Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

The Rosetta Stone to modern American politics, in one chart

The famous Rosetta Stone, discovered in 1799 by a French soldier in Egypt, became the modern world's key to unlocking what until then had been untranslatable, incomprehensible Egyptian hieroglyphics.

I don't want to oversell it, but the chart below likewise explains a lot that might otherwise be inexplicable, in this case about modern American politics. Confused about the rise of Donald Trump? The popularity of Fox News? Here's your explanation, from last year's American Values Survey of more than 4,500 people conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. (H/t Tom Edsall at NYTimes)

The responses charted below are only from white Americans:

According to the survey, 52 percent of white Americans believe that they are as much victims of racial discrimination as black and other minorities. Among certain subsets, the percentage is considerably higher:

  • 58 percent of working-class white Americans believe they have suffered at least as much discrimination as black and minority Americans. Only 37 percent of college-educated white Americans believe it.
  • 61 percent of white Republicans think of themselves as victims of racial discrimination.
  • 76 percent of Tea Party supporters believe that they face anti-white discrimination at least equal to that faced by minorities.

That raises an awful lot of questions, but here's what perplexes me most: Who on earth is perpetrating this supposed discrimination?

Yes, thanks to demographic change we white people are in the process of losing our status as the nation's ethnic majority, but we will remain the largest demographic group for decades to come. And by any measure that matters, we still rule.

  • Non-Hispanic whites comprise 64 percent of the nation's population but 81 percent of the wealthiest 1 percent;
  • The median net worth of white families in this country is almost eight times that of non-white families;
  • We control an overwhelming share of political power (more than 80 percent of Congress for example);
  • We utterly dominate the upper echelons of corporate America (by one recent count, just 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are non-white).

So again, with white people continuing to wield almost all the levers of power in this country, who exactly is keeping the oppressed white man down?

Whoever it is, he, she, it or they seem to be doing a terrible job at it, given the numbers above.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.