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 Robert Weissberg Archive
Explaining the Spread of White Anger
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The phrase “angry white males” has been around awhile, but Donald Trump’s election has pushed it to the forefront. Indeed, at least for some, it is central to Trump’s election. As Steven M. Gillon put it in The Washington Post, “Donald Trump has tapped into this anger and manipulated it to his political advantage. The bond between President Trump and his white followers is not based on policy but on grievance. They both reject the cultural changes over the past half-century, and Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan signals his intent to unravel them.”

Whether this anger is somehow justified is, of course, a question of immense complexity but let me offer three observations that explain its scope regardless of its justification. My point is that affirmative action and other egalitarian social engineering nostrums inescapably spreads antagonisms beyond those immediately affected by the policies. And the anger will only grow as government keeps pushing the egalitarian fantasy.

First, violating the merit principle, whether in college admissions or hiring police officers guarantees disgruntled white males far in excess of its true victims. Consider hiring five firefighters strictly according to civil service exam scores. Let’s assume that a hundred men apply for the position and can be ranked by test scores. The top four are white and are hired. Now, thanks to a Department of Justice consent decree, the fire department must hire at least one African American from the list and if the highest ranking black scores at 20 in the array he will be hired despite his middling score.

How many white males have actually lost their job to a black? The correct answer is exactly one, the fifth ranking applicant. But how many whites will mistakenly believe that they lost out to an affirmative action candidate? The answer is 14 since this is the number of rejected white candidates between 6 and 19 and, to be honest, all can make a legitimate claim of being passed over to satisfy the diversity bean counters. Further fueling this anger is that each of those fourteen “unfairly” rejected applicants may complain to family and friends and thus tales of the alleged injustice multiply though, in fact, only a single white applicant lost out to a less qualified black.

Affirmative action is thus a white grievance multiplier if this information is public (as is often the case in university admissions and in reverse discrimination litigation). No doubt, every Spring when colleges and professional schools such as law and medicine mail out their acceptance/rejection letters, millions of white males can honestly complain that they would have been admitted to their first choice if they had only been black or Hispanic and judged exclusively by test scores. Of course, if the university admitted all those whites who exceeded the scores of the least qualified black, the university would have to dramatically increase the freshman class, a policy that possibly tantamount to admitting nearly every white applicant.

Second, the greater the pressure to increase “diversity” via adding additional under-qualified blacks and Hispanics and not expanding enrollment, the greater the visible gap between affirmative action admittees and all others. Again, everything is purely statistical. For example, in the pre-affirmative action era only a few blacks attended college, nearly all of whom got there on merit. Whites (and Asians) would likely view them as equals, no small benefit in a society obsessed with expunging “racist stereotypes” regarding black intellectual ability.

Now imagine that due to government pressure the number of blacks admitted substantially grew and, unless overall enrollment correspondently expanded, fewer academically borderline whites would be admitted so college life became an experience where smart whites encountered lots of intellectually challenged blacks.

Ironically, as per claims that campus racial diversity provides wonderful learning experiences, what might a white student with, say, a total SAT reading/math score of 1350 learn from his black dorm mate who scored 1150? (This is the average white/black SAT gap.) I’d guess that the white student would learn that it’s good to be a favored minority in terms of obtaining full-ride scholarships, internship programs, and job offers from top firms. Try to imagine a better way of teaching about white privilege.

Third, as the political pressure for yet more diversity increases, coercion will correspondingly become more draconian and thus more odious since it takes extra effort to force employers or universities to dig deeper into a thinner and thinner talent pool. A parallel is a parent faced with a child reluctant to eat vegetables. The pressure may begin softly—enticing junior to eat a few French fries but it will grow stronger as Mom adds disliked turnips, lima beans and cauliflower. At some point, promoting “good nutrition” may require force feeding.

I have personally observed this escalating pressure to diversify college faculty, pressure that even liberal faculty find objectionable. During the 1970s the emphasis was on relatively painless voluntary measures: recruitment committees would append “applicants from previously under-represented groups are encouraged to apply” on job postings, tweaking teaching responsibilities to attract minority candidates, or Deans providing extra funds for the job slot if a black or Hispanic could be hired. Gradually, however, as these benign tactics failed to make the numbers, the apparatchiki tightened the screws—Provosts would independently scour the market for minority job candidates or appoint a non-departmental “political commissar” to monitor faculty recruitment committee deliberations to insure that no promising minority candidate was overlooked.

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Hiring discussions were soon filled with euphemisms such as “targets” or “goals” since quotas were illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Increasingly, the push for faculty diversity has come to resemble Chinese political indoctrination where even the term “affirmative action” is verboten since it implies unequal ability. At the University of California–Riverside, for example, all candidates for faculty jobs (including the sciences) must submit a statement describing how they’ve worked to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in previous positions as graduate students or professors and how they planned to continue to do so once on campus. And guess what? Those who give superior answers to these questions surprisingly turn out to be from historically under-represented groups! Cynthia Larive, Riverside’s interim provost, said that avoiding numerical targets “gets people out of thinking about a quota system. We want to hire outstanding faculty members who can help the institution continue to be successful and, most importantly, who can mentor students.”

Needless to say, the diversity apparatchiki assume that all liberal white faculty, even those in the hard sciences, are debilitated by implicit bias so they have to be pushed to overcome their doubts about possibly hiring a black physicist from a third-tier school. At Boston College faculty receive special training through the Office of Institutional Diversity to develop strategies to promote diversity and are thus instructed, for example, to avoid “narrow professional networks” (i.e., contacting colleagues at other schools) in seeking out top job candidates. After all, why assume that the next Richard Feynman will have been trained at a MIT or Princeton?

What makes this coerced diversity so hard to swallow is that its purpose rests on a plain-to-see but impossible to express fraud—the alleged benefits of diversity. Indeed, the elite’s obsessive proclamations of this lie far more closely resemble propaganda than celebrating a cliché-like truth. Simply put, if diversity is so wonderful, and in the self-interest of universities and businesses, why must it be imposed forcefully? Surely if it was as beneficial as advertised, there would be no need for disparate impact lawsuits, training to overcome implicit bias and similar measures that resemble mothers punishing junior for not eating his lima beans. Does government and the social justice camp followers really believe that diversity is akin to chocolate or red wine whose consumption hardly needs coercion?

Now for what really fuels the anger over coerced diversity: it is one thing to demand sacrifices for a clearly understood, noble cause—WW II rationing, for example. But it is quite another to demand sacrifices for a cause whose benefits rest on an obvious falsehood, and it is hard to imagine a bigger lie than “Diversity is Our Strength.”

Even worse, today’s PC dogma insists that those coerced into this charade dare not complain, at least in public, since such caviling will be deemed “racist” and a defense of white privilege. An unemployable white male Harvard Ph.D. in English will be told to just shut up and get an adjunct position at a community college. After all, the barely competent black who beat him out for the Yale job had enslaved ancestors.

No wonder Trump received such enthusiastic welcomes by white males—the anger has been silently boiling for decades and this was perhaps the first instance where it could be expressed albeit indirectly. Imagine if a speaker at a Trump a rally was more forthcoming: “We are sick and tired of being pushed aside so that some incompetent minority can take our place in the name of diversity whose only purpose is to make some airhead social justice warrior feel good about herself. How many people in this audience personally know anybody who lost their job to a less-qualified ‘diversity candidate’? Give me a show of hands.”

One can only imagine the panic of every corporate CEO, college president and other Thinkgood Americans upon hearing this speech. They would demand that Trump immediately repudiate it. The White Male Martyrs Brigade has awakened and is on the march.

 
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