Reverse Discrimination and White Privilege

We see opposition to affirmative action laws left and right, on the legislative steps of congress, on campuses nationwide, in classrooms, and family events. A couple of years ago, University of Utah Republicans set up booths and sold cookies. They racialized the pay structure and charged $1.00 to white people, $0.75 for Asians, $0.50 for Hispanics and African- Americans. They claimed this was an example of what affirmative action does to white people; it makes them pay more for things that minorities pay less for . I hear Caucasian classmates give their opinions in class calling affirmative action reverse racism, because it does nothing for them, they don’t benefit from it in any way and it makes their life harder. They have more people to compete with.

A Salt Lake Tribune reporter wrote, “Backers of a bid to end affirmative action said that race-based preferences in college admissions and hiring are creating racial resentment and animosity and hampering efforts to build a color-blind society. ‘We’ve plateaued in our efforts. Further progress to end or slow discrimination has virtually ended,’ said Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. ‘We are no longer making any difference with the programs enacted in the last 46 years.’ The solution, Oda said, is to end race-based preferences by amending Utah’s Constitution to prohibit the state from giving any race- or gender-based preference in education, employment and awarding state contracts .”

The underlying mentality, where these comments are rooted, ignores white privilege and the privileges White Americans have been able to bank on and continue to collect on just for being white.

On affirmative action and reverse-discrimination, scholar Tim Wise says, “Discrimination against people of color, historically and today, deprives those people of color of the right to equal consideration for various opportunities on equitable terms. While some may think affirmative action does the same thing to whites, in fact this is untrue. Affirmative action programs only deprive whites, in effect, of the ability to continue banking our extra consideration, and the credentials and advantages we have accumulated under a system of unfairness, which afforded us more-than-equal opportunities. There is no moral entitlement to the use of such advantages, since they have not come about in a free and fair competition. History — and ongoing racial bias against people of color — have served as “thumbs on the scale” for whites, so to speak .”

Affirmative action merely levels out the playing field to give the same opportunity to all people regardless of color, race, ethnicity and privilege. And so, if a white person is used to banking on their privileges it would make sense that being forced to play the game on the same playing field, without their privilege would make them extremely uncomfortable.

According to the National Organization for Women (NOW), “much of the opposition to affirmative action is framed on the grounds of so-called ‘reverse discrimination and unwarranted preferences.’ In fact, less than 2 percent of the 91,000 employment discrimination cases pending before the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission are reverse discrimination cases. Under the law as written in Executive Orders and interpreted by the courts, anyone benefiting from affirmative action must have relevant and valid job or educational qualifications .”

Scholar Peggy McIntosh explains, “White privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and black checks.”

In her article, Flesh Tone Bandages… and other White Privileges, Kenyada talks about the presidential commission that brought forth and gave credibility to the meaning of the term, white privilege. President Bill Clinton's commission on race released a report of their findings that urged the White House to help educate Americans on “white privilege” and how it de franchises every other group.” She goes on to explain the commission’s findings, “to lead the nation toward racial harmony, the commission’s reports told Clinton that he must confront the ‘continuing existence of prejudice and privilege’ that has created a system that relegates people of color to a status inferior to that of whites.”

(Excerpt based on the experience of Raquel Baiza)
When I was 17 years old I graduated from high school with honors. I had a one year old daughter. I grew up in a tough neighborhood in East Los Angeles. I know that I was qualified to enter a prominent 4 year University but I had no idea where to start. My step-father and my mother did not go to college. I did not have the privilege of understanding the higher education pipeline. I didn’t have the money to support my child, go to school and do well. I applied for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). This is an affirmative action program through California State University in Los Angeles. This is how I started my higher education career. In the end, I stopped school because life got hard and I just couldn’t do it at the time. Just like many other students, white, brown or black. Thirteen years later I decided to come back and finish up. Just like any other student who returns regardless of their ethnicity. I applied for the same financial aid. I complete the same assignments. I write the same papers. My involvement in the EOP helped me have the equal opportunity to start my educational career it did not give me anything that isn’t available to everyone else. They showed me how to apply for financial aid, motivated me to continue school and planted the seed to my educational career. Most programs like these enable students like me to start at the same level as other students in higher education.

I have a friend who is Latino; he is big and has tattoos. He is balding so he shaves his entire head bald. He has been turned down from jobs because of his appearance many times. Of course that is never the excuse; employers will just not ever call him back after the first interview where they actually see him. Or they will email him and say they found someone who fit their requirements a little better. My friend has a degree and extensive experience working in leadership positions. He’s worked at a law firm and is currently applying to a graduate program in Economics. So when I think of the laws that help people like him have the same opportunity as a handsome, tall, white man to get a corporate job, I don’t see a problem with leveling out that playing field. I know my friend is not the only man who has experienced this.

When I hear someone say things that reflect the sentiment that as minorities or women we receive handouts we don’t deserve I take personal offense. Not only do I understand I am a valuable asset as a student and employee but also as a human. Affirmative action laws specifically allow me, my family, friends and other people that look like me to be able to compete equally for the jobs, scholarships and all the other opportunities I need in my pursuit of happiness as a human being in this country.


Ezzy Languzzi said…
Flor, what saddens me is that we even need a program such as Affirmative Action, in the first place. In response to this: "The underlying mentality, where these comments are rooted, ignores white
privilege and the privileges White Americans have been able to bank on
and continue to collect on just for being white."As long as the scale continues to be tipped toward Caucasians, simply because they happen to be the majority, there will continue to be racial bias. My hope is that as our country, and in turn legislature and judiciary become more ethnically diverse, that the scale will become level, and programs such as Affirmative Action will no longer be needed. Until day ... we keep fighting. Great post, girl.
Gissellegirard said…
I like this . I could reply with a long paragraph :) All Ill say , is that I can understand how "whites" think things are unfair in someways, but there are much more things that are unfair for people of different races and colors.

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