Stop Portraying White Millennials as Less Racist Than Their Votes and Poll Responses Suggest

Michael Arceneaux, The Root

Whether it’s a Bantu knot, a cornrow or some Paula Deen recipe that was likely “inspired” by her former black chef, white people are always being assigned credit for the work done by darker people. This is not a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination, but it is perpetually annoying. And when it’s applied to the electorate to help perpetuate the folklore of the wide-eyed young, less racist white population in the U.S., it feels even more grating.

This week the Associated Press published an article entitled “Young Americans: Most See Trump as Illegitimate President,” featuring the results of a GenForward poll of young adults. Instantly, thoughts of déjà vu filled the mind, only not of the Beyoncé or Teena Marie variety. Days after the 2016 election, many people looked for hope after the orange-colored intersection of white supremacy and real estate won the presidency.


One notable symbol of this hope was the fast spread of graphs like the above detailing how young people voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over Habanero Hitler. On their surface, these graphs and the exit polls they’re based on conveyed the sentiment that if the election had been decided solely by millennials, we would be dealing with President Hillary Clinton because, unlike their parents, younger white people are less inclined to hop into bed with the candidate of racism, sexism and xenophobia.

In reality, voters 18-29 were only more supportive of Clinton collectively because they feature a much more racially diverse population. Tropicana Jong-il secured 48 percent of the white vote in the 18-29 age group; Clinton netted 43 percent. So when some wrote articles lamenting how a lower youth-voter turnout cost Clinton the election, if they did not specifically note blacks, Latinos and Asians, they were wrongly assuming that a younger white voter would have voted for Clinton.

And yet you saw headlines like “Who Voted for Trump? Not Young People, Say Exit Polls,” and may have noticed how some media outlets used images of young white women to denote Clinton’s youth support.

And once again, without closer examination, this latest poll might signal to some that young white people are further along than they really are. The GenForward poll, conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, spoke to adults ages 18-30. In its findings, 57 percent of those polled saw 45’s presidency as illegitimate. However, that’s rooted in “about three-quarters of blacks and large majorities of Latinos and Asians” expressing this belief.

Of white adults 18-30, 53 percent of them consider 45 a legitimate president. And while 45 performs abysmally on how he’s performing as president among all groups, 29 percent of white young people polled still approve of him. This is pretty much on par with Gallup’s recent poll in which 54 percent of non-Hispanic whites approved of the job 45 is doing, compared with 27 percent of Asians, 22 percent of Hispanics and 13 percent of “the blacks.”

Even so, it’s not especially surprising.

In “White Millennials Vote a Lot More Like Whites Than Like Millennials,” the Washington Post’s Phillip Bump explored the youth white vote and how young whites have consistently voted like every other white age group.

Bump wrote:

[W]hite voters under the age of 30 actually preferred Mitt Romney in 2012. In only three of the past 11 presidential races have voters under 30 preferred the Republican, according to exit polls: 1972, 1984 and 1988. In all 11, white voters have backed the Republican. In eight of those 11, white voters under the age of 30 have also backed the Republican. In 1992, it was a tie.

In fact, over that period, white voters under the age of 30 have consistently voted a lot more like white voters overall than like voters under 30 overall. Since 2000, young white voters have voted 23 points more Republican than other young voters on average, and only about 9 points more Democratic than whites on the whole.

For all the attention paid to white women who majorly supported a sexist pussy grabber over what could have been the first female U.S. president, more needs to be paid to these younger white people who share space in the basket of deplorables with the rest of their kin. It’s a frightening reality, but one that must be contended with. I don’t have an answer for how to curb the repetition, and frankly, white people who don’t support bigotry need to do the bulk of that work anyway.

However, these headlines need to be far more specific, because when it comes to resisting a wannabe fascist, young white folks need to know that they haven’t been shooting in the gym with the rest of us. We may see them at the Formation World Tour and cross paths with them on the streets of Harlem, and they can probably quote Migos’ Culture faster than many, but that doesn’t blind me to the reality that statistically speaking, they’re no better than the rest of them. That needs to be made as plain as their votes were.

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