Do you believe that affirmative action policies oppress white people?
This was the argument that Abigail Fisher took to the Supreme Court last June, claiming she had been denied admission to the University of Texas because she was white. The Court, however, disagreed. In a close ruling of four to three, it was decided that affirmative action is still necessary to give people of color equal opportunity in college admissions. Now, Trump has directed the Department of Justice to investigate affirmative action policies, a decision that could culminate in lawsuits against universities believed to be prioritizing people of color in their admissions. It’s a microcosm of a much larger issue – the mistaken belief among white Americans that people of color, uplifted by liberal elites, are abandoning rural and white working class Americans to squalor. There is a kernel of truth here, and a giant lie.
The kernel of truth is that liberal policies have failed both white and black workers, as a university degree is no longer the mark of a life better than the lives of our parents, and wages have stagnated in the US since the 1970s. The gigantic lie is that people of color, who are also victims of this mass economic turmoil, are in any way benefiting from the suffering of white people.
It’s a bizarre cycle of reaction. Some elements of the left have cited white people as the central cause of America’s problems. White people, partially in reaction, then lash out against policies like affirmative action. A new generation of young conservatives are challenging these liberal policies as a part of their grudge war against ‘anti-white’ SJWs. Angela Nagle’s 2017 book titled Kill All Normies details this culture war, and its origins online in the pro and anti social justice battles of the 2010s. In this culture war, white and black are torn apart, when in reality their lot is all thrown in the same corner. The belief that ending affirmative action would uplift white people is like the belief that welfare recipients are draining the government of resources, or that cutting foreign aid, a microscopic piece of the national budget, would lead to a balanced budget. The real affirmative action at universities is conducted by donors and the preferences of elite families for their children. Likewise, it is not a racist image of Reagean-era black welfare queens that are getting ‘free rides’ in society. The notion that black people are getting a free ride in America is incredibly false in all quarters of society, from college to the workplace. If anyone is getting special treatment, it is the wealthy, including Donald Trump, who received countless favors in his decades in real estate due to the government acknowledging that he was going to profit more if the state would collude with him. The ultimate affirmative action is a small loan of a million dollars from the pockets of your rich father. Trump focusing on affirmative action as a key source of division in America is completely off the mark and sparks the lowest modes of national character. Black Americans, as Trump himself has said, are suffering. They are not getting free rides, nor are they responsible for denying white Americans the opportunities their children seek.
How can black Americans be stealing opportunities away from white people, and be living in hopeless ‘hellholes’ at the same time? It just seems like everybody is losing. American campuses have been erroneously divided by race. Free speech, for example, is considered by too many on the left to be an issue where white men are complaining that they are not allowed to say offensive things. But look to the story of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, an African-American Studies professor who cancelled a speech for Town Hall Seattle due to racist threats and intimidation. Campus issues focus too often on right-wing voices like Milo Yiannopolous, without realizing that free speech is a universal issue.
Virtually all of our problems are universal. Socializing medicine like Europe, forgiving college debt, and ending mass incarceration would help virtually every working class American. Why separate our categories into black and white working class? Trump’s move to investigate affirmative action, of all the issues facing America, is a clear attempt to signal pro-white attitudes to his base while ignoring America’s major problems. It is a sad tactic and a waste of resources. Americans like Abigail Fisher hoping to benefit from a reduction in black college enrollment are sorely mistaken, and have turned upon their neighbors in a time where unity is desperately needed.
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