We need to talk about white people

We spend a lot of our time talking about immigrants, minorities, and foreigners.  But we almost never talk about white people.  And we should.  After all, there’s so many of them.  According to the 2010 US Census, the United States contains 223,553,265 of them.  They make up 72.4% of the country’s population.  (For some reason, that number also includes all of our nation’s Arab Americans, but that’s another question for another day.)

Despite their strong numbers, many white people feel that they are losing their country.  And, well, they are right.  Many social scientists have proposed that by 2042 white Americans will become a minority, just like the rest of us.  And they don’t seem too comfortable with that.  They want their country back. Yes, “their” country.  See, white Americans believe something essential about themselves.  It’s something that the rest of us can’t really grasp.  Simply put, they believe that this country belongs to them.

Why do I say this?  Well, I went to school in this country, in a community of very nice white people outside of Philadelphia.  I imagine my history classes were just like everyone else’s throughout America.  And when I learned about the first white people to get here, my teachers called them “settlers,” “colonists,” and “pioneers.”  They never called them “immigrants.”  “Immigrants” was a word reserved for non-white people who came later.  But those settlers, colonists, and pioneers were immigrants.  In fact, they were undocumented immigrants.  From what I remember, I don’t think they got a visa from the Cherokee embassy in London before packing into the Mayflower.

In high school history, we also learned about something called “manifest destiny.”  Manifest destiny was the belief that Americans (white Americans) were preordained to settle from coast to coast.  And they did, removing Native Americans and dismantling Mexico in the process.  “Manifest” is an adjective that means something is “clear or obvious.”  “Destiny” means that certain events will “necessarily happen.”  So, in other words, 19th-century Americans (white Americans) believed it was clear and obvious that their expansion would necessarily happen, regardless of the cost.  And we all know who gives you your destiny.  Those “manifest destiny” Americans very clearly believed that God was on their side. Who knows? Maybe he was.  Things have turned out pretty good for them.

And there’s another thing about my history classes.  I seem to remember learning about ancient history in places like Greece, Mesopotamia, and China.  We learned what happened there three thousand and four thousand years ago.  But for some reason, history started in America when Christopher Columbus arrived.  It seems that nothing happened in our country before 1492.  It really does make you wonder where all those pesky Indians came from (note: they weren’t from India).

See, white people always think that they were there first, wherever “there” might be.  A few years ago, I was in a car with one of my white friends.  Let’s call him Dustin.  We were driving in his suburban neighborhood at night.  All of a sudden, a deer came into our path.  Luckily, we stopped in time to avoid any sort of accident.  We sat there, staring down the animal.  Dustin then inquired, quite annoyingly, “What the hell is that deer doing here?”  I think he didn’t understand that the deer was looking at him, thinking, “What the hell are you doing here?  I was here first.  You moved into my neighborhood, I didn’t move into yours.”  As a Palestinian, I understood the deer quite well.  Dustin did not.

Let me stress something.  I believe the vast majority of white people are perfectly polite and well-meaning people.  But they do suffer from this delusion that America belongs to them.  And it is a delusion, a misunderstanding, and a hallucination.  For instance, only thirteen of the fifty states possess names that are English in origin.  The rest are derived from Spanish and Native American tongues.  And the reason for that is simple.  Those people were there first.  In fact, the entire southwest of the United States was once part of Mexico.  Those states had Spanish names, and they still do.  Well, one didn’t, and when white people couldn’t think of new name to give it, they just gave up and named it New Mexico.

In fact, many of the Mexicans who today live in Texas, California, Arizona, and Nevada are actually from Texas, California, Arizona, and Nevada.  They were there first.  Only a delusional person can tell a Mexican he doesn’t have a right to live in a place called San Antonio.  It must be a weird feeling when a white person tells you that you shouldn’t be in a place that your people named.

Now, let me say that I am quite thankful for white people.  They have built a great country.  I travel to many places in the world.  And I would still rather live nowhere else.  I love American capitalism.  I love fast internet, free refills, and the McDonald’s dollar menu.  America is a great place.  It’s the only place in the world where poor people can be fat.  And for all of our uniquely American problems revolving around race, we still elected the African Muslim guy twice.

But not everything white people have created is praiseworthy.  Somehow, they have managed to inform the entire world that almost all of our adults are in fact not smarter than a fifth grader.

Now, not all delusions are bad.  Sometimes we need to believe in illusions in order to move forward.  We need to dream.  I am at least thirty pounds overweight, but I still look in the mirror every day and wonder how the world can tolerate such a handsome specimen.  I am hallucinating, but it is good for my psyche (or at least I tell myself it is).

The problem with the white delusion I am describing is that it is actually harming America.  It is patently un-American.  We like to call ourselves “a nation of immigrants.”  We like to say that “we all came from somewhere.”  But if we are to all feel truly American, it will only happen when white people honestly confess that they are foreigners, just like the rest of us.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “The white people came to us with the bible in their hands when we had the land in our hands. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ So we closed our eyes. When we opened our eyes we had the bible in our hands and they had the land in their hands.”

  2. “They have built a great country. I travel to many places in the world. And I would still rather live nowhere else. I love American capitalism. I love fast internet, free refills, and the McDonald’s dollar menu. America is a great place. It’s the only place in the world where poor people can be fat. And for all of our uniquely American problems revolving around race, we still elected the African Muslim guy twice.”

    Hahaha, yeah, they built a great country with the help of lots of slaves. And you love American capitalism? The capitalism that spurs American empire and wars abroad? And yeah, poor people being fat is because they’re eating cheap processed junk dumped in their neighborhoods where there are no real grocery stores.

    Dude, you’re a sellout joke.

  3. Saying the United States has built a great country is like saying Israel has built a great country. Nothing is great built on genocide, slavery, occupation and destruction of other nations for the purpose of capitalist profit for a few.

  4. Also, 5% of the world’s population is in the United States, yet we have 25% of the world’s incarcerated. And, speaking of white people, for every 1 white person in prison there are 17 blacks. Institutionalized racism continues. Please read “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and remember #MuslimLivesMatter, #PalestinianLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter are all one cause. Having a Black puppet in the White House doesn’t mean squat.

  5. Let’s talk about white people, shall we?
    Racism can be described as, “racial prejudice or discrimination” and prejudice is “…from Latin praejudicium, from prae ‘in advance’ + judicium ‘judgment.” So you, my friend, might be just a little guilty of this, no?
    I wanna go point by point from your article but before that I want to tell you something about myself that evidently is the only thing you need to know in order to know everything about me – I’m white.

    Arab Americans being lumped together with the white population when it comes to censuses – totally agree that this makes no sense. So for the first main point, “Americans feel that they are losing their country.” I would agree that some do, I might even give you most. But let’s be fair: some people in European countries and Canada feel the same way about immigrants. I’m pretty sure there are some Jordanians who aren’t too keen on all the Palestinians, Iraqis, Egyptians, and Syrians that have settled there, and what makes that even more ridiculous is that most if not all of those peoples are refugees. These people didn’t go to Jordan just because they thought it was a nice idea, and yet they are thought of in negative ways. That’s Arab on Arab hate right there. So why isn’t America allowed to feel this way? Because of the past. What happened with the Native Americans was awful, what happened with slavery was awful, but there is not one oppressor or oppressed alive today from that time period. None of us have the right to speak on behalf of any of those people. Since I mentioned slavery let me just point out that Native Americans owned slaves and Canada had its own slavery issues.
    My own ancestry includes Cherokees, those people who were forced to migrate along the Trail of Tears. There is census data and pictures to back this up so don’t confuse me with those Americans who say they are because they think they must be or have been told they are. But I’m also distantly related to Davy Crockett (3rd cousin 7x removed) and while he was against Jackson’s forced removal of the Cherokee (and yet before that had been involved in wars against Native Americans) there is also census data showing other Crocketts in Tennessee owning slaves. I have distant relatives who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War (the side which enslaved Africans/African Americans), but also not-so-distant relatives who fought in WWII against those that wanted to exterminate the Jews. Simply put, if I want to use my PAST to dictate who I am today, how’s that gonna work out? Should I be condemned with the slave owners or forgotten like those who were too poor to care (as other distant relatives of mine were)? Did I contribute to the atrocities committed against Native Americans or am I one of them? Would I be like my grea- great grandfather who only came to America from Alsace-Lorraine just a few years before the start of the 20th century? He had no interest in anything but a better life. Perhaps I’d be like my Irish ancestors who were white and Christian but still very much hated in this country at one point, or the Scottish that settled in Appalachia who I also descend from. Do you feel sorry for my oppressed lineage, indifferent toward me because of my neutral lineage, or hate me because of those oppressors I can trace my roots to? I said all this to say, the past serves as a parable of what to do or not do again, and can’t have anything to do with who people are now, but you brought up history so let’s move on.
    The first people who came here were colonists – lots of British colonists, actually, you know like the ones that colonized many other places in the world…”the sun never sets on the British Empire” ring a bell? I can’t seem to figure out why no one is mad at England for anything. Or Spain, or France, or the Dutch, and so on. No one is pissed at the countries that started it all, but at the descendants of the people who came and stayed?? You could also call them settlers, but I’m a history major and it seems to make sense like this – a colonist is one who comes to colonize. The ones who came on England’s behalf to colonize this country, then there are settlers who you can say hopped on the boat to escape persecution or find a better opportunities, not for English interest. These people were not happy with their government. Pioneers came at another place and time (think Westward Expansion and the frontier). Of course, you’ll probably generalize this group like you are doing today’s white people, but I’d like to remind you that while some of those people came here to exploit what was here, others came here for a better, safer life. And you probably don’t remember anyone speaking to the Cherokee Embassy TO London because it did not exist until the mid-18th century and people had been settling in America since the early 17th century, though I’m not sure how one tribe could have spoken for the hundreds of tribes in America anyway.
    Manifest Destiny, another jump in time to the 19th century. America as a country finally officially existed because it had seceded from the British Crown in 1783, but the imperialist attitudes in this country were very much British. You say white people and again, you are generalizing, because that suggests white people by today’s standards. It was Anglo-Saxon Americans. Anglo-Saxons had been living in Great Britain for over 1,000 years at this point and were originally Germanic people, many of which no longer really exist. Sure they felt that they were ordained by God to settle coast to coast, but don’t act like nothing else terrible in the history of this world was done in the name of religion. I hate feeling like I’m defending what happened here because I don’t agree with many of the same things you don’t agree with but you have to understand, this country that you say you love would not exist had certain things not happened. Couldn’t I accuse you, then, of exploiting the benefits of this country that was built upon people doing terrible things, and all the while saying you hate these same people? That’s like spending money you know was given to you from a bank robbery and then saying you adamantly oppose thievery. Slavery was terrible, but again, don’t generalize. Anthony Johnson was the first “documented” slave owner and he was black. Africans were sold into slavery by other Africans, and Arabs were part of it, too. Should African American descendants of slaves hate you, also, because you are loosely related to Arabs who may or may not have been involved in slavery?
    You say that you heard about all these great world civilizations but in America we think that history only began in 1492 with Columbus. If I’m thinking on a fifth, sixth, or seventh grade level of education and didn’t really pay attention in class then, yeah, you might be right. Or maybe my teachers have been better than yours. My education has been a build up over years of adding information. Columbus was never even in North America and I learned about the Woodland Period. Before high school we tend to learn about the recent past because we are still trying to understand the present as well. People aren’t just born knowing anything they learn from what they see and experience and then the past needs to be brought up to put things into perspective, but only the past as it pertains to the issues of the present, and it is dependent upon the maturity level of the class. As the years go on we learn about things more in-depth and go farther back in time. As a soon-to-be teacher myself, I’m sorry that you took so little away from your lessons, or as I said maybe you just had bad teachers.
    You really don’t get to the point until the end of your article, when you say white people are delusional. I think I have made my point but let me sum it up – if you want to keep bringing up the past then a) do it accurately and entirely, and b) it’s going to get you nowhere. America just is. It exists, no matter how it came to be. Is talking about how Israel came to be going to fix anything? Right or wrong, is complaining about something that is done going to take anyone anywhere? It’s pointless and pathetic. It’s what we WILL DO (future tense) that gets things done. Disrespecting white Americans who would otherwise be in agreement with you by bringing up the past and blaming them for things that don’t have anything to do with you or them is ridiculous. Now back to what I think your point is – nativism. (You should read “Strangers in the Land” by John Higham.) At what point will Americans (as they are today) have the right to say this is our country, we have a culture (outside of the dollar menu, technology, free refills, etc.), and we are proud? Do you really think that we should feel like we aren’t a people, just as Zionists say Palestinians aren’t even a people? How long exactly does a nation have to exist, in your opinion, before people should acknowledge its existence irrespective of how it came to be? Conquest made the entire world what it is now and yet, only America gets talked about. Are we being picked on because we are the youngest? Why are so many people obsessed with disagreeing? That being said, many Americans do have a problem with CURRENTLY hating newcomers and people who are different, but why aren’t you focusing on hate being wrong instead of focusing on Americans not even being a recognized people? By this logic, Saudis treating ALL non-Saudis like crap is justified, because it is their land. Jordanians have the right to treat their immigrants as second-class citizens and blame them for things – give the Egyptians hard labor and let them clean the houses; the Syrians and Palestinians are beggars and the “ghetto” towns in Jordan are that way because of Palestinians; Iraqis and Syrians have created a prostitution problem in Jordan. I’m not diverting, I’m expanding. It happens everywhere but nobody constantly throws any other country under the bus because these are established people and their history in these places is longer.
    I don’t know what religion you are, but I am a Muslim convert. I am also American and a woman and a Southerner. With all that and the family history I described above, where is my place? In my own country and by my own people, I am disliked for my religion, within the Arab and other minority communities I am disliked because of the color of my skin and sometimes my nationality, in other ways all across the country men are believed to be superior to me, and people from the North and West often think I’m a redneck by their definition which means I’m automatically racist, uneducated, maybe practice incest, and whatever other Southern label you can put on me. But still, I support my fellow Muslims. My husband is Jordanian and I support Arab culture (debkeh, mansaf, the music, and so many other contributions can and do come from these people), even when it is vastly different than my own. I believe in men and women being equal but opposite, and I have no intention of moving out of the South. I don’t want anyone to hate me or love me based on anything but my personality, which can only be known through actually getting to know me, and I never want someone to feel sorry for me. I came across your article via Twitter and I have to say, I wish my voice on these issues was as loud as yours, because I think time and effort would be better spent NOT alienating people…alienating them from their culture, their country, each other. As a Palestinian I would have thought you’d understand this better than most. I do have a country, I do have a people, I do have a culture. Am I proud of every single historical event that’s taken place? Nope. Do I condone the terrible things that happened? Not at all. Am I okay with the way that immigrants are thought of by many Americans? I’m smart enough to know I wouldn’t be here without immigrants, and my children wouldn’t be here without one. But I can’t help but deduce from your article that the problem everyone has with America is that America(ns) were successful after doing bad things. You don’t seem to be going after anyone else who tried and tried and tried but failed or just didn’t get as far. I don’t think the problem is that Americans only see history as starting from a certain place/time, but that you do and people who agree with you do. Every other people’s history of conquest and invasion can be just that – history. Why not ours?
    No, we are not foreigners. At one time, yes, but that time is past. At one time America not only invited immigrants, it needed them. That time is also past. But immigrants should always be able to come if their wish is to be productive and they can be accommodated. America is established. Don’t try to validate your presence by invalidating that of others. Do you not see the hate you incite by demonizing a certain group? You may have spoken kindly of white people somewhere in your article, but the guy (or girl) who commented “dogs” obviously couldn’t focus on the nice things through all the finger pointing. And it’ll be left for everyone to see and stir up discontent, just as the Hebrew messages spray-painted on walls in Israel saying, “Death to Arabs” get left. I have no right to tell you who you are, or should be, or where you “really” come from, and no one else has the right to do so to me. And I know that you might not have meant someone like me when you wrote your article – open-minded, understanding, educated, realistic – but when you say “white people” you put me in that group and I do not appreciate it.

    • Your response is perfect and spot on. Bravo!! I love the diversity in America and I don’t worry about whether America stays “white” or if English stays the predominate language. Things change, populations change, that’s just the way it is all over the world. Europeans have contributed great things throughout the world, along with the bad, just like nearly every other civilization. God bless us all!

  6. I am white and American. please don’t bunch me in with the “we want our country back” crowd. This is not a crowd that I am or want to be a part of. You are a good writer and I am sure that you can differentiate between different types and groups of people ie not all Muslims are radical and support terrorism. Not all white people support right (white) wing politics

    • Priscilla Carver but you are part of white privilege that white right wing politics are trying to conserve. Would you be willing to give that up?

  7. Sorry but are you talking about “white people” in general or as in “white Americans who’s ancestors have lived here for generations”? Because I am white and I was born in Italy, lived in Germany for half of my life, and came here as a first generation immigrant. I sure as hell don’t think that this country belongs to me. In fact this isn’t even my country. But I am still white. I think you need to make more clear who you are talking about when you say “white” and be careful not to sound ignorant. Just a suggestion… And btw I do believe that some white Americans do not welcome immigrants as kindly in general, regardless of skin color. ( I speak of experience)

  8. White people created the United states and did the vast majority of dying in every war. All of the technology that developed the continent was European in origin. The western states were barely inhabited by the Spanish. The greatest societies on earth are majority european. Wherever muslims are found there is violence and decay. The United state is a European creation. The nation does belong to whites because their people founded and built it with their advanced technology.

  9. Love this blog.

    Who really is “white”, “black”, or anywhere in between. As an artist, I find these definitions insulting to the entire visible spectrum of light.

    Umm Yasmine: I have a daughter who shares your name.

    LC: If we met I would look “white” to you, I am a “WASP”, and in many ways I am a part of the “white privilege” you suggest Priscilla Carver is part of. I refute that “white privilege” in America today is synonymous the conservation of “white right wing politics”; take heart that sooner (not later), “white” people (i.e., “WASPy” Americans like me) will be the minority in this continent we (i.e., many people, including — me for convenience, I’m sure) call the North “American” continent now.

    Rais: Excellent comment about Desmond Tutu. How long since anyone has read, “Cry the Beloved Country”, btw?

    Mahmoud Sindi: Wow, harsh.

    Anonymous: Good points, long read so perhaps some not-so-good points, too; will reread.

    Amer: Some Mexicans are more Spanish than the indigenous peoples of this Hemisphere and I would argue that many discrepancies between “Mexicans” and “Americans” are a de facto extension of Europeans fighting one another for real estate in combination with one or another misguided ideology.

    Thanks for this blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.