More and more whites–weary of a generation of minority racial preferences, fighting for scraps in a feeble economy, feeling the sting of skin color as a disadvantage–are joining minorities in crying foul.
“The pendulum is swinging where people are challenging things on both sides,” said Denise Drake, a Kansas City employment lawyer. “Everybody is saying, ‘You don’t get to consider race at all.’ ”
Earlier this month, two of Kansas City’s white budget analysts filed suit against City Manager Wayne Cauthen, who is black, and the city, claiming that age and race discrimination led to the losses of their jobs and the retention of minority workers.
Their attorney accused the city of a “whites need not apply” policy.
Increase in claims
From 1998 to 2008, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recorded a 45 percent rise in race-based discrimination claims filed by whites. (The agency shuns the term “reverse discrimination.”) Today, complaints from whites of racism make up 10.4 percent of all complaints to the agency, up from 8.5 percent in 1998.
That trend stretches at least back to the case of Allan Bakke, a white medical school applicant who was twice denied entry by the University of California-Davis in the late 1970s. The Supreme Court ultimately faulted the school for shutting Bakke out while it let minorities with lower test scores in.
* In 2001, Ford Motor Co. paid $10.5 million to settle two class-action lawsuits filed by older, white men who claimed they had been mistreated by the automakers’ efforts to develop a more diverse work force.
* A Jackson County, Mo., jury in 2005 awarded Sue Gorker $311,600 after deciding that race was a factor in Kansas City School District officials’ decision not to renew her contract as a vice principal.
* Clay County, Mo., Assistant Prosecutor Melissa Howard last year won $2.1 million in a jury verdict after she contended she was passed over for a Kansas City judgeship because she was white. She argued that the City Council did not nominate her for the post because it wanted a racial minority to fill the post. The case is under appeal.
* In May, a white woman from Texas filed suit claiming that Hispanic colleagues at an assisted-living center harassed her for not speaking Spanish.
Mark Jess, a Kansas City lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in three cases of whites claiming racial favoritism, contends that in the same way “old-boy networks” hoard business among a mostly white country-club set, urban city halls and school districts can run on a spoils system for minorities.
Americans seem to have conflicted views about balancing a desire to overcome discrimination against minorities while protecting the rights of white people. For decades, polls have shown support for policies that improve diversity and overcome past discrimination. But when asked about giving preferences to racial groups, Americans’ support for affirmative action drops quickly.
It has not been a hot-button issue because most people say they have not felt a direct impact from affirmative action. In a Pew Research Center poll conducted in 2007, 5 percent of respondents said they had been helped by affirmative action, 10 percent said they had been hurt by it and 82 percent it said they had not been affected.