Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action

By Frederick R. Lynch | Go to book overview

The role of the mass media in reinforcing or breaking cultural taboos is more crucial than ever before. The nightly newscasts, commercial television programming, and major motion pictures can open up or close down issues and perspectives on those issues. Media elites can choose to reinforce a party line and try to impose their version of reality on the lives of individuals.

Yet it should be noted that even journalists and social scientists are constrained by less specific and more general cultural prescriptions. Race, religion, and politics have ever been the bane of polite conversation in middle-class society. To some extent perhaps this is as it should be. Yet conversational taboos on such topics have sustained any number of harsh, social realities. Racial segregation, sexism, religious bigotry, and other unlovely phenomena were sustained by polite niceties. Alcoholism, child and spouse abuse, homosexuality, and drug addiction were dilemmas shielded from discussion and, hence, awareness and possible positive action.

As always, the young are less restrained by tradition and convention. They are all too willing to see abuses that their elders do not wish to acknowledge. And it has been the young who appear most eager to talk about the injustices of race-and-gender preferences. As Jospeh Califano observed, they are less burdened by collective guilt. They are less willing to become a new generation of invisible victims.

Unfortunately, some anger against affirmative action may have surfaced in the form of ugly expressions of racism. There is racism among the young just as there is among their elders. But sociologists and journalists should not be so quick to label all objections to affirmative action as racist -- when voiced by the young or anyone else. As I have pointed out in this analysis, there are many rational, legally sound arguments against policies that seek to restructure society according to general and ill-defined categories of race and gender.

The history of affirmative action is a sobering lesson in American civics. Bob Allen, the politically liberal bank administrator interviewed for this study, summed up very well a key aspect of the crisis of affirmative action:

We have institutionalized a counter-white-male bias. We've created a new group who are being discriminated against. . . . You've got no access to legal recourse or power. We have institutionalized discrimination against one group. When does it end?


NOTES
1.
The program for faculty and staff diversity supposedly will take into account "availability data which will determine the percentages of underrepresented group members who have the requisite education and experience to work in the various community college occupations" ( Comprehensive Analysis, 1989: 21). And "ethnic minorities" is supposed to include women, the disabled, and Vietnam veterans.

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