When White Men Complain…

Clarence Thomas:

Most significantly, there is the backlash against affirmative action by “angry white men.” I do not question a person’s belief that affirmative action is unjust because it judges people based on their sex or the color of their skin. But something far more insidious is afoot. For some white men, preoccupation with oppression has become the defining feature of their existence. They have fallen prey to the very aspects of the modern ideology of victimology that they deplore.

—”Victims and Heroes in the ‘Benevolent State,'” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 19 (Spring 1996)


  1. majormarginal January 9, 2016 at 5:31 pm | #

    There has been backlash against affirmative action since the early 70s. An example is the “1500 Plus Club” formed by white male Chicago police applicants which filed suit in federal court demanding the hiring from the 1971 police test be done in rank order rather than by quota. The “Club” did not prevail. (Judge Marshall, a Nixon appointee).
    Sandra Day O’Connor stated; “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest [in student body diversity] approved today.” (Grutter v. Bolinger). So a Reagan
    SCOTUS appointee, during a republican administration made a ruling decision that AA would go on for at least 25 years.
    In 2000 the 7th circuit (Bauer, a Ford appointee; Kanne, a Reagan appointee; and Evans, a Clinton appointee) affirmed District Judge Lindberg’s (a Bush I appointee) ruling that the City of Chicago could have a minimum passing score of 82 for whites, 79 for hispanics, and 73 for blacks on part 1 of the 1989 detective promotional examination.
    Whites and particularly white males are held to higher standards in civil service exams than others.
    The republicans give word to the ending of AA but their deeds are as pro AA as that of any democrat. The democrats are somewhat honest about their party’s support of AA while the republicans are charlatans are charlatans on the topic.

  2. Joel in Oakland January 10, 2016 at 2:42 pm | #

    If there were any Dems who knew how to play the Politics of Resentment and who had the power to do so, this could be an important find. Despite all the 1% vs 99% and Wall St vs Main St rhetoric, I’m not yet convinced that’s the case, in which case Thomas’ words are simply very interesting, rather than very useful.

    Nixon was a master of the Politics of Resentment (full of it, in fact, in both senses). He taught his aides – Roger Ailes in particular – very well, and they have gone on to capture those who we used to call Jesus Freaks (who placed devotion and proselytizing above all else – especially above tolerating diversity) as well as those rich and poor white males who resent loss of privileges accompanying being light-skinned, of European ancestry (Hispanics need not apply), male, owner/manager (vs unionized workers), and/or macho male style.

    It would be nice to see Dems finally getting some that so-called “killer instinct” – figuring out what their opponents are doing, outflank them, push them into a corner, and keep beating on them until they disband and go home for good. Thomas’ insight could be a piece of such a counter-offensive as well as showing the value of diversity – and hence affirmative action – more generally.

    I’m waiting, but I’m not holding my breath.

Leave a Reply