Reverse discrimination against whites has just begun, according to Attorney General Eric Holder. Now, the exploitation of Trayvon Martin's death has thrown the cycle of racial resentment and favoritism into overdrive.
There has been much poisonous rhetoric following Trayvon Martin's death, and more is sure to come. It is hard to imagine that any other current topic could result in racial madness exceeding that tragedy. Nonetheless, an exceptionally ominous and instructive remark was recently made by Attorney General Eric Holder -- a remark more outlandish than any heard so far in our national conversation about Martin.
Attorney General Holder recently addressed the question of affirmative action, and for how long it would be required. He answered, stunningly, that reverse discrimination has only just begun: "Affirmative action has been an issue since segregation practices," Holder said. "The question is not when does it end, but when does it begin[.] ... When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?"
We see in these remarks the soil out of which rises the bitter fruit of racial resentment. Holder's attitude is best summed up as the elite victim mentality. The belief is one of perpetual entitlement, fueled by bitterness, and given the stamp of official approval by politicians at the highest levels of national office. The Trayvon Martin upheaval is made possible by this carefully cultivated attitude, which exists within all income levels. Whether it's under the guise of injustice, inequality, underrepresentation, or white supremacy, the effect of the attitude is the same: sheer resentment towards the majority and its institutions.
Not all minorities share this attitude, while many non-minorities do. For instance, Professor William B. Eimicke of Columbia University supports a lawsuit against New York City because the city doesn't have enough black firefighters. Eimicke, who is white, says, "The reality is the [fire] department should look like the city it serves." In other words, the fire department has something wrong with it because there are not enough blacks employed. This is an example of an educated, mainstream leader promoting an arbitrary standard of underrepresentation. Such standards will only fuel more demands for special treatment, and more resentment when the arbitrary standard proves predictably impossible to meet.
Take the example of Eimicke's fellow Columbia faculty. Of the 70 core faculty members in Prof. Eimicke's department, there are 3 blacks. Seventy-five percent of the faculty is white, and 4% is black, whereas New York City is 45% white and 27% black. Presumably, the principle that a fire department "should look like the city it serves" also applies to the faculty of a tony university. If the faculty "should look like the city it serves," then Columbia needs to expedite the removal of white professors. Will Eimicke enlist in the righteous cause of minority representation and quit? Or is that a sacrifice he prefers to delegate to students or middle- and working-class whites? We all know the answer: elite liberal hypocrisy protects many academics and politicians from the application of their own dogmas. Columbia's faculty will never match the ethnic makeup of New York City because professors are typically protected from purported racial favoritism, while firemen are fair game.
As the attorney general's remark shows, the cycle of elite liberal hypocrisy and racial favoritism will never end, so long as liberals control racial discourse.
In the meantime, the results will become increasingly absurd. The attorney general's daughters, and each successive generation, will continue to benefit from affirmative action to the same degree as truly disadvantaged minorities. This incongruity grows more and more evident, as Democratic Senator James Webb pointed out in his famous Wall Street Journal editorial piece. Sen. Webb noted that affirmative action policies have "expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white." Racial preferences extend to business startups, prestigious academic admissions, job promotions, and expensive government contracts. Many of these preferences have no relationship to discrimination, oppression, or even socioeconomic class level; they even benefit recent immigrants whose ancestors never faced discrimination in America. Instead, we are actually creating a government-sanctioned nobility -- a favored class of citizens with officially endorsed, race-based hereditary privileges.
Under the sway of of identity politics and racial grievance, even the most privileged members of our society will hold onto petty gripes. In a 2009 commencement address, the First Lady complained about her childhood experience with the University of Chicago. Recalling that she grew up right near the campus, she stated:
[T]hat university never played a meaningful role in my academic development. The institution made no effort to reach out to me -- a bright and promising student in their midst -- and I had no reason to believe there was a place for me there.
That she felt entitled to be "reached out to" in the first place is astonishing. The egomaniacal sense of entitlement contained in her remarks will strike most people as utterly foreign. Yet this way of conceiving of one's own position in society is commonly shared. Amongst the lower class, this attitude takes the form of demands for "Obama money" and other such hilarity.
Perhaps Michelle Obama should have made an effort at some point to understand why young white students, many of whom were not from Chicago, would have been reticent about venturing out into the South Side of Chicago. The reasons are not hard to discover. Immediately after their report on the First Lady's address, CNN aired a segment on violent crime on the South Side. Chief Ernest Brown of Chicago's Organized Crime Division explained the high rate of youth violence by saying that "their behavior is just inconsistent with civility." With that in mind, many students -- of all races -- may not feel that it is their place to step into another community and attempt to help its youth. In fact, not even Dr. Martin Luther King and his family stayed in urban Chicago for long after starting to work in the city in 1966. Cohen and Taylor write that Coretta Scott King was concerned about violence in the neighborhood, and the Kings spent little time there .
Our own attorney general, ostensibly committed to even-handed enforcement of the nation's laws, referred to blacks as "my people." Strangely, it is socially acceptable for only certain groups to proudly claim ethnic group membership. If similar tribal loyalties were publicly boasted by a white ethnic, that would be seen as sinister. Just imagine the reaction if a President Bush had identified -- on the basis of race -- with a victim of minority-on-white crime by saying, "Channon Christian looks like my daughters."
Identifying with an ethnic group as one's own "people" will lead in most cases to in-group favoritism. Cultural pride is one thing, but proclaiming exclusive ethnic group affiliation while occupying a position of public trust is another. This tendency is too often written off as a harmless cultural tic or a healthy form of therapeutic identity formation. The trouble is that there is a worldview lying beneath the "my people" language.
In his remarks, the attorney general has provided the most explicit statement of ethnic favoritism and racial grievance by a high public official in American history. And the racket has just begun: "When do people of color truly get the benefits to which they are entitled?" asks Holder. The question is rhetorical, and his constituents know the answer.
In this liberal, racialized conception of society, minority groups are supposedly not getting "benefits to which they are entitled." The danger in this attitude is not just that people are asking for free stuff from the government. The danger is that minority group members are made to believe that society is purposefully withholding benefits from them due to their racial group membership. Hence the resentment and latent animosity lurking at the core of the welfare state, and its ever-expanding legion of dependents.
This menacing fact was once openly recognized by sociologists. Decades ago, Edward C. Banfield wrote that urban social problems will increasingly come to be regarded as the fault of "callousness or neglect by the 'white power structure'" . Just as expected, we now have a cult of anti-white resentment named Critical Race Theory being taught in law schools around the nation.
The constant use of physical metaphors like "white power structure" will guarantee that some people view themselves -- usually falsely -- as being intentionally excluded from that structure. Of course, structures comprise people, so real human beings will inevitably become targets of the resentment originally intended for abstract "power structures."
The victim mentality feeds off racial bitterness, which is constantly politicized and enflamed. We see this in the rhetoric of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Florida), who said that Trayvon Martin was "hunted down like a dog." The attorney general and president are doing their part to sow the seeds of bitterness, entitlement, and racial favoritism. By acknowledging those seeds, one begins to understand why racial double standards and potential violence are so easily stirred up amidst controversies such as the current one involving Trayvon Martin.
John T. Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences '07; JD, Emory University School of Law '11) is a writer living in Atlanta, GA.
 Barone, Michael. 2000. Review of American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley, by Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor. The Weekly Standard. 21 August 2000: 33, 38.
 Edward C. Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited 96 (1974).