point to these as examples of how men are the real victims of sexism. When pressed, common examples involve references to the Me Too movement, the male bashing of certain feminists, strong female characters in video games, TV shows and movies, changing gender roles, the rights of fathers relative to those of mothers, the charge of toxic masculinity, and Kamala Harris.
It must be acknowledged that there are some real issues with sexism here; a good example being that addressed by the Father’s Rights movement. It is also true that many men do end up being victims because of their sex: as some have argued, men suffer the heaviest casualties in combat and far more men than women are killed or injured in workplace accidents. At this point, you might be thinking that I have refuted myself—I have argued that men can be more likely to suffer or be harmed because they are men.
I must acknowledge that men are thus victims of sexism but they are not generally the victims of the sexism of women—that is, it is not women who are primarily behind the suffering and death of men (because they are men). It is, rather, the sexism of other men. Men are more likely to die and be injured in certain jobs because there are more men working those traditional male jobs. As an example, more men die in commercial fishing accidents than women because more men work in that field. More men die in battle because other men tend to send them rather than women to die in battle.
Rather than engage in a debate over who is being harmed the most by sexism, I am certainly willing to agree that men and women are brutalized by sexism and that these problems need to be addressed. As such, men and women are the real victims here.
Contrary to evidence, it is often claimed that straight people are the real victims of discrimination. It is true that same-sex couples gained the legal right to marry in 2015 and there are some protections in place against discrimination based on sexual orientation. There is still open opposition to these legal rights and protections and opposition is often cast in terms of how they harm straight people. For example, one stock argument against same sex marriage was that allowing it would be harmful to different sex marriages—something that remains unproven.
There are cases in which people are discriminated against because they are straight, which do raise real moral concerns about hiring ethics. I do acknowledge the obvious: individual straight people can suffer discrimination. But this is completely consistent with the social and legal advantages that arise from being straight in the states. As such, while a straight person can be a victim of discrimination, straight people as a class enjoy significant advantages.
While Americans generally recognize that discrimination exists against religious minorities, about 50% of Americans believe that evangelical Christians face discrimination. While the United States has always had freedom of religion and often practices the separation of church and state, Christianity is the dominant religion here. As such, some effort is required to claim religious discrimination against Christians.
As evidence of discrimination against Christians, people often cite Fox News unrelenting absurd war on Christmas propaganda. It is insane that people even need to try to refute what is obviously untrue—after all, Christmas rules the United States from late October until early January. Most of the other “evidence” of discrimination involves cases in which the separation of church and state is enforced, cases in which religious employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees or customers, and similar things. While these do show that the dominance of Christianity in government, society and business has declined a decline in dominance is not evidence of discrimination.
As in the other cases, I do acknowledge that individual Christians can face religious discrimination. However, this is consistent with Christianity still being the dominant religion in the United States. The same survey in which 50% of those surveyed claimed that evangelicals faced discrimination only 15% claimed that being an evangelical hurt a person’s chances of getting ahead, while 63% agreed that being a Muslim hurt a person’s chances of getting ahead (31% said it hurt chances a lot). I do agree that religious discrimination is real and oppose it but it is not accurate to claim that as a group Christians are the victims here.
In closing, while a person from any group can be a victim, the groups we looked at generally enjoy advantages and are not the real victims. It is, of course, not a contest to be the real victim: we should be morally concerned with human suffering regardless of which group a person belongs to. But we should not be disingenuous when discussing which groups have the advantages. You might be wondering why this series is entitled “Mighty Victims.” This will be answered in the next essay.