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  Vernellia R. Randall
Professor of Law
The University of Dayton
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Blinded by the White
We Caucasians would prefer to ignore our preferences

Ray Hartmann 
The Riverfront Times 
The U.S. Supreme Court, which is 89 at percent white, declined Monday to consider a challenge to California's anti-affirmative action Proposition 209. 

Voters in California, which is 81 percent white, last year passed the measure, which bans "preferential treatment" on the basis of race or gender in state and local government programs. Supporters of the measure praised the justices for letting stand an April ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Circuit),  which is 89 percent white, which found Proposition 209 was not 

"This decision takes California another step closer to achieving a true, color-blind equal-opportunity  society," said Gov. Pete Wilson, who, like 100 percent of the nation's governors,  is white. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the proposition is its ban on race-based admission policies in California's state university system, which is overseen by a Board of Regents, which is 82 percent white. 

As of 1994, an estimated 82 percent of America's resident college students were white, surprisingly low in a country that is 80 percent white, and it is believed that race-based 
admission  policies have kept the number down.  Just 16 years earlier, the college population was 87 percent white. 

At the college-faculty level, where race-conscious programs are also now forbidden by Proposition 209, whites nationally held 86.8 percent of the positions in 1992 (according to the American Association of University Professors). This, too, reflects a drop in white representation because of  affirmative-action programs of recent decades. Whites have fared better in other professional categories, however, where the color-blind, equal-opportunity society has not been 
affected by race-conscious programs: 

  Of the nation's airplane pilots, 98.3 percent are white. 
  Of the nation's geologists, 95.9 percent are white. 
  Of the nation's dentists, 95.6 percent are white. 
  Of the nation's authors, 93.9 percent are white. 

  Of the nations lawyers, 93.8 percent are white. 
  Of the nation's aerospace engineers, 93.8 percent are white. 
  Of the nation's economists, 91.9 percent are white. 
  Of the nation's architects, 90.6 percent are white. 

These statistics were cobbled together from federal Bureau of Labor Statistics information, and they are presented here in a form not normally seen. Customarily, the bureau breaks out only categories such as "female, "black" and "Hispanic," whereas figures for whites are not specified. 

This is not unlike the reporting of affirmative-action issues, wherein the major newspapers, all of which are primarily owned by whites, and the major TV networks and cable companies, all  of which are primarily owned by whites, debate the merits of "preferences" for blacks and women. 

Even if the subject were, say, the scarcity of black airplane pilots, the experts discussing the numbers and the media reporting them -- even those supportive of affirmative action -- would come at the subject from the vantage point of how few blacks were pilots. 

They would never characterize as a "preference" the fact that 98.3 percent of pilots are white. I discussed twisted perspective about all this with a friend who, like me, is white. She partly irritated but mainly puzzled: "What's your point?" 

Here's my point: 

We live in a largely white country. The white majority enjoys a disproportionate share of its wealth and comfort and an even greater share of control over its most [important] institutions. But white power is so pervasive that it's never perceived, or even considered, white power. It's just the way things are. 

Racial percentages aren't tallied from the white side, only from the "minority" point of view. Thus, when 20 percent of public contracts on a building project are "set aside" for minority contractors, it is a "racial" or "gender-based" issue, but when 100 percent goes to firms owned by white males, it's just, well, reality. 

Even many sympathetic to blacks and other people of color will find it quite reasonable that whites have 80-something or 90-something percent dominance of important institutions. After all, the country is 80 percent white, so the statistics are always going to seem racially tilted toward Caucasians, right? 

Well, not exactly. 

Only 37 percent of the nation's jail inmates were white in 1994 (as compared with 56 percent in 1978), and only 46 percent of the prisoners executed in the past six decades were white. Only 60 percent of the children living below the poverty line are white. In the same way that numbers can swing disproportionately white, so it is possible for whites to be under-represented statistically. 

But it never seems to happen when it's a good statistic. 

Now consider the happy words of Rep Charles Canady (R-Fla.), a white guy who has authored a federal bill that would eliminate affirmative action at the federal level the way Proposition 209 has in California. Celebrating the Supreme Court's "inaction"  on Monday, Canady proclaimed: "The people of California rightly decided to end the divisive race and gender preferences in their state, and  it's, time Congress to do the same thing for the whole nation." 

We're going to end race "preferences" as a nation, eh? 

By a "nonracial" vote of the 90 percent white House of Representatives and the 97 percent white Senate, who will then (presumably) have to mount enough "color-blind" votes to override our 42nd consecutive Caucasian president? 

Yes, we're a color-blind society when it comes to "preferences," all right. 

We can't see the white

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