The Importance of the Zero-Sum Discussion….
…and the Likely Reason ‘Nice’ White Liberals Avoid It
Generally speaking, ‘zero-sum’ scenarios are ones in which there is only one winner in any particular context, reflecting binary thought processes, and typically becomes relevant when people outnumber the desired resource. As such, these situations involve a high degree of competition, and because the success of the winner depends on the failure of the loser, these scenarios tend to reveal the fundamental power structures by making the underlying competitive tensions stark.
From the standpoint of human collaboration and ‘niceness,’ these situations are uncomfortable, so they are less frequently discussed. It may seem paradoxical, but despite the conflict these discussions may provoke, it is important to reveal the fundamental backdrop of American history and the way in which America was established: in fundamentally zero-sum fashion. Generally, this approach creates a fascist context in which one small group benefits. Specifically, the context invented is white supremacy and white people as a group benefit.
The United States was established as a white polity after Europeans invented whiteness, thus relegating all others to ‘nonwhite,’ or nonhuman status. This approach was fundamentally Macchiavellian: that is, it proceeded from a desire for absolute power (over the entire rest of the nonwhite globe). It is classic ‘zero-sum’ sociopolitical behavior; that is, the winner must understand that in order to win, the other must lose. Inherent in this philosophy is the belief that deception is primary: that is, the most cleverly deceptive player wins.
This binary is the fundamental drive behind ‘whiteness’ as political power. This political move, elaborated to some degree or another worldwide, is perhaps the most comprehensive example of ‘zero sum’ behavior: to some extent or another, it involves the entire human race through either colonization, slavery, use of weapons, or some degree of psychological manipulation that reflects white superiority. In particular, in order for white to exist, black must also exist. In order to create superiority, white people had to make sure that everybody else was inferior, and the exact opposite was the most inferior of all: black.
The founding fathers conveniently ignored the behaviors of their most recent ancestors in Britain and called this new context of pure Macchiavellianism — one which involved a high degree of deliberation in the genocide of almost 60 million Native Americans, capturing Africans and enslaving them, and a long list of other brutal behaviors — -EQUALITY. As a result, a society which significantly favored whites over all others is presented to white people as ‘equality,’ erasing the truth, which is fundamentally zero-sum, and transmogrifying it in the eyes of white people as a group, so that to them — people who have a permanent unearned advantage — that this advantage is equality. This fundamental distortion of truth undergirds much white ignorance.
Think of this as a psychological ‘escape valve,’ allowing one group of people to continue to participate in believing that their acquisitions are historically fairly obtained — because they believe that the US was established to promote equality — while the entire population of POC, with its wide range, feels the actual reality of establishing what is in fact a zero-sum polity. This situation is negotiated by whites as a group by avoiding discussion of these realities by claiming it isn’t ‘nice,’ or that it ‘creates friction where it isn’t necessary.’ The phrase ‘isn’t necessary,’ however, necessarily depends on avoiding the fundamental nature of white supremacy: zero-sum, for hundreds of years, and exclusive of pretty much everybody else.
For this reason, zero-sum discussions cannot be avoided just to make a subgroup of people comfortable, because the truth might cause them discomfort. The truth is relevant even when it causes discomfort for white people as a group. In fact, if white people as a group took appropriate responsibility for the scenario, they would already be negotiating this discomfort. Most, however, are opting for the same self-deception that characterizes the last few centuries, forcing POC’s to shoulder the burden of progress.
Here are two different, current real-life scenarios in which ‘zero-sum’ is the social and political reality, illustrating that zero-sum behaviors, at a social/institutionalized level, must be discussed.
- The Distribution of Welfare:
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2014, 6.2 million of working-age white Americans, 2.8 million African-Americans/black peoples, and 2.4 millions Latinx peoples were given welfare. This disparity exists despite white supremacy and the advantage that automatically confers to white people on the basis of race.
Welfare is a zero-sum scenario: there are always more people who need money than there is the money to give them, at least based on our society’s current distribution patterns.
Whether or not class has impact on this scenario doesn’t change the fact that race most certainly does.
This fact, rather than being discussed as fact, has always been negotiated with deception. In this case, the deception used is a form of distraction: dog whistles.
Thus, we have our mythic ‘welfare Mom,’ the white construct of the African-American woman who is sitting around living on ‘somebody else’s dime.’
By this time, POC’s know who white people mean when they say ‘somebody else’s dime:’ white people.
As the numbers above attest, this myth — apparently shared by millions of white Americans — isn’t anchored to reality.
It is part of the deceptive manipulation that white people as a group tend to use to distract from the reality of the resource distribution: they are getting more.
This situation is a zero-sum one in which white people take out their weapon of whiteness and aim it at African-Americans, Macchiavellian-style, by lying about the facts, even to themselves.
When we do not discuss the ways in which this ignorance arises from a system fundamentally zero-sum — and decidedly not equal — we refuse to discuss the truth.
2. Committee Representation at Corporations:
Common scenario: higher level positions are dominated by white people, usually male.
Zero-sum scenarios are often made stark when POC’s attempt to navigate higher level positions in order to gain representation, because these positions are more competitive and thus, the stakes are higher.
Example: 20 person committee; current: white male 15, white female 3, POC male 1, POC female 1.
Committee inclusion dictates a successful career trajectory, not just inclusion in one committee, making it highly desirable and competitive: less resource (committee spots) than people. This dictates a zero-sum scenario.
This situation is real, reproduced at hundreds of corporations, especially at higher levels where resources are more valuable and less available.
Take a look at the numbers:
White male: Population: 33% Committee representation: 75%. Ratio: 2.27
White female: 33% 15% Ratio: 0.45
POC male: 17% 5% Ratio: 0.29
POC female: 17% 5% Ratio: 0.29
Unless we assume that white males are more deserving of positions which help boost their careers, something is gravely wrong with the above.
What needs to change??
Typical responses as documented by multiple diversity and inclusion writers indicate that white men, as a group, negotiate this over-representation of themselves through an assumption of baseline superiority.
That is, they act as if a decrease in their representation is a gift they provide others, as if they are giving something up. They pointedly avoid historical truths: an established fascism, white supremacy, which deliberately excluded all others over an extended period of centuries.
It is the erosion of this fascist immorality which is actual equality.
Specifically, white men tend to deploy the word “quota,” with its attendant implication of requisite ‘gift-giving,’ when referring to ANY attempt to correct the grossly unequal situation illustrated above.
The word ‘quota’ operates as another word from the white supremacy arsenal of self-deception which is fundamentally zero-sum: it pokes holes in the POC’s accomplishments by implying that, in order for them to succeed, white people must cede their earned positions to comply with a pesky quota.
Note how they conveniently decline any discussion of the fascist quota of ‘only white men’ which has characterized the preceding centuries.
Again, besides the fundamentally self-deceptive nature of this conclusion, it illustrates the degree to which powerful people will lie to themselves in order to protect their illusory/hallucinatory sense of ‘merit:’ in order to achieve, they must damage the ‘other’ in some fashion.
As a group, white people-liberal ones in particular — eschew honest discussions about the true nature of resource distribution (as our country is currently structured) because it makes them uncomfortable to acknowledge the essential philosophy behind their advantage: zero-sum. This philosophical stance, the actual stance of white supremacy, flies in the face of their self-perception as ‘nice.’
White supremacy means that white people, as a group, hold resources that belong to others. This is factual based on documented historical behaviors, is highly penetrated after many centuries, and cannot be subject to disregard just because the truth is ugly for white people.
The zero sum discussion must be had because it both determines and continues to promote the warped psychological stance of white supremacy: a transparent layer of ‘equality’ on top of a core of Macchiavellian deceit which determines the relative resource distribution continues to favor white people as a group. White supremacy cannot be deodorized with the system of ignorance that white people, as a group, are currently exhibiting. White supremacy should be dealt with head on by first admitting exactly what it is: the establishment of deceptive zero-sum type maneuvering in which white ignorance operates to make sure that power is maintained.
Without admitting the way in which white supremacy exists in its true, zero-sum form, we will never be able to eliminate it.