Ask the White Guy: Affirmative Action Benefits Whites Too … More Than You Think

This Black woman says her white colleagues hold fewer degrees and receive higher salaries. Who really benefits from affirmative action


Question:

As an educated black female, how is it that I have worked alongside several whites (both male and female) in Fortune 500 companies that are my peers in the management ranks that only have obtained high-school diplomas and their salary levels and oftentimes their titles are higher than mine and all the other minority managers. Yet I, and others that look like me, are considered products of affirmative action What kind of ‘action’ would you label that My rsum would never have made it out of the inbox had I not have obtained at least two degrees and a substantive amount of experience in my field. I have yet to work alongside someone of color in a management position that doesn’t have at least one degree, usually they have two or more.

Who really is the recipient of affirmative action herePerhaps we should conduct a study to see who the people at the top are, and how they got there and what credentials are in place (and I’m not taking about the weekend executive degree programs). We may find that we need a new label for that type of action! We may be surprised to find out who has historically received the perks.

Answer:

You’re absolutely right. Practically every white person in this country disproportionately benefits from “affirmative action.”

President Obama was the recipient of affirmative action. Professor Ira Katznelson wrote When Affirmative Action Was White to document how 20th-century social programs (Social Security, the GI Bill, Great Society) benefited mostly white people and were purposefully subverted to be that way by Southern legislators under the old rubric of “states rights,” which is often the last refuge of bigots. My friend, the great attorney Weldon Latham, recently told me a story about white-shoe law-firm partners who would not qualify to be recruited into their own firms if the standards were equally applied.

As president of the Anti-Slavery Society, Benjamin Franklin wrote the most elegant proposal for affirmative action that I’ve ever read. It was one-half of a page (the best ideas are often not complicated). He understood that ending slavery was not enough … it was the obligation of our society to provide for and nurture people restored to freedom. We have not followed his advice and pay the price to this day.

Ultimately, affirmative-action programs are necessary to provide access for people who were prevented access by reasons of racism. They are a benefit to our entire society because increasing wealth for underrepresented groups increases wealth for all. Here’s a quick fact: Black households have one-tenth the wealth of white households in this country. If our society caught black households up it would be the equivalent of injecting the entire GDP of Japan into our economy. Who would benefit the most from this White people. A rising tide lifts all boats, and there are more “white boats” in the bay.

Unfortunately, this does not help you. It is my personal observation that many of the Black women executives I know are laboring at least two levels below where they should be. I suggest you consider where you’re working. There are some companies that have much better management than most. The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity is a great place to start looking.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw onDiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader indiversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Latest News

Three BASF Women Leaders Honored at the Manufacturing Institute’s 2021 STEP Ahead Awards

Originally published at basf.com. BASF ranked No. 12 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Three BASF leaders in manufacturing were among 130 women recognized nationally at The Manufacturing Institute’s ninth annual STEP Ahead Awards. Focusing on science, technology, engineering and production (STEP), the program recognizes women…

Wells Fargo Pledges $1 Million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for HBCU Seniors

Originally published at newsroom.wf.com. Wells Fargo ranked No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Wells Fargo and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) are teaming up to help close the graduation gap for college seniors attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The $1 million Thurgood Marshall…

Hershey Employees and Retirees in the US and Canada Pledged More Than $900,000 in 2021 To Support Nonprofit Organizations

Originally published on LinkedIn. The Hershey Company ranked No. 10 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.    Each year, our Season of Giving campaign encourages Hershey employees to make a difference by supporting nonprofit organizations which they find to be meaningful. Employees and retirees in…

Creating Windows and Mirrors: Hershey’s Amber Murayi on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the ‘World’s Top Female-Friendly Company’

Amber Murayi is the Hershey Company’s Senior Director of Enterprise Strategy & Business Model Innovation & Co-lead of the Women’s Business Resource Group. The Hershey Company ranked No. 10 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.    My position affords me a unique view of DEI…

Author Alice Sebold

Author Alice Sebold Apologizes for Her Role in the Wrongful Conviction of the Black Man Charged With Raping Her

In her acclaimed 1999 memoir Lucky, author Alice Sebold told the story of being raped in 1981 when she was a student at Syracuse University. The case resulted in a Black man named Anthony Broadwater being convicted and sent to prison. Sadly, Broadwater was innocent and wrongfully convicted — and…

Black renters

New Study Reveals Landlords Consistently Discriminate Against Potential Renters With Black or Hispanic ‘Sounding’ Names

In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research have uncovered what many people of color already know when hunting for an apartment or home: most landlords consistently discriminate or harbor bias against non-white individuals looking to rent their property.  Bloomberg’s Kelsey…