In a new paper (PDF here, press release here), Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers find that whites now believe themselves to be more the victim of racism than blacks. For whites, anti-white bias now appears to be more widespread and damaging than anti-black bias.
It is easy to scoff at notions of a zero-sum game in racism, but the reasons for this perception derive from basic human misunderstandings of absolute levels vs. rates of change.
For example, despite the fact that America’s economy is 2.5 times larger than China’s, more than half of Americans believe the Chinese economy is larger. There are probably many reasons for this (media coverage and general xenophobia among them), but because China’s growth rate has been astonishing, we more readily perceive that it must also be absolutely larger relative to the American economy.
Similarly here, despite the fact that blacks probably face more institutional racism (and despite lower graduation rates, income for similar jobs, lack of political clout, etc.), many whites mistakenly see the derivative of anti-black bias (a negative rate of change) rather than the absolute anti-black bias that exists. In their minds, because blacks face less bias than they did previously while whites face more bias (a dubious assumption to be sure), blacks must face less bias overall than whites.