Affirmative Action Has Mostly Helped Whites, but Trump Administration Says Not Enough

White women benefit the most from affirmative action policies

President Donald Trump. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On August 1 the New York Times reported, “The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by the New York Times.” The move illuminates the Trump administration’s misconception of affirmative action programs, which have disproportionately helped white students. Instead of correcting this, the Department of Justice seeks to correct the policy to further benefit white students.

In 2013, Time Magazine reported, “Affirmative action has helped white women more than anyone.” The reporter cited several studies showing that the gains from white women due to affirmative action policies eclipsed any benefits that people of color experienced. In most cases, these policies have helped move the nation toward gender equality but have left minorities behind. The resulting trend is an equality gap between races.

The Economic Policy Institute reported in February 2017, “The racial wealth gap is much larger than the wage or income gap by race. Average wealth for white families is seven times higher than average wealth for black families. Worse still, median white wealth (wealth for the family in the exact middle of the overall distribution—wealthier than half of all families and less-wealthy than half) is twelve times higher than median black wealth. More than one in four black households have zero or negative net worth, compared to less than one in ten white families without wealth, which explains the large differences in the racial wealth gap at the mean and median. These raw differences persist, and are growing, even after taking age, household structure, education level, income, or occupation into account.”

In 2005, the New York Times reported on a book by Ira Katznelson, the Ruggles professor of political science and history at Columbia University, that detailed a historical account of how affirmative action policies were first developed in the United States and primarily benefitted whites while perpetuating economic and wealth inequality based on race. The Times reports, “Katznelson demonstrates that African-American veterans received significantly less help from the G.I. Bill than their white counterparts. ‘Written under Southern auspices,’ he reports, ‘the law was deliberately designed to accommodate Jim Crow.’ He cites one 1940s study that concluded it was ‘as though the G.I. Bill had been earmarked ‘For White Veterans Only.'”

Affirmative action in the United States has historically benefited white people the most. Whether marketed by Democrats or subverted by Republicans, the system reinforces institutional racism by disproportionately benefitting white people—even though affirmative action policies were created to help achieve equality among races.

Affirmative Action Has Mostly Helped Whites, but Trump Administration Says Not Enough