The evolution of the backlash against affirmative action


As he often does, Tucker Carlson devoted a significant segment of his Fox News show Monday to the idea that white Americans are the invaders.

In this case, Carlson’s rhetorical premise focuses on two examples. The first, that President Biden has nominated more black women to the courts than white men. Second, Florida State University has scholarships available only to non-white students.

On the first point, Carlson complained that Biden had seen 97 judges confirmed, 22 of whom were black women and only five of whom were white men. But, of course, the point is not the composition of Biden’s nominees but the composition of the bench as a whole. The Biden administration aims to make the judiciary better representative of America’s diversity.

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By contrast, Donald Trump appointed 226 judges, only 16 percent of whom were black, Asian, Hispanic or of any race other than white. Wasn’t that lopsided balance a “race-based job,” as Carlson said of Biden’s nominations?

This, of course, is the heart of the problem. Is the disproportionate representation of white men in leadership positions a function of their individual excellence as candidates or of the American system designed to produce the best candidate pools that privilege white men? Affirmative action discussions have long focused on this divide, but Carlson, as he often does, took the idea further.

“It’s not even about ‘looking like America,'” Carlson insisted of picking Biden. “It’s about punishing people.”

This is a different matter. Efforts to better reflect American diversity and ensure that people are not disadvantaged for being women or non-white have been portrayed as working against whites for decades. But Carlson — who famously emailed President Biden’s son Hunter in an effort to facilitate his son’s acceptance to Georgetown University — goes further, suggesting that his intent is to punish white people. To give

His comments about Florida State make that clear. Carlson was apparently reacting to a Fox News article by Christopher Ruffo, a writer and activist who has successfully coined “critical race theory” as a phrase that covers any issue or effort related to race. Exercised by right of defamation. Ruffo paints with a particularly broad brush because he suggests that attempts to undo historical damage are dangerous and unacceptable, as he does in his essay on Florida State. But Carlson goes even further, noting Ruffo’s existing scholarships for non-white students and suggesting that this is somehow a new development. (On the university’s website, Ruffo’s mention of the scholarship indicates that “preference may be given to historically underrepresented applicants.”)

Carlson said such scholarship is “illegal but also racially hateful.” “What’s another word for it? There isn’t one. It’s racial hatred.”

This is Tucker Carlson’s bread and butter. Every night, he tells his audience that They (Democrats, government, doctors, women, you name it) want to attack and undermine. We. These claims are often present: They going to riot; They You are going to be harmed; They Will ruin your life and country.

Fox Nation, the streaming arm of Fox News to which Carlson also contributes, has a new series focused on the ways in which Carlson warns nightly that America is falling apart. One of the three episodes focuses on “divisiveness” as manifested in things like focusing on historical patterns of racial disadvantage.

It is certainly true that affirmative action policies, efforts to reduce the lasting effects of these harms, can manifest in many different ways and are often viewed with skepticism by Americans. The Supreme Court is likely to significantly roll back affirmative action programs in a decision later this year (a decision prompted by Trump’s appointment of three white justices, we might note).

Ideas about affirmative action have changed over time. The General Social Survey, conducted nationally every two years, has asked Americans for decades about their views on affirmative action and related programs. From the early 1990s until about a decade ago, the percentage of Americans who said they saw affirmative action policies as detrimental to the hiring or promotion of whites declined slightly.

Consider what happened after the 2014 iteration of the GSS, though: Republican views of affirmative action as working against whites suddenly rose, as Democratic views fell.

What happened after 2014? Well, this August a young black man named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. The Black Lives Matter movement rose to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness, bringing renewed attention to the ways in which racism can be perpetuated. in the power system. In the wake of the civil rights movement, the United States has done a good job of rooting out overtly discriminatory practices within institutions such as banks and law enforcement. But there are ways in which the system works against non-white people, particularly black Americans, even if unintentionally.

The GSS dates back to the 1970s and since then has continued to ask questions, meaning that its questions reflect a configuration of the country that is no longer valid. For example, it largely asks about affirmative action policies through the lens of black Americans—since most non-white Americans were black in the immediate aftermath of the relaxation of immigration laws in the late 1960s. This is no longer the case.

There are two questions about the concepts of affirmative action, one focused on the private sector and the other on government initiatives. In each case, Democrats have long been less skeptical than Republicans. In each case, the partisan divide widened after 2014.

Look at the swing among Republicans in the 2021 iteration of the gubernatorial question above. The 2021 GSS was the first since 2018 due to the coronavirus pandemic. So it was the first since the new racial justice protests in mid-2020.

Again, it’s nothing new that Republicans don’t support affirmative action efforts. But for most of the past 30 years, the gap between the parties has narrowed considerably. In recent years, though, the introduction of systemic racism as a specific and ongoing point of political debate has also allowed people like Tucker Carlson to create programs that aim to address subtle forms of discrimination that are clearly anti-white. to be solved as

Donald Trump’s 2016 election centered heavily on the idea that whites were being marginalized by programs to level the national playing field. In the years since, the backlash against these programs has become broader, more complex, and more dangerous.

So, on one of the most popular cable news shows, the host denounced a scholarship at a Florida state school meant to increase the number of black, Asian, Native American or Hispanic students who could get an education. Describing whites as “race-haters” grotesque — but, to his audience, compelling.

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