The Social Construction of Reverse Discrimination: The Impact of Affirmative Action on Whites
by FRED L. PINCUS(1)
One of the most controversial issues in the affirmative action debate is its perceived negative impact on large numbers of whites, especially white males. Public opinion polls show that between half and three-fourths of whites believe that, as a group, they are routinely discriminated against. A 1999 poll, commissioned by the Seattle Times, found that 75% of whites agreed with the statement saying that 'Unqualified minorities get hired over qualified whites' most of the time or some of the time. Two-thirds said the same about promotion and 63% said the same about college admission (Seattle Times, 1999; Steeh & Krysan, 1996).
This phenomenon, where whites believe that they have less opportunity because of affirmative action, goes by a variety of names including 'affirmative discrimination' (Glazer, 1975), 'discrimination in reverse' (Gross, 1978) and 'preferential treatment.' The most popular term, however, is 'reverse discrimination.' The earliest use of this term dates back to the late 1960s and it has been employed by critics of affirmative action ever since. The Internet has numerous reverse discrimination sites, the most sophisticated of which is http://www.adversity.net.
Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding were on an equal playing field, and Nancy had not done anything to jeopardize the opportunities of Harding. Also, the intent of the attack on Kerrigan was to help Harding by injuring competition.
In start contrast, blacks are not on an equal playing field with whites - signified by the numbers of black people in prison compared to whites, the poverty rate for blacks(27+ percent) and whites (9+ percent.), and studies done in 2003 (and some more recently) that show that people with white-sounding names (like Greg and Emily) are 50% more likely to be interviewed for jobs than people with black-sounding names like Latisha and Jamal. In addition, there were horrible atrocities committed against black people - like slavery and the Jim Crow laws - that slowed their progress as people and left them with very little to work with once there actually were laws establishing black and white people as equal - and not separate but equal. As a bonus round, the intent is also different, as the intent of affirmative action is not to HARM anyone, but to help black people not by taking opportunities away from whites but by CREATING new and different opportunities for black people.