Prior posts from this book: 1, 2, 3. Bibliography for all excerpts here.
From Frederick R. Lynch, Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action (Westport, CT: Praeger Paperback, 1991):
Chapter 8: The Spiral of Silence and the New McCarthyism
In the winter of 1982, a student whom I shall call "Bill" informed me after class that another faculty member, Professor X, was being called "racist" by a small clique of minority students. The charges had been voiced in a class taught by another faculty member and in various informal student gatherings.
"I respect Professor X," said Bill, "and I think what they're saying is bullshit. But I think he should know what's going on before it hits the fan. If he doesn't know, you should tell him."
A couple of days later, behind closed doors, I informed Professor X of the problem. He was stunned, saddened, and, not least of all, afraid. Professor X had received tenure the year before. But tenure was a thin shield against charges of racism and we both knew it. Initially, Professor X had absolutely no idea how such charges could have come his way. We were both aware of the irony of my informing him of such accusations, for I had voiced fears to him and to others that I might be called "racist" because of my research on affirmative action. (See "Doing Affirmative Action Research in California" at the end of Chapter 9.)
There was no formal complaint, no hearing before the dean or anything else. Just name-calling, which faded away. But the effects lingered on.
In 1988, I asked Professor X to re-assess the matter. He had no trouble recalling the event. He ascribed the incident to four minority students' misperceptions of his lectures on family structure and mobility. He had cited research in class which indicated that having large numbers of children at an early age -- especially out of wedlock -- was likely to inhibit upward social mobility. The four minority students, schooled in other classes against
"blaming the victim," thought Professor X was doing just that and attacking their way of life. Not coincidentally, Professor X remarked, the accusing students had received low grades in previous courses they had taken from him.
This behind-the-scenes name-calling heightened Professor X's sensitivity. Already shy about mentioning matters of race to student audiences, he now rarely, if ever, mentions race as a variable in social research in his classroom. In spite of the fact that race and ethnicity often appear in the statistical data of his subject matter, Professor X prefers to "leave such matters to the text." When it comes to race, Professor X censors himself. Professor X is hardly alone. Most other social scientists and university faculty have felt the chill.
Self-censoring, "chilled" faculty reflect the power of ideological taboos that have dominated American intellectual discourse for nearly twenty years. Yet "chilled" and "taboos" are not quite sufficiently precise terms to understand how intellectual thought in America has been self-censored. The steamroller metaphor set forth in the first chapter comes somewhat closer to the process of what has happened. But there are more precise concepts to understand how people have perceived what they can and cannot discuss, regardless of public opinion.
Attempts to ignore or suppress Stanley Greenberg's research by politicians and the mass media suggest some degree of formal censorship. Far more powerful than formal censorship has been massive, informal censorship, which German sociologist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann has aptly termed the "spiral of silence." The spiral of silence, in turn, must be linked with another reinforcing concept, cognitive dissonance. The operation of both of these processes has produced what is best described as a New McCarthyism.
THE SPIRAL OF SILENCE
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann's spiral of silence theory attempts to explain how people may misperceive public opinion because one faction feels much freer than others to speak out in support of its views. The more vocal group's views, in fact, may not be the majority; nevertheless, they may become the majority, or considerably increase their numbers, because the populace perceives such openly expressed views as the majority and wishes to conform to the supposed majority view (1974; 1977; 1984).
Noelle-Neumann maintains that human beings are strongly attuned to the opinions of others. This sensitivity to public opinion is like a "social skin." Public opinion can be a potent source of social control in that most people find it more comfortable to conform to majority opinion. A long history of scholarship, coupled with more recent social psychological experiments, strongly suggests that people prefer to change their views rather than differ from majority opinion. Since we are social beings, humans fear isolation.
Noelle-Neumann acknowledged her indebtedness to Alexis de Tocqueville's concept of the "tyranny of the majority." But Noelle-Neumann wished to see how a majority opinion may arise out of a minority viewpoint. The process may build in a spiral, that is, the perceived majority group becomes even more emboldened to speak out while those not so perceived progressively go mute. Hence the spiral of silence.
Noelle-Neumann's initial interest in the spiral of silence occurred in the context of German elections in the late 1960s. Public opinion polls showed public support evenly divided between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. Yet a student of Noelle-Neumann quickly removed a "Social Democrat" button from her coat because she had encountered too much hostility. The student had falsely perceived that she was being labeled as a proponent of an unpopular cause. Though she had the support of at least half the public, the student was made to feel quite otherwise. Those who supported the opposition were vociferous in their support and behaved as if public opinion were with them. In describing the political confrontation between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats in Germany at the end of the 1960s, Noelle-Neumann noted that originally there was an even split between the two parties.Those who were convinced the new Ospolitik was right thought their beliefs eventually would be adopted by everyone. So these people expressed themselves openly, and self-confidently defended their views. Those who rejected the Ospolitik felt themselves left out; they withdrew, and fell silent.
This very restraint made the view that was receiving vocal support appear to be stronger than it really was and the other view weaker. Observations made in one context spread to another and encouraged people either to proclaim their views or to swallow them and keep quiet until, in a spiraling process, the one view dominated the public scene and the other disappeared from public awareness as its adherents became mute. This is the process that can be called a "spiral of silence." (1984: 5)
I shall not and cannot statistically test Noelle-Neumann's spiral of silence concept as it applies to public opinion on affirmative action. Nevertheless, the concept fits much of the data contained in this book and is a useful, sensitizing tool in understanding public opinion on affirmative action.
Data on public opinion cited in Chapter 2 decisively demonstrate that the majority of Americans have been overwhelmingly opposed to affirmative action as quotas or preferential treatment. Yet interview data gathered here and elsewhere show that people perceive the pro-quota viewpoint as the majority viewpoint. Why? The spiral of silence suggests an answer.
It became obvious to the student interviewers and to me that we were cutting in on the spiral of silence simply by interviewing the thirty-two white males. It was sometimes even more obvious in background conversations with corporate officials or other corporate or government insiders. People were surprised to be asked about "the other side" of affirmative action.
The vast majority of views they had heard or read were either pro-affirmative action or held that it was a non-debatable issue, which had already been decided. As Noelle-Neumann had described, they had detected what they thought was the predominant opinion on the issue and acted accordingly. Thus, those interviewed for this study (and those quoted in secondary sources as well) were guarded and hesitant in stating anti-quota views even to friends and co-workers. They did not know that anti-quota views have been the majority.
Affirmative action proponents have been able to accelerate the spiral of silence because they have been able to invoke collective guilt over past treatment of blacks in the United States. They have been able to target opponents as racists. The mass media were largely silent on affirmative action or took a pro-affirmative action stance. No wonder, then, most of those interviewed for this book felt their critical views of affirmative action were not held by a majority of Americans. Indeed, only two knew of public opinion polls on the issue at all, and only one of the two had an accurate idea of the results.
To compare a hypothetical contemporary situation with that which inspired Noelle-Neumann's interest in the spiral of silence: imagine an American college student wearing a button which stated "Get Rid of Affirmative Action Quotas" The results would be at least as provocative as those encountered by the German student who wore the "wrong" political button.
THE ROLE OF COGNITIVE DSSONANCE
Cognitive dissonance has reinforced the spiral of silence on affirmative action. Cognitive dissonance occurs when two cognitive elements clash: two opposing attitudes, or an attitude and a contradictory situation, (Zajonic, 1968). In the case of affirmative action, cognitive dissonance can easily arise when the values of equality are juxtaposed with the history of unequal treatment of blacks. The ideal of equality and the legacy of slavery and discrimination contradict each other. This conflict generates tension, embarrassment, and guilt in the minds of most Americans.
People have a tendency to try to assuage guilt and resolve dissonance. Therefore, egalitarian or compensatory programs aimed at redressing past discrimination have a natural appeal in restoring cognitive balance: the imbalance and guilt caused by discrimination against blacks in the face of American commitments to equality can be eased by efforts to make up for past discrimination. Obviously, cognitive dissonance has been a powerful tool for proponents of affirmative action of all types. This is one reason affirmative action debates almost always focus upon blacks rather than the other minority groups (Hispanics, Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, Asian/Indians, and so forth) who have quietly been included in many race-conscious programs.
Cognitive dissonance over past treatment of blacks is woven into nearly every argument for and against affirmative action from settings of private discourse to the professional literature. Evidence of this same tension and guilt surfaced in varying degrees with nearly all interviews with white males conducted for this book. Manning Greene specifically used the term "cognitive dissonance" in explaining the awkward and embarrassed response of his friends. Other subjects mentioned past discrimination against blacks but protested that they were not responsible for this and that the current generation of white males should not suffer for the sins of the past. And, as mentioned in previous chapters, there were the obligatory neutralizations: "I'm not a racist, but. . . ."
This climate of intimidation and guilt cannot be overstated with regard to the expression of critical views on affirmative action. As was seen in the previous chapter, this social psychological setting was fostered by the neglect of affirmative action as an issue by the mass media.
Noelle-Neumann maintained that the role of the mass media in fostering a spiral of silence is complex and crucial. The previous chapter demonstrated that the mass media ignored and avoided affirmative action as an issue and avoided or sought to neutralize the policies' impact on white males. Public opinion polls on the issue were not well publicized. Instead, the media have highlighted the contradiction between past treatment of blacks and the ideal of equality.
THE OLD AND THE NEW McCARTHYISM: PARALLELS
The post-World War Two phenomenon known as McCarthyism would seem to be a good illustration of the spiral of silence. Though Joseph McCarthy and anti-communist movements spawned by him never obtained the support of a majority of Americans, vocal anti-communist minorities nevertheless had enormous impact. Anti-McCarthyism opinion was chilled by individual fears of being labeled "communist."
The social forces suppressing criticism of affirmative action for the past twenty years have been strikingly similar to processes underpinning 1950s McCarthyism. First and foremost is the climate of fear and intimidation generated by both McCarthyism and affirmative action. The steamroller metaphor fits both phenomena well. Name-calling and guilt-by-accusation were employed with deadly effects by both anti-communist groups in the 1950s and by pro-affirmative action people in the 1970s and 1980s. In the heyday of McCarthyism, people feared being labeled "communist" or "fellow-traveler." As we have seen in previous chapters, affirmative action critics have been fearful of being called racist for so much as raising questions about such policies. […]
A conflict perspective on both affirmative action and McCarthyism is that both phenomena were manipulated by political and economic elites. Michael Rogin has argued that elites also capitalized upon McCarthyism (Rogin, 1967). Rogin contended that McCarthyism was not an irrational, agrarian, populist, anti-elitist movement produced by "structural strain." It was not a revolt against the elite, for some elites backed McCarthy. McCarthy did have "real support at the grass roots," with Catholic Democratic workers and southerners. But McCarthyism drew much of its power from conservative business elites and conservative Southern senators. McCarthy and his supporters were countenanced by moderate Republicans and even supported to some extent by liberal Democratic elites.
Fred Cook also concluded that elites either backed McCarthyism or simply withered in the face of it:On the highest levels of intellect and leadership, the abdication of responsibility was all but complete. The Democratic-liberal establishment, which should have provided a rallying point, virtually disintegrated before the first onslaught and sought to camouflage itself by riding to the hounds with the foe. (Cook, 1971: 18)
[p.114]The virulent fanaticisms of the past were truly fringe movements; they did not have behind them the power and prestige of the respectable and influential in American society. McCarthyism was different. It had the all-out support of ultraconservative big business interests in rebellion against the twentieth century." (1971: 570)
If one substitutes "Republican-business establishment" for "liberal-Democratic establishment" in Cook's first paragraph, the paragraph aptly depicts the non-response to affirmative action. In the second paragraph, "affirmative action" can be substituted for "McCarthyism" and "ultraliberal political, academic, and mass media interests" for "ultraconservative big business interests." In chapter 10, it will be seen that a small number of institutional elites (notably in civil rights, the media, and government) promoted affirmative action, while other major elites acquiesced.
Whatever the role of elites in affirmative action and McCarthyism, the general parallels are strong. There is no denying the official bullying, the baiting and labeling, the manipulation of guilt and fear, the complicity of the media and institutional paralyses produced by both McCarthyism and affirmative action. Both were personnel screening practices designed with honorable intentions, though the means were less than honorable. Both processes could dissolve into crazes with lasting results: even today, employees of state universities in California must sign a "loyalty oath," a holdover from McCarthyist fervor. And both movements could run over victims who were too startled and disheartened to raise a protest while co-workers and friends looked the other way.
Chapter 9: Affirmative Action, the University, and Sociology
"It is an unlovely spectacle," columnist George Will has written.White lawyers and editorial writers telling blue-collar whites that promotions or jobs or seniority systems must be sacrificed in the name of racial reparations. It calls to mind Artemus Ward's jest during the Civil War: "I have already given two cousins to the war, and I stand prepared to sacrifice my wife's brother rather than the rebellion be not crushed." (1985: 96)
Will might have added sociologists to the list of those instructing white males on the goodness of self-sacrifice on the altar of group equality. White males caught in the web of affirmative action are likely to receive scorn from sociologists and like-minded academicians.
Sociologists' antagonism towards the established middle classes comes somewhat naturally. In part, this antagonism toward the middle classes stems from the clash of collectivist assumptions of sociology with the individualist values of American society. But there are other inherent reasons as well. Peter Berger (1967) has pointed out that sociologists tend to be inherently distrustful; their studies may debunk respectable middle-class views of the world. Furthermore, sociologists value cultural relativism, a cosmopolitan view in which no culture is seen as inherently better than another. Since Berger's analysis, anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois sentiments among sociologists have intensified.
In analyses of affirmative action, anti-middle-class biases slide easily into anti-white bias and rationalization of whites' individual injuries.
Sociologists are ill-disposed to see any genuine grievances among whites caused by affirmative action. Indeed, some sociologists have begun to posit a "new racism" amongst whites. With this newer, more sophisticated racism, white males excuse their economic and occupational failures by scape-goating blacks. Whites who express hostility to affirmative action quotas or minorities are dismissed as believers in antiquated individualism who do not understand the collective realities of stratification and the need for collective remedies.
James R. Kluegel proclaimed this view in the title of his article, "If There Isn't a Problem, You Don't Need a Solution: The Bases of Contemporary Affirmative Action Attitudes" (1985). Stanley Greenberg suggested the "new racism" explanation for white males' opposition to affirmative action in his comments for a Los Angeles Times article on "Racism Runs Deep" (March 8, 1987). Having described Greenberg's findings as showing that "dozens of white blue-collar workers around Detroit . . . blame their own hard times on blacks," the reporters quoted Greenberg as stating, "They [white males] feel the government that was supposed to protect them has instead given everything away to the blacks: Blacks get the jobs, blacks get the welfare; blacks get the loans. . . . They have no historical memory of racism, no tolerance for present efforts to offset it."
The reporters and Greenberg conveniently forgot to add: "present efforts" at whose expense?
Even Marxist-oriented, conflict theorists cannot see the class and age lines of cleavage inherent in affirmative action. They see no legitimacy in the complaints of white males toward such policies. (When I discussed the interviewing for this study, a Midwestern sociologist sniffed with disgust that the reverse discrimination reports of white males might have any merit: "Of course, you realize they'll probably be alibiing." And when a famous Marxist criminologist visited the campus where I taught, he asked about the nature of my current research. When I informed him about my studies of white males and affirmative action, he dismissed the results of the study in advance with a one-liner: "I'll bet your white males were angry." He then changed the subject.)
Chapter 10: Elite Accommodation and the Flaws of Affirmative Action
How did controversial social policy that lacked public support nonetheless become institutionalized? That has been a central question of this book. Chapter by chapter, a number of contributing factors have emerged: the individual and collective silence of the victims; the influence of sex-role behavior upon silence; the collective guilt and individual fear of being labeled racist; the elusive and capricious implementation of affirmative action policies; the ideological bias and self-censorship among the mass media and the social sciences; the spiral of silence; the New McMarthyism; and the craze-like behavior.
Affirmative action has evolved as a set of programs imposed from the top down, over and against public opinion. In this chapter, I wish to focus upon the question of how and why those in positions of power and influence -- the elites -- formulated or at least went along with affirmative action and other race-preference programs.
A standard starting point in examining the role of elites in American life is C. Wright Mills classic study, The Power Elite (1956). Mills's framework, augmented by a recent attitude survey of elites by Verba and Orren (1985), provides a useful portrait of the role of elites in affirmative action policy.
In Mills's view, by the 1950s, a century of economic and political centralization produced three major institutional hierarchies in American society: the large corporations, the executive branch of government, and the military. By the term power elite, Mills meant "those political, economic, and military circles which as an intricate set of overlapping cliques share decisions having at least national consequences. In so far as national events
are decided, the power elite are those who decide them" (1956: 18). Legislative bodies such as the Congress, Mills maintained, had been reduced to the "middle levels of power."
Mills made clear that he saw no well-organized, coherent, unified ruling class. His was a structural analysis of power, not conspiracy theory. What unity existed amongst the elite was due to two factors. First, the elite was ''composed of men of similar origin and education. . . . There were psychological and social bases for their unity, resting upon the fact that they were of similar social type and leading to the fact of their easy intermingling" (1956: 19). Second, the corporate, government, and military sectors were brought together by similar economic and structural interests, most notably, "the development of a permanent war establishment by a privately incorporated economy inside a political vacuum" (1956: 19).
Mills's analysis is useful for this study in that Mills emphasized that: (1) elites are structurally interrelated, and (2) power lies in decision-making. Those who are in the top "command posts" of the major institutional hierarchies can make decisions of enormous consequence with few, if any, democratic checks on such powers. Mills was one of the first social scientists to discern the emergence of centralized, administrative power and rule in society.
Indeed, administrative law is the fastest-growing body of law in the land. The powers wielded by top corporate and government administrators have expanded greatly since Mills wrote The Power Elite. So vast are these powers that Allan Bloom has stated that an "administrative state" has replaced politics (1987: 85). Were he alive today, I suspect Mills would concur. (On the importance of administrative law, see Vago, 1988.)
Mills's emphasis on the giant administrative power wielded by the heads of major corporate and government institutions can be supplemented by a more recent study of elites by Verba and Orren (1985). Fortunately, for purposes of this study, Verba and Orren were specifically concerned with the attitudes of elites towards equality. They collected data on attitudes toward equality from 2,762 institutional leaders in nine elite sectors: business, organized labor, farming, civil rights organizations, feminist groups, political parties, intellectuals, the mass media, and a sample of college seniors at ten elite colleges (1985). Unfortunately, Verba and Orren ignored elites in the executive branch and military, two of Mills's three major organizational hierarchies. However, it can be reasonably assumed that the elites in the military have remained conservative. As for elites in the federal bureaucracy, it has already been seen that they have tended to be quite liberal and activist on matters of affirmative action.
On the other hand, Verba and Orren's addition of elites in the mass media and the intellectuals as well as the "challenging elites" in civil rights and feminist organizations is overdue. (Verba and Orren also included labor leaders in their survey of elites. Mills contended that the labor elites' powers
were derived from legitimation and protection by elites in government. In the case of affirmative action, we shall see that unions usually went along with corporate or government administrators. Only rarely did unions take action on behalf of white males.)
Verba and Orren confirmed Mills's views on the social backgrounds of elites. The elites were mostly white, male, and college educated. Leaders of civil rights organizations, however, were nearly all black and the feminist elites were mostly female. Yet homogeneity of background did not produce a unified outlook on equality or programs to remedy inequality. Verba and Orren found persistent polarities of attitudes between those elites aligned with the Democrats, on the one hand, and Republicans, on the other. Democrats saw poverty and racism as a result of "the system," while Republicans saw such inequalities in individual terms. Democrat-aligned elites favored more government intervention to assist the poor, but few wished to impose equality of results through the use of quotas. In choosing between more traditional equality of opportunity versus the newer and more radical equality of results, Verba and Orren found that the majority of leaders opted for the former:American leaders on both the left and the right share the basic view that individuals may in fact deserve to be unequal in results, because of their own failures. The equality debate in America, therefore, is not over whether anyone really deserves to be at the bottom or whether the losers are always worthy of help from the government, but over whether those currently at the bottom are the ones who deserve to be there, and thus whether the government should assist them. (1985: 83)
Quotas for blacks and women in jobs and education were overwhelmingly rejected by all elites except those of civil rights organizations and feminists. Three out of four black leaders and a majority of feminist leaders supported the use of quotas for blacks in jobs and education. On quotas for women, blacks approved, but feminist leaders split down the middle. As for other liberal groups: "Democrats, youth, labor, and intellectuals, who blame the system for black poverty almost as much as black and feminist leaders do, nevertheless deplore the use of quotas" (1985: 84).
In addition, Verba and Orren found that the elites ranked national priorities differently, and most put race and gender equality towards the bottom of the list.American leaders give different priorities to equality as a national goal, particularly to equality for women and for blacks. . . . Gender equality appears at or near the bottom of the ratings more often than any other goal. Half of the groups place it last, and everyone but feminist leaders, who rank it first, and youth place it among the three lowest categories. Equality for blacks does not fare much better. . . . Only blacks rate it near the top. (1985: 120)
ATTITUDES VERSUS BEHAVIOR ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Based upon Verba and Orren's work, affirmative action quotas can hardly be seen as the product of a consensus agreed upon by national leaders. On the contrary, most elite members opposed quotas, and the elites were split on a variety of related issues.
Yet there is no question of the imposed-from-above nature of affirmative action. Capaldi (1985) even likens the process to fascist-imposed "reform." What, then, was the role of elites in the affirmative action revolution?
Verba and Orren's study contains a major flaw common to attitude studies: the gap between attitudes and actual behavior.
Did elites behave in a manner consistent with anti-quota attitudes? The data presented in Chapter 3 strongly suggest that they did not. Especially in the years since Verba and Orren's survey (1976-77), corporate and political elites appear to have yielded with minimal resistance to quotas imposed by judges or federal agencies. More than that: corporations and government agencies have initiated their own affirmative action quota procedures. Representatives of the corporate and business communities have been filing friends-of-the-court briefs exclusively on the side of pro-affirmative action forces in the Supreme Court.
A CONVERGENCE OF ORGANIZATIONAL INTERESTS ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
A fusion of economic and bureaucratic interests can be seen in the contemporary acceptance of affirmative action procedures.
The desire to "do something" about the minority poor gained initial impetus in the wake of searing urban disturbances -- Watts, Detroit, Newark -- in the 1960s. There was a sense of crisis and fears of economic and racial polarization (Jencks, 1985b). Hiring more blacks at General Motors and in government agencies in Detroit, for example, could clearly be seen by elites as a tactic for cooling urban unrest and bringing members of the underclass into the system.
Once affirmative action rules were formulated, organizations subject to equal opportunity regulations expediently accepted such plans and procedures as routine overhead expenses. Simply in terms of risk management, it has been easier to put up with affirmative action paperwork than to risk harrassment by government agencies, lawsuits, and bad press. A given number of affirmative action hires, who do not perform on a par with non-affirmative action hires, can be tolerated (Jencks, 1985b; Murray, 1984a).
A case that illustrates all of this was Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s victory in a protracted struggle with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sears prevailed largely because the corporation had implemented its
own vigorous quota plan in the 1970s.Business and government entities have learned to live with, even embrace, affirmative action. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose 1,800,000 members include thousands of small businesses typically hostile to government regulation, took no position in the Santa Clara case. Many business organizations filed amicus curiae briefs supporting the program and praised the Supreme Court ruling.
The reason for the business support is simple: a tough affirmative action program now can stave off expensive discrimination suits later. Sears, Roebuck and Co. has spent 15 years fighting charges by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, first in administrative proceedings, then in court. The trial alone lasted 10 months in 1984-85. The 806-store retailer refuses even to reveal how much it spent on lawyers, though it gives a hint. Expenses, including hiring statisticians, sociologists and other expert witnesses, came to $6.8 million and one can guess fees to attorneys were probably at least twice that much.
Sears finally won at trial -- the judgement is on appeal -- against a charge that its female employees tend to be concentrated in lower-paying sales jobs than men because of discrimination. The company's chief litigator in the case . . . specifically credits the court victory to a race-and-sex-conscious hiring program Sears started in 1968 for its work force, now at 300,000. "They have the best," declares Morgan. "Out of every two job openings at Sears they filled one with a black or a woman."
Governments, especially in large cities, similarly view affirmative action plans as a small price to pay for political harmony. (Insight, April 27, 1987: 9)
Yet Sears's victory was a long and costly one: twelve years and $20 million. "The transcript of the 10-month trial in the last case alone is 15 feet high. At one point, Sears employed 250 people full time to compile information, some of it dating back to 1960, to meet EEOC investigatory demands" (Weiner, 1986).
Many other corporations simply capitulated to EEOC rather than drag out negotiations and court contests. When EEOC won a landmark 1973 discrimination settlement with American Telephone and Telegraph, EEOC tried to run up the score with charges against General Electric Co., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and the United Auto Workers. GE settled in 1978 for $32 million for training programs, payments to employees and other steps. Ford's 1980 settlement cost $23 million, and GM's pact in 1983, with the UAW as co-signatory, is about $42.5 million. (Weiner, 1986)
Therefore, it makes economic sense to maintain in-house quota programs, even if a corporation must tolerate a number of unqualified or incompetent workers.
In 1985, the National Association of Manufacturers voted a fresh endorsement of affirmative action. Monsanto and DuPont also have strong affirmative action plans in place and like it that way. Personnel executive
David Buchanan of the Ford Motor Company has stated, "Business decided that affirmative action is the right thing to do. It has become a way of life" (U.S. News and World Report, June 17, 1985: 67).
The use of race-and-gender quotas to ward off legal action by government agencies or lawsuits by members of minority groups had a catch until 1987: the counter-threats of reverse-discrimination lawsuits by white employees. However, in 1987, by a 6-3 decision in Johnson v. Transportation Agency of Santa Clara, the Supreme Court upheld preferential treatment for women based upon numerical under-representation. That decision seemingly released employers from the threat of reverse discrimination lawsuits. But the court's most recent decision in Richmond v. Croson (1989), again opened the door to legal redress by whites. In its Richmond decision, the 6-3 majority held that even the use of "benign quotas" likely violates the rights of white males. The court also cast doubt upon the use of any preferences where there was no evidence of intentional, past discrimination against specific minorities.
Nevertheless, as emphasized in the opening chapter of this book, white males very rarely win reverse discrimination lawsuits; the Bakke and Johnson cases have been the exceptions, not the rule. Reports in this study and in press reports suggest that the EEOC takes a skeptical view of reverse discrimination claims. Employers and educational institutions have undoubtedly become aware of this. It will take several more decisions similar to Richmond before the legal odds change. In the meantime, elites and their institutions clearly have the upper hand. And they know it.
ELITES, THE STEAMROLLER, AND THE SPIRAL OF SILENCE
Though most of those interviewed in the Verba and Orren survey rejected quotas and equality of results, there was a split in views on whether the system or the individual was to blame for poverty situations. Verba and Orren found that a "system-is-to-blame" belief concerning black and female inequality was shared by majorities of Democrat-inclined elites and amongst smaller factions in other elites.
Verba and Orren's finding of a split in the system-is-to-blame philosophy only partially confirms Charles Murray's more sweeping description of a transformation of elite wisdom in the 1960s. Murray argued that the shift moved elite thinking from blaming the victim to blaming the system (1984b). Verba and Orren's findings indicate that a blaming-the-system outlook gained a sufficient number of vocal, elite adherents who intimidated opponents of race-conscious remedies and inhibited organized opposition: the spiral of silence.
To draw a parallel between the behavior of elites and white males interviewed for this study: it is probable that elites have been ignorant of -- or have misperceived -- the consensus in public opinion opposing the use of
quotas. This is especially likely since, according to Verba and Orren, most of the elites ranked equality for blacks and women as a low-priority issue. Issues of low importance typically do not merit much attention and analysis. Since elites did not devote much attention to equality issues, it is reasonable to posit that, when they did, they assumed the vociferous minority and women's groups -- through a quietly sympathetic mass media -- were articulating popular views. Thus, it is likely that Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman's concept of the "spiral of silence" applies equally well to attitudes amongst elites as to attitudes amongst the public at large.
The twin forces of the spiral of silence and the New McCarthyism would have much greater impact among the elites more than among rank-and-file citizens. A major corporate or government leader obviously has a great deal to lose from being tagged as a "racist." Not only might the stigma become attached to the person, but also to the corporation. (One personnel officer interviewed as a background source for this study admitted that he did not discuss affirmative action outside the corporation because he feared that a slip might get not only him but his corporation in trouble.)
In his discussion of Congress's behavior toward affirmative action, sociologist Nathan Glazer implied a spiral-of-silence situation. "In Congress a point of view that may well reflect the opinions of a minority holds sway. The protection of affirmative action is in the hands of Congressmen who care, reflecting the views of civil rights organizations; most others stay away from the issue" (1988: 107).
In his discussion of Congress's behavior toward affirmative action, sociologist Nathan Glazer implied a spiral-of-silence situation. "In Congress a point of view that may well reflect the opinions of a minority holds sway. The protection of affirmative action is in the hands of Congressmen who care, reflecting the views of civil rights organizations; most others stay away from the issue" (1988: 107).
To be exposed to charges of "racism" is terrible public relations for a corporation or government agency. There is little doubt that corporate and government elites remain wary of such labels and judge that going along with affirmative action, whatever the attendant costs, is less costly in terms of the public's goodwill than being labeled racist or sexist.
Elite accommodation to affirmative action preferences, then, can be explained in terms of good public relations, coupled with a desire for stability and "industrial peace" with government agencies and minority/women's groups. Elites are also aware that the odds for legal action by individual white males are small and that the chances for a white male winning a reverse discrimination lawsuit are even smaller. There has been no organized recognition of white males' grievances by major political groups. Following affirmative action preferences directives, then, has been the line of least resistance.
Omitted from this equation was the damage done to white workers and the continued oversight of serious legal and sociological flaws in affirmative action.
Most affirmative action debate has been centered on the black/white dimension, far less often on the male/female dimension. The increasing list of preferred non-black minorities also has been ignored by the social sciences and the print and television media. A strategic reason for focus upon blacks has been the obvious history of discrimination and deep sense of national guilt. The black/white issue is thus the strongest possible case for affirmative action advocates. Even affirmative action critics wind up fighting proponents on this emotionally charged turf (see, for example, Glazer, 1975; Murray, 1984a, 1984b; Capaldi, 1985; Bloom, 1987). High-visibility debate concerning affirmative action for non-black minorities is next to nonexistent.
Contrary to Nathan Glazer's recent reappraisal of affirmative action (Glazer, 1988), many non-black minorities have been, and continue to be, included in affirmative action programs: the numerous Hispanic groups (Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Central Americans, and so forth), Pacific Islanders, American Indians, Asian/Indians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and homosexuals.
Why have so few people asked directly: on what basis do these groups ground their claims for redress through quotas, preferential treatment, or proportional representation? On what basis do we include some groups and exclude others? Especially when many, if not most, of these groups have only recently arrived in significant numbers in the United States?
The omission of non-black minorities from discussion of affirmative action becomes even more extraordinary in view of recent immigration history: by including non-black minorities, one obtains a curious immigration-with-preference paradox.
Most of the government-preferred non-black minorities were present in the United States only in relatively small numbers before 1970. Historical measurement of the Hispanic population is plagued with definitional problems in census procedures, especially prior to 1970. But the numbers of
Hispanics in this nation have been relatively small until the recent large-scale and sustained immigration from Mexico and other Hispanic nations (Moore and Pachon, 1985: 24). […]
Aside from those of Chinese and Japanese ancestry, most Asians in this nation are foreign-born: of the 2,539,800 persons living in the United States who were born in Asia, 47 percent immigrated here in the period from 1975 to 1980; 22.4 percent from 1970 to 1974; 12.0 percent from 1965 to 1969, and 6 percent from . 1960 to 1964. The remaining 12.5 percent immigrated here before 1960.
Another example: for U.S. citizens born in India, 43.7 percent migrated here during 1975 to 1980, and another 33.1 percent from 1970 to 1974.
The point of all this is obvious: why should recent immigrants be given preference over native-born American citizens? What does the United States owe these newly arrived immigrants?
This curious immigration-with-preference paradox, in fact, becomes more astonishing when one realizes that the situation can operate -- and probably has operated -- on a same-day basis: a non-citizen, either legally or with forged credentials, can cross the border and immediately become eligible for affirmative action preference. Incredibly, the immigration-with-preference paradox rarely, if ever, surfaced in the public debates surrounding recent immigration reforms.
Employers have recently discovered that the new immigration act has placed them in something of a dual dilemma: they may be fined for hiring illegal aliens but sued for discrimination if they refuse to hire a worker with dark skin. On the other hand, especially when immigrants may work for lower pay than citizens, affirmative action might provide a useful device to
give preference to legal or illegal immigrants and, thereby, fulfill affirmative action quotas at the expense of citizens. Only rarely has this phenomenon been examined. […]
This emperor-has-no-clothes quality regarding group preferences for non-black ethnics leads one to wonder just how social scientists have avoided the issue. […] Most social scientists and policy makers have ignored the multiplication of "protected groups" in the United States.
Thomas Sowell has wryly observed that the number of "protected groups" in the United States has multiplied to the extent that 70 percent of the population is covered by some form of affirmative action (1985: 14).
None of the white males interviewed for this study nor any of the personnel or affirmative action officers with whom I conducted background discussions had even thought of the immigration-with-preference dilemma. No one knew quite what to say when I raised the issue.