A program conceived to help the oppressed appears to help the “oppressors” about as much. Who knows — it may lend a hand to more middle- and upper-class white families than to poor black ones.
“Affirmative action” means positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded. –Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
“In recent years, the affirmative action debate has focused on government-sponsored affirmative action and university admissions, leaving corporate affirmative action relatively unexamined.” –Christopher M. Leporini
Affirmative action – laws mandating increased numbers of women and minorities, especially in employment. –IRCpolitics.org (a glossary of political terms)
To pay-equity feminists and the mainstream media, this perspective on affirmative action may be the most threatening of all perspectives on any topic. Hence it will be the most ignored by them.
Black Americans have at least one good reason to persist in demanding affirmative action: their wages, which ought to be the true reflection of affirmative action’s success — where the rubber meets the road – continue to gain poorly on whites’.
Between 1985 and 2000, blacks’ median wage advanced on whites’ by a mere 1.2 percent. Why? Because although “affirmative action programs are often described in the press as being based on ‘racial preference,’” says Dr. Manning Marable, Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, Columbia University, New York City, “the overwhelming majority of those who are the chief beneficiaries of affirmative action are white women.”
Dr. Marable is hardly the only person aware of this fact. In the 2006 book Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination Against Men, the authors write, “Although polls have shown considerable American support for affirmative action, those who advocate equality of opportunity (even in a modified form) have criticized it for…conferring greater benefits on white women than blacks of either sex, for whom affirmative action was originally designed.”
Citing a statistic representative of many employers up and down the country, a March 1998 press release from the State of Washington’s Office of the Governor informs: “Of Washington state workers who have benefited directly from affirmative action, 60 percent are white women….”
“While original feminists portrayed women as equal to men, the 21st-century feminist message is that women cannot succeed without affirmative action.” -How Obama’s Gender Policies Undermine America, published September 16, 2010
Thanks to the myriad mandated affirmative-action programs at public institutions and at employers doing business with or receiving funds from the federal government, and thanks to the voluntary affirmative-action programs of private-sector employers, white women have done quite well. Compare their wage gain from 1985 to 2000 to other groups’. White men’s median wage rose 60 percent, black men’s 65 percent, and black women’s 70 percent: white women came well out on top with a 78 percent gain. White women’s big leap contributed greatly to blacks’ paltry gain on whites
“While the unemployment rate for white men dropped for the fifth straight month in March to 8.9%, it hit 19% for black men. That’s a sizeable 1.2 percentage point jump in a single month. During this same time, unemployment for black women also grew from 12.1% to 12.4%, even as the jobless rate for white women held fast at 7.3%.” -Dwayne Wickham, USA Today, April 6, 2010, “Obama ignores black joblessness at his own peril“
Feminists in particular strongly support white women’s inclusion in affirmative action. The Gloria Steinemites believe white women experience an oppression similar to blacks’. White women’s oppression, say these feminists, results primarily from white women’s exclusion, like blacks’, from “white men’s” jobs.
But unlike blacks, says Warren Farrell, author of Why Men Earn More (read about the book and watch a Real Video of Farrell with audience participation), “Women are the only ‘oppressed’ group…to be born into the middle class and upper class as frequently as the ‘oppressor.’”
Moreover, white women generally have been able to find a well-paid husband to about the same degree that white men have been able to find a well-paid job. Via marriage, birth, and inheritance, white women have benefited from white men’s jobs as much as white men themselves. When they divorce, they receive, on average, more child support and alimony than blacks. (The term alimony may provoke cynical laughter among the black women who consider alimony a privilege reserved for white women.) Recognizing women’s economic well-being, an Editor & Publisher (now defunct) front page in 1996 touted: “Who controls most of the wealth in thenation? Women.” The headline was not, of course, talking about black women. Says PBS’s “To the Contrary”: “Women actually control 51.3% of percent wealth in the United States.” Women also control, according to American Demographic, consumer spending by a wide margin in nearly every consumer category.
“I regard affirmative action as pernicious — a system that had wonderful ideals when it started but was almost immediately abused for the benefit of white middle-class women. And the number one sign of it is in the universities. The elite schools were destroyed by affirmative action for women, not for blacks.” –Author/lecturer Prof. Camille Paglia
Linking white women to affirmative-action goals, right or wrong, has yielded a great irony in an unintended consequence. Just as most white men share their income and assets with white women, most white women reciprocate with white men. More to the point, they share with them their affirmative action gains. This means, possibly, that by virtue of the huge number of white women assisted by affirmative action, white men are the program’s second biggest beneficiaries, despite however often they as individuals may suffer “reverse” discrimination. For every white man hurt by affirmative action, another might be obliquely aided. Perhaps even many of those who are hurt are partially or fully compensated — “under the table,” some blacks could argue — when affirmative action rewards their wives.
UPDATE: On April 26, 2011, Whoopi Goldberg on ABC’s “The View” [four minutes into the video] decried that if anyone actually looks at who benefitted from affirmative action, “it was not black people; it was white women. That is a fact.”
That white men profit via this roundabout fashion is no secret. “Affirmative action has enabled wives and daughters and mothers and girlfriends to compete in the workplace,” said Ralph G. Neas, former executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, “and that has helped entire families, including white males in those families.” Corretta Scott King, speaking at a Washington County university on Martin Luther King Day, didn’t explicitly say affirmative action helps white men, but implied as much when she said, “So affirmative action benefits all families.” [Why a program to help all families?!]
“Between 1974 and 2004, white and black men in their 30s experienced a decline in income, with the largest decline among black men. However, median family incomes for both racial groups increased, because of large increases in women’s incomes. Income growth was particularly high for white women. The lack of income growth for black men combined with low marriage rates in the black population has had a negative impact on trends in family income for black families.” -Economic Mobility Project
Thus, a program that was conceived to help the oppressed appears to help the “oppressors” about as much. Who knows, it may lend a hand to more middle- and upper-class white families than to poor black ones, since a beneficiary’s economic status isn’t a qualifying factor. How many times, I wonder, has the wife or daughter of a well-paid white man been boosted by affirmative action into a well-paid job herself — a job that might otherwise have gone to a poor but qualified black American? This perversion of justice may occur often, and it would at least partly explain why, despite the strides of many individual blacks, blacks as a group have economically progressed so little on whites. And at a appalling 1.2 percent progression every 1.5 decades, black households won’t reach wage parity with whites’ for at least 200 years.
Which group has affirmative action benefited the least? Answer: black men. Which group was originally intended to be the sole beneficiary of affirmative action? Answer: black men. Shhh! Don’t talk about this!
Clearly affirmative action needs a retooling.
Afterword: A retooling may also be needed for Social Security, which, says historian/economist Thomas Sowell, “is not a racial policy…but economists who have studied it have long described it as a system that transfers money from black men to white women, given the different life expectancies of these two groups.” You can bet a retooling would have been done long ago if Social Security had been shown to be a system that transfers money from white women to black men.
See also “Plight of Black Men Deepens….” at the New York Times (fee charged to view the entire report).
Update May 19, 2006: For an in-depth, scholarly analysis of affirmative action for women, see the chapter “Women’s Rights v. Human Rights: The Case of Entitlements,” in Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination Against Men, published April 2006.