Are white women the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action? The following excerpt is from Affirmative Action Debate by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, a curriculum designed for students in grades 4-8. (96.01.12):
Let�s Look Affirmative Action Over
"Has affirmative action actually changed things to the point that minority group members and women enjoy an advantage over white males? Examination of income figures does not support this. Among young adults, white males continue to enjoy higher incomes than black and Hispanic males and women of any race. Black and Hispanic unemployment rates remain well above those of whites. Moreover, whites continue to graduate from college and enter medical, law, and graduate schools at double or more the rate of blacks and Hispanics.
"Women also remain under represented in law and medical schools, although their presence there has increased significantly. All these things suggest strongly that the effects of past and institutional discrimination outweigh any advantage affirmative action may bring to minorities or women. Even when we consider only those who complete college, minorities and women still do not appear to enjoy any overall advantage due to affirmative action. In 1980, young black male college graduates had greatly narrowed the income gap with white males, but they still learn 4% less. Among young college-educated women, blacks had a narrow lead over whites, but neither had anywhere near the income of white males.
"Even so, it does appear that affirmative action has helped certain segments of the minority and female populations a good deal. A definite narrowing of the income gap between blacks and whites has occurred among people who do have jobs, particularly those with relatively high education levels. Law and medical schools are enrolling significantly more blacks, Hispanics, and women than they did before affirmative action even though most of their students are still white males. Firms with government contracts, which are covered by federal affirmative action requirements, have nearly twice the percentage of minority employees as firms without government contracts.
"Still, it is only the more educated segments of the minority and female populations that have truly benefitted from affirmative action. So far, affirmative action has done little for the chronically impoverished underclass, many of whom are lucky to get a high-school diploma. Affirmative action has probably contributed to a trend that was already under way in the black and Hispanic populations: The middle class is rising in status, while the situation of the poor is worsening. This has produced increased social-class differences within the black and Hispanic populations. To achieve racial equality we must implement policies to improve the situation of the chronically poor, which affirmative action does not do.
"However, today all states and most cities have affirmative action plans. Numerical goals are a common component of these EEO/AA (Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action) plans. Virtually all plans designate blacks, Hispanics, and women as beneficiaries; many add handicapped persons, homosexuals, older workers, ex-offenders, and rehabilitated alcoholics and drug abusers.
"The U.S. Justice Department, under Attorney General Edwin Meese, has been largely unsuccessful in its efforts to eliminate racial and sexual preferences in affirmative action. After the Stotts decision in 1984, the Justice Department urged federal courts to give a sweeping interpretation to that decision and declare any employment decision based on race or sex to be illegal. But federal courts have so far rejected this broad approach and have continued to uphold affirmative action plans with numerical goals and racial and sexual preferences.
"November 1994, angry white men staged a protest at the polls, voting in a Congress that has attacked affirmative action, school lunches, Medicare and other government initiatives.
"Affirmative action studies indicate that white women are, at best, ambivalent. While women have made great strides in the labor force in the 30 years since the mandate has existed, a large number of white women arguably is the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action. They believe such programs have outlived their usefulness.
"A large segment of the population is under the impression that minorities, especially African-Americans, are the chief beneficiaries of affirmative action. Attacks on such programs by politicians and disgruntled job-seekers, scholarship applicants and small business owners are often described as justified rage at minorities. To a large extent, observers say, women have been silent on the issue.
"A recent poll in California found that while a large majority of women of color are opposed to the anti affirmative proposal called the California Civil Rights Initiative, however, a sizable majority of white women, 66%, favor it. Many younger women, expressed no connection to battles for equality that were waged in earlier years, while another large number of women had philosophical doubts about giving preferential treatment to anyone, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.
"Women's groups and civil rights advocates say there is a lot of confusion about affirmative action, and that, in part, is the reason why opposition seems so high in the poll results." Read the article: Affirmative Action Debate by Carolyn Kinder, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute