With the ongoing debates concerning race in the United States prevailing in headlines, newsfeeds, FB posts, IG posts, tweets, etc. it may be time to discuss the reasons behind the invisibility of racism within the white population in the United States. As a highly individualistic society, the Weltanshauung that pervades the United States is “if X is not applicable to me, then X is not applicable to society as a whole.” Our individualism negates our collectivism. We believe that, if a situation is not applicable to me as an individual, then the same must be true of all other individuals, ergo the same is true of society as whole. If I am not racist, and if racism does not exist near me, then racists and racism are not near those individuals who are near to me. If I am not racist and racism is not near myself or those around me, then racism must not exist around those who surround me. Therefore, there exists no racism in the society as a whole. This is the basis for the majority of the psychological backlash experienced by whites in the United States. Anecdotal fallacies are used to describe how I am not racistso racism must not exist.

White America negates racism through their individualism. Let me clarify, white America does not eliminate racism, white America negates the existence of racism through individualism. We cannot fathom a world in which the collective has built a society around privilege and benefits for one group at the expense of others because we are, individually, all not racist. Therein lies the problem. Either we are lying about our own racism – even the smallest beliefs of racism, the “n” word used in anger or disrespect, the “culture that is inherently leading to the demise of blacks” argument, whatever the case may be, these are still racists thoughts – or we are unable to believe that society is capable of building a world in which racism is invisibly prevalent. This is the world in which we live. I am not racist, therefore racism does not exist. Yet we see the results of people’s fears of others in the world build around us. White flight to the suburbs, lending practices like red-lining (see also FHA Mortgages BostonWashington Post – Redlining: Still a Thing) and sales motives like blockbusting  promoting the movement of whites away from non-whites and, along with the movement of residential areas, the movement of businesses and industry to locations that do not support areas where non-whites lived, effectively eliminating the tax base in areas where non-whites live. (Take my home city of St. Louis, as a prime example, of the effects of intolerance. Detroit also works.)

Add to these situations the institutionalization of white culture that permeates society from early age and we see the strain of cultural expectations within the United States. Non-white students are more likely suspended, expelled, presented for recommendation for special education services, (For further reading NPR) and have, as a result, much lower levels of educational attainment and likelihood of incarceration (For further reading Southern CoalitionAmerican Psychological Association). Within the United States this has lead to cycles of poverty for non-whites and cycles of prosperity for whites. Distant from the areas that have lower quality services, whites have steadily gained in educational attainment and much lower levels of incarceration(Georgia rates of Incarceration).

We, yes we, white Americans, need to eliminate our egos from the debate. Yes, individually, I or you or he/she may not be a racist. That is not the debate, that is not the concern. The concern is not your individuality or your personal beliefs, the concern is larger, broader, and more complex than an individual and, as such, is difficult to solve alone.