Thomas Jackson, American Renaissance, February 1992
Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action, Frederick R. Lynch, Praeger Publishers, 1989, 238 pp.
Over the last 20 years, “affirmative action,” or discrimination in favor of non-whites and women, has been pushed into nearly every corner of American life. It has gone largely unchallenged. Invisible Victims, by Frederick Lynch, is an attempt to understand how affirmative action came about and to assess the damage that it has done to white men. In an era of sustained, willful blindness on the subject of race, this sympathetic study of the inevitable casualties of officially sanctioned discrimination is a refreshing corrective.
Invisible Victims is also a good introduction to the history of affirmative action. Mr. Lynch explains how, in the legal half-light of ambiguous court decisions, racial activists instituted policies that were the very reverse of those required by the original civil rights laws. His book is filled with examples of affirmative action gone berserk: the California Highway Patrol advertises jobs in Mexico so as to get “Hispanic” applicants; the Los Angeles school district urges high schools to send mixed-race teams to scholastic contests because it looks bad when all-white teams win.
The Invisible Victim
Nevertheless, the genesis of this book, and its greatest strength, is original research on how white men react to racial and sexual discrimination. It is a pleasant surprise to learn that there are institutions willing to fund such research. With grants from the Earhart Foundation and the Institute for Educational Affairs, Mr. Lynch found and interviewed 34 men who had been denied promotions, fired, or given poor assignments because of affirmative action.
Mr. Lynch located the men through an informal network of friends and colleagues. In a few cases, he could corroborate discrimination claims, but he relied mainly on what his subjects told him. Obviously, his study would have been more persuasive if he had had airtight proof of discrimination, but attempts to confirm subjects’ stories would have violated the confidentiality that many demanded. Even if confidentiality had not been a problem, it would have been very difficult to get employers to confess to anti-white policies. Mr. Lynch had to endure enough hostility from his own colleagues to his research without the added battle of trying to hunt down perpetrators of discrimination.
As one would expect from a work of sociology, Invisible Victims includes tables of the various ways in which subjects reacted to discrimination (acquiescence, defiance/protest, etc.) and of eventual outcomes (was transferred, quit, changed careers, was eventually promoted, etc.). Mr. Lynch can’t resist the jargon of his profession — he tells us a lot about “cognitive dissonance” and “self-esteem,” — but he still gives us a clear picture of what goes on in the mind of an unsuspecting white man who walks into the teeth of an affirmative action program.
One of the greatest problems these men faced was that America does not recognize what happened to them as injustice. Since affirmative action is an unassailable good, and only white males can be oppressors, their plight was a logical impossibility.
After all, it is taboo to point out that favors for non-whites can come only at the expense of whites. Affirmative action is the law of the land, is practiced by America’s most prestigious institutions, and is praised by a chorus of media partisans. It must be a good thing. Many government agencies and private companies even put on seminars designed to explain that anyone who objects to affirmative action is “racist.” As a consequence, many whites have been so thoroughly stripped of common sense and self-respect that they cheerfully submit to discrimination.
But what of those who do not? Nothing is more demoralizing than to be grievously wronged and then to be told that one’s injury is an illusion. Furthermore, a white man has no recourse. Unlike non-whites, who have well-funded organizations that spring to the defense of alleged victims, he is on his own.
Many of Mr. Lynch’s subjects got little sympathy even from friends or fellow workers. Colleagues who feared the affirmative action ax themselves treated bona fide victims as if they carried the plague. Whites who had liberal friends were especially hard hit. Their friends were less likely to show sympathy because it meant denying the validity of a quintessentially liberal social policy.
Mr. Lynch also found that many whites who suffered discrimination felt it would be “unmanly” to complain. Perhaps because women are now routinely urged to complain about “sexism,” some men found that their wives or girl friends were angrier and more willing to make a stink than they were. A school teacher who was transferred to a distant, problem-ridden school so that the staff would be “racially balanced” reported that he had to physically prevent his wife from telling off the principal.
For many of Mr. Lynch’s subjects, there were serious psychological consequences from having suffered a clear injustice at the hands of society only to be told that this was as it should be. Marriages deteriorated, friendships ended, and careers were thwarted. Some men started drinking, and some even lost respect for the ideas of public-spiritedness and fair play. To be betrayed by the central institutions of society — government, employer, university — leaves a lasting bitterness and alienation.
Many of Mr. Lynch’s subjects became more politically conservative, and some lost all faith in social engineering. As one who developed a deep cynicism about liberal politicians put it, “I turned the other cheek and had the s**t slapped out of me.”
It did not occur to most of these men that they could seek redress in the courts. A few mavericks did sue their employers, but usually found that the laws of “equal opportunity” are stood on their head when a white man is the victim of discrimination. As one man who fought his denied promotion clear through to a hung jury put it, “The courts are a crap shoot. The legal system grinds you down.”
At the same time, since whites have had every trace of racial solidarity beaten out of them in the name of “tolerance” and “equality,” they do not act in concert. Even though white job applicants have every reason to file class action suits against employers who discriminate against them, the legal battle is usually drawn between one, lonely Don Quixote and the bureaucratic windmill.
The irony in the isolation that whites feel in the face of discrimination is that it is unjustified. Although virtually none of Mr. Lynch’s subjects knew this, opinion polls have repeatedly shown that 70 to 80 percent of whites think that race- and sex-based preferences are wrong. At the same time, equally large numbers think that most Americans support such preferences. As Mr. Lynch points out, opponents of affirmative action are a large majority but think they are a minority. Why?
The Great Riddle
Mr. Lynch tries to answer this question, but has bitten off more than he, or perhaps anyone else, can chew. It may not be possible fully to explain why whites have established and continue to submit to anti-white policies that most whites oppose. To explain this mystery would be to explain everything from an immigration policy that will reduce whites to a minority, to the fact that blacks who love blacks are showing “pride” whereas whites who love whites are “bigots.” The desperate joy that whites take in their own dispossession is a riddle that will torment the historians of the future.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lynch is certainly right to argue that the mass media are a huge obstacle to fairness and good sense. They jabber about “equal opportunity” and “affirmative action” as if they were identical rather than exact opposites. If they talk at all about white resentment of affirmative action, it is only to suggest that whites are sore losers who refuse to recognize the superior abilities of blacks and Hispanics.
The newsweeklies run cover stories on school failure and teacher incompetence, but pretend that affirmative action has nothing to do with it — despite miserable performances by blacks on teacher competency tests. The media cling to the view that any test on which non-whites do badly is biased — despite the National Academy of Sciences’ failure to find bias in standardized tests.
All this is true, and Mr. Lynch is right to point it out. But then why are the media — and the nation — so skittish about race? Mr. Lynch sniffs around the edges of one possible reason. He points out that many people think that if white racism is not what makes non-whites fail, genetic inferiority must be the cause. Since that is officially unthinkable, white racism is the only possible culprit. Whites who claim to be victims of affirmative action can therefore be dismissed as opponents of legitimate redress.
Mr. Lynch quickly drops the subject of genetic inferiority but refrains from the usual expressions of horror at the idea. Perhaps he is like the affirmative action victims he studied: part of a majority that mistakenly thinks it is a minority and therefore dares not speak. A recent study found that 53 percent of whites (and 30 percent of blacks) were brave enough to tell a pollster, face to face, that they think blacks are less intelligent than whites.
Despite Mr. Lynch’s pioneering research and his irrefutable arguments about the injustice of affirmative action, it is an affliction that will not go away until America comes to grips with the overwhelming evidence of racial differences in intelligence. Invisible Victims is a badly needed analysis of a policy that makes a mockery of the principle of equality. As its author points out, the first step towards getting rid of affirmative action is to ask the hard questions about it that its proponents do not wish to hear. Mr. Lynch asks those questions.
Nevertheless, until it is possible to discuss racial differences openly, black failure — of which there will always be plenty — will be laid at the feet of white racism. As long as whites are thought to be collectively guilty, there will be few tears for the “invisible victims” of affirmative action.