Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action

By Frederick R. Lynch | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
ELITE ACCOMMODATION AND THE FLAWS OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

How did controversial social policy that lacked public support nonetheless become institutionalized? That has been a central question of this book. Chapter by chapter, a number of contributing factors have emerged: the individual and collective silence of the victims; the influence of sex-role behavior upon silence; the collective guilt and individual fear of being labeled racist; the elusive and capricious implementation of affirmative action policies; the ideological bias and self-censorship among the mass media and the social sciences; the spiral of silence; the New McMarthyism; and the craze-like behavior.

Affirmative action has evolved as a set of programs imposed from the top down, over and against public opinion. In this chapter, I wish to focus upon the question of how and why those in positions of power and influence -- the elites -- formulated or at least went along with affirmative action and other race-preference programs.

A standard starting point in examining the role of elites in American life is C. Wright Mills classic study, The Power Elite ( 1956). Mills's framework, augmented by a recent attitude survey of elites by Verba and Orren ( 1985), provides a useful portrait of the role of elites in affirmative action policy.

In Mills's view, by the 1950s, a century of economic and political centralization produced three major institutional hierarchies in American society: the large corporations, the executive branch of government, and the military. By the term power elite, Mills meant "those political, economic, and military circles which as an intricate set of overlapping cliques share decisions having at least national consequences. In so far as national events

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