In recent years, the facade has slipped. Donald Trump’s appeals to White insecurity were far more explicit than those of prior political candidates. That was in part because he shared that insecurity and saw how it played in conservative media. But it was also timing: A surge in immigration in 2014 and the emergence of Black Lives Matter that same year heightened the concerns of heavily White older Americans. This was measurable and measured.
“When did racism against White people become OK?” it begins. The spot then rehashes news stories elevated in conservative media that cast efforts to ensure equal access for non-Whites to things like medical care with limits on access for Whites. “Progressive corporations, airlines, universities: All openly discriminate against White Americans. Racism is always wrong. The left’s anti-White bigotry must stop.”
The ad was paid for by “America First Legal,” an organization founded by former Trump aide Stephen Miller. Miller was best known during his tenure in the administration for his hard line anti-immigration position; since leaving government, he’s mostly dedicated his time to railing against the supposed dangers of the political left and making broad claims of how President Biden has undercut America.
The latter claim from the ad is worth separating out. To the extent that it is meant as anything other than a wave of the hand at perceived “wokeness,” it appears to loop in White backlash against affirmative action policies. Such policies have gotten renewed attention in recent weeks, thanks to the Supreme Court’s consideration of a challenge to them. Recent polling from The Washington Post and George Mason University’s Schar School found that most Americans, including most White Americans, think universities shouldn’t consider race for admissions policies. There’s robust opposition to perceived systemic disadvantages to a racial group — at least when that group includes Whites.
The poll also found, though, that most Americans think there should be an effort to increase diversity on campus. That includes 6 in 10 Whites, though Whites were less likely than other groups to hold that view. This is a core divide in discussions of race in the U.S., of course: Can we or can’t we figure out how to build a society with equal opportunity without instituting systems aimed at doing so directly?
But in the context of politics, the line between tacit and explicit support for diversity erodes. The right’s backlash against this vague thing called “woke” is largely a function of treating individual calls for respecting minority voices as somehow being a systemic call to do so. It is the idea that there is a hierarchy of power that exerts itself outside of the law and forces compliance through shaming and compliance. So some professor at San Diego State who puts “she/her” in her Twitter bio becomes part of the vanguard of organized oppression against real America.
This idea that Whites are disadvantaged is cultural and generational and amplified repeatedly in an increasingly unconstrained right-wing media. Miller’s unsubtle intertwining of hostility to immigration and race manifests in this ad that specifically asserts that White America is on the decline.
This content was originally published here.