Walter Benn Michaels interviewed on the 10th anniversary of The Trouble With Diversity:
As racism and antidiscrimination have become more central to the moral compass of the country, what you get is an increasing number of white people who are committed and convinced that they’re the victims of racism. Among Republicans, it’s something like the majority of them who think they’re the primary victims of racism. There are two ways to look at that. One is that it’s not true. Let me be clear, I know perfectly fucking well that white people are not the victims of racism. They’re not the primary, secondary, or even the tertiary victims of racism. But in a world where racism is a central issue, people begin to understand their own genuine victimization through that lens.
White people are indeed victimized—they’re the largest group of poor people, the largest group of people on welfare, and group below the poverty level in this country. Those people begin to think, yeah, racism is the problem. That’s why what we’ve seen emerge during this Trump campaign is a white identity politics, in which white people go around thinking of themselves as aggrieved, as victims—not because of black people’s prejudice against them but rather the government’s, which prefers other groups. It’s a mistaken view, but a standard view. But then the response on the so-called left is just to go, “Racists!” That doesn’t change people’s minds. You’re not trying to organize them, you’re just scapegoating. Scapegoating people is a bad idea when they’re in the majority and you’re in the minority. It’s one thing if you’re scapegoating 10 percent of the population, but you’re scapegoating a very large part of the population. So as an electoral policy, it doesn’t seem wise.