|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
admission policies have kept the number down.
Just 16 years earlier, the college population was 87 percent
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
Of the nation's geologists, 95.9 percent are
Of the nation's dentists, 95.6 percent are
Of the nation's authors, 93.9 percent are
Of the nations lawyers, 93.8 percent are
Of the nation's aerospace engineers, 93.8 percent are
Of the nation's economists, 91.9 percent are
Of the nation's architects, 90.6 percent are
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
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
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
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