Thursday, 10 December 2009

Invisible Victims: Institutional Responses

Prior post from this book here. [Further posts here and here.]

From Frederick R. Lynch, Invisible Victims: White Males and the Crisis of Affirmative Action (Westport, CT: Praeger Paperback, 1991):


We have seen that nearly all of the men in this study either explicitly or implicitly indicated that they feared being thought unmanly if they complained about a reverse discrimination situation. No one wanted to be perceived as a crybaby. And, as we shall see, if they failed to act out this gender-prescribed behavior, the mass media and other institutions were quick to remind them. Sex-role behavior has had a decisive impact upon how men responded to reverse discrimination and upon how others responded as well.

Traditional sex-role norms have long denigrated male expressions of weakness, powerlessness, or individual failure. Traditional inhibitions against viewing males as powerless have been reinforced today by what Warren Farrell terms a "new sexism," a product of women's liberation. The new sexism, with its emphasis on women's victimization by society, refuses to acknowledge men's vulnerability to pain and injury produced by the same social constraints. Contemporary "male bashing" in popular culture furthers a dehumanized, insensitive image of males. Under both old and new sexism, men cannot be seen as victims.

We have seen this victim-denial process illustrated in the previous chapter. Interestingly, the data indicated that this denial process was strongest among men; wives were often the most sympathetic source of support. We must examine further the social and cultural sources of silence or self-blame among men who have encountered affirmative action obstacles.



During the past ten years, an increasing number of scholars have begun to focus on "men's studies." Amongst the most significant findings have been that males in contemporary America have few close friends and have problems with emotional bonding outside of marriage (Goldberg, 1976; Stearns, 1979; Pleck, 1981; Doyle, 1983; Miller, 1983; McGill, 1985). Miller writes:

The differences in the intimate behavior of men and women are never more apparent than in the area of friendship. . . . Even the most intimate of male friendships (of which there are very few) rarely approach the depth of disclosure a woman commonly has with many other women. We know that very few men reveal anything of their private and personal selves even to their spouses; fewer still make these intimate disclosures to other men.

One man in ten has a friend with whom he discusses work, money, marriage; only one in more than twenty has a friendship where he discloses his feelings about himself or his sexual feelings. (1983: 157)

Elliott Engel observed that "the typical male friendship, unfortunately, comes in one climate only: fair weather." In American culture, he argues, "we've been raised with positive male images that only sanction either standing alone or standing together as a team." Competition, not closeness, is nearly always dominant in the male bond and "the very stuff that intensifies an acquaintanceship into a devoted friendship seems reserved in our society for women only. . . . Men nurture their feelings only inwardly and later harvest ulcers or heart attacks" (1982: 13).

A pioneer in men's studies, Herb Goldberg, observed, "Many men I interviewed admitted to not having one intimate male friend whom they totally trusted and confided in. However, most of them seemed to accept this as being a normal and acceptable condition" (1976: 127).

A decade later, Lillian Rubin stated the same findings in almost identical words. She noted that in survey data, "In sharp contrast to the women, over two-thirds of the single men could not name a best friend. Equally interesting, this was not something that seemed troubling to most of them" (Rubin, 1985: 63). Rubin found it was much the same for married men. She echoed Engel's above remarks on competitiveness and lack of feeling.

But given the wariness with which men approach each other, given their fear of displaying vulnerability or dependency to another man, there's not much incentive to find time for friends. . . Men who claimed years of close friendship failed to confide to each other their distress at any number of conflicts, especially those that touched their personal or work lives in ways they feared would diminish their stature. (P. 66; italics added)


Friendship and Response to Reverse Discrimination

The above findings on men and friendship were vividly illustrated time and again during the interviewing for this study. Though most interviews went smoothly, there was sometimes a sense of "drawing out" buried feelings and emotions. "God, I'd forgot about so much of this," groaned Fred Goldberg in mid-sentence. "Maybe this interview wasn't such a good idea after all." On the other hand, approximately one-third of the subjects seemed glad to air feelings they had never discussed, with the possible exceptions of talking to wives. Some were surprised that anyone was doing a study on this topic.

Whether or not the men eventually obtained any measure of social support, there were deep inhibitions about saying anything at all.

"Why didn't I say anything about it [reverse discrimination incident]? Gee, I hadn't thought about it," mused Dan Elliott. "Pride, I guess. I didn't want to make excuses."

"When it hits you," said Lloyd McCall, "you don't want to admit it at first. Instead, you think it must be something in you. You doubt yourself. Your repress it, try to forget it."

The interviewers and I stumbled into this aspect of male behavior when at least half of the subjects paused or hesitated when asked about how friends responded to accounts of reverse discrimination.

"What do you mean by 'friends'?" was often the response.

What we were encountering was the relative absence of close, personal friendships amongst American males. Most married men's best friends were their wives. Most married or single men had few or no really close friends with whom they could or would confide deep, personal feelings, especially disappointment over a career setback. What friends many respondents had were also co-workers. The overlap between these two categories made responses difficult to classify in some instances. (At least four of the sixteen friends who indicated support in Table 2 were also co-workers.)

Therefore, the seemingly positive data contained in Table 2 of the previous chapter must be read with some caution. To judge by Table 2 alone, half of the men interviewed received support from friends. On the surface, that appears fairly positive. But the "support" was often token or transitory. Correctional officers indicated a cynical, tough solidarity with their colleagues. Community-college teacher Samuel Gray reported the most intense level of solidarity in his court battle against the administration. But these were the exceptions. Most "supportive" friends and relatives simply and briefly acknowledged the problem, then went on their way. Deep or lasting commiseration simply wasn't there.

"People have their own problems," Fred Goldberg dryly concluded.

These men, typical of males in contemporary America, have been conditioned against the communication of deep feelings, especially such taboo


areas as failure on the job. Thus, American males neither individually nor collectively can cope very well with systematic discrimination directed against them.

Karl Marx insisted that for an any sort of class consciousness to arise, there must be communication of a common sense of oppression. But imbued with the doctrines of individual achievement, individual responsibility, competitiveness, "silent but strong," and "take it like a man," there has been no chance of collective awareness, much less organized action by class-conscious white males. Hence, most lawsuits are lonely struggles.

In more traditional settings where more stereotypical thinking still prevails (see Greenberg, 1985), the loss of a job to a minority or female may be doubly damning. Without widespread, collective awareness of affirmative action barriers, a man who loses a job to a minority or female might be opened to double scorn, first, for having lost the job in the first place and, second, for having lost it to a minority or female -- who is presumably less qualified. (Indeed, such stereotypical thought styles may have been reinforced, in some instances, by the promotion of less-qualified -- or unqualified -- persons under the more aggressive forms of affirmative action -- see Chapter 12.)

With the mass media and the social sciences rarely recognizing the phenomenon, much less portraying it sympathetically, white males have been easily and silently victimized one by one. Many men have been quick to blame themselves for their own failure. However, if they have recognized affirmative action problems, they have felt constrained about complaining at all or "carrying on" because this would be a violation of the masculine code of "strong and silent." Thus, white males have been prevented from linking personal problems with public issues, the core of sociological understanding of self and society (Mills, 1959).

The lack of ability to link private problems with public issues was strikingly confirmed with regard to a question on what the subject knew about public-opinion polls on affirmative action. Only two subjects were at all aware that the public had been polled on the issue of affirmative action. Only one subject knew that polls showed massive public opposition to affirmative action as preference. In fact, the subjects' views were very much in line with public opinion. Nearly all of the white males interviewed opposed outright preferential treatment and group-based quotas. Some favored "affirmative action" of some sort, though they did not know how to define it. Many favored some sort of remedial training or education.


The "silent-but-strong" norms of American male sex roles were reinforced by corporations, the mass media, and other institutions. Blaming the victim fused with "take it like a man" in both small group and larger organization settings.


A Wall Street Journal report on corporate attempts to neutralize white male anger over reverse discrimination illuminates management's approach to white male resentment of affirmative action policies.

A special supplement to the regular March 24, 1986, edition of the paper was devoted to a report on Corporate Women. One story was entitled "The Last Angry Men: Some Companies Begin Confronting Men's Resentment of Successful Women" (p. 18 D).

According to reporter David Wessel, a consequence of white males' competing with women and minorities is an "inevitable backlash." Corporate managers have allowed men to blame affirmative action barriers for their own failures and have permitted resentment to "smolder unchecked." Therefore, "now a few big employers are trying the only remedy they can think of. They're attempting to bring the anger out of the closet on the theory that resentment that's exposed can be defused." The rest of the report and some others like it (see the Newsweek item below) make clear that "defused" means "neutralized," if not "brainwashed."

Merck & Co. of Rahway, N.J., was one of the first companies to require large number of employees to attend carefully structured discussions of affirmative action. The all-day sessions included a video of a white male executive warning a white male middle manager about his persistent failure to meet company affirmative action goals. The subordinate responded with a diatribe on affirmative action that was supposed to ignite a discussion among the viewers.

And it did, says Lawrence Branch, Merck's director of equal employment affairs. . . . Of the 17,000 company employees who participated, 69% said they had a more positive attitude toward affirmative action. An additional 28% said they hadn't changed their minds. . . .

Mead Corp. sent all 6,000 of its salaried workers to half-day affirmative action seminars between November 1983 and last July. "In the event a position I want is offered to a woman, I may be somewhat more understanding about the company's need to be progressive," says Jerry Josselyn, 27, a financial analyst who attended a Mead seminar. (1986: 180)

To grasp what is going on here one might ask, would corporations sponsor similar sessions for women and minorities to help rationalize discrimination against them? Of course not.

The entire article reeks of the assumption that white males lose out only in "fair competition" to women and minorities. At times, perhaps, they do. Other times, however, the game has been rigged and white males have lost opportunities to less qualified minorities or women. Reporter Wessel ignored that possibility and the legitimacy of frustration which must accompany such setbacks.

What we have here is a kind of play-within-a-play: an article describing how corporations rationalize preferential treatment and blame the victims for being angry while the article itself implicitly does the same thing. Both the reporter and those he reports upon blame the victim.


Similar strategies have been employed by corporate management to deal with more general racial tensions. Newsweek (March 7, 1988) carried an article on a racial "awareness" seminar utilized by corporations such as Bell Laboratories, AT&T and Mead Corp. on white racism. Using confrontational techniques, seminar leader Charles King tries to create an "atmosphere of oppression" that will convince participants that white institutions are inherently racist.

Los Angeles Times reporters Lee May and Paul Houston claimed that "affirmative action has won grudging acceptance in the work place" and that "despite continued sharp criticism from the Reagan administration, the anxieties created when minorities and women first received preferential treatment in hiring have begun to fade away" (1985: 1).

Yet the data in their report indicate a clear management-worker split in the "acceptance" of affirmative action. Many white and black corporate managers do appear to accept such programs. Female and minority persons quoted in May and Houston's article also accept affirmative action.

Virtually none of the white male workers quoted in the May and Houston article accept affirmative action. On the contrary, the white workers expressed anger, bitterness, or grim resignation about quotas in both hiring and promotion. The reporters describe one person whose wounds have obviously not healed: a Boston policeman who was thrice injured.

To white officer William McCarthy, the special advantage given blacks on Boston's new sergeant's exam is grossly unfair and demoralizing. McCarthy, who like Eversley holds a college degree in criminal justice, already considers himself a twotime "victim" of affirmative action. His hiring was delayed for five years and he was laid off once despite having more seniority than blacks who were kept on the job. (1985: 15)

May and Houston also indicate a differential acceptance of affirmative action in the private sector as opposed to the public sector: "If affirmative action has proceeded smoothly at private employers such as Monsanto -- it continues to generate ill will elsewhere" (p. 15 ).

The headline and initial positive thrust of May and Houston's article sought to reinforce the corporate management party line of "everything's fine" on affirmative action. But the data in their article indicated otherwise. Indeed, problems in reporting on the story -- related by Houston in a telephone conversation -- suggest this possibility. In some settings, notably police and fire departments, workers were instructed not to talk to outsiders about affirmative action operations. But May and Houston found white workers nonetheless cooperative, even eager, to discuss affirmative action. Houston mentioned that he and his co-reporter were "shooed away" from employees in a company cafeteria. Therefore, they interviewed many workers off-premises or off-duty.



I am, perhaps, getting ahead of the plan of the book in discussing the media in this chapter when more detailed examination is in the next. However, the media are crucial in molding people's perceptions of reality, especially with regard to social issues. Therefore, what sort of response was offered by the media to white males who had encountered reverse discrimination? The same response provided by some co-workers, friends, and corporations: denial or blaming-the-victim.

The mass media basically ignored affirmative action. When they did portray a reverse discrimination situation, the message was that white males should simply "take it like a man." In 1975, an "All in the Family" episode was the first commercial situation comedy to broach the issue. Archie Bunker's "meathead" son-in-law was competing with a slightly less qualified black student for a graduate fellowship. The black student got the award, and the dean explained to Mike that "we sometimes have to tip the scales a little bit to make up for past discrimination." Mike was still somewhat frustrated but took the black student and his wife out to dinner in a gesture of reconciliation. No real harm was done and Mike later in the series obtained a position at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

A textbook model of blaming the victim was offered white males by Newsweek magazine's "My Turn" column. Frank Lovelock had been reduced to day labor because of a glutted job market for Ph.D.s and by quotas. Lovelock commented on his attempts to commiserate with a fellow daylaborer, a black male named Charlie:

I didn't tell him [ Charlie] how cheated I felt for spending so much time pursuing a Ph.D., only to enjoy a permanent sabbatical without pay. I didn't tell him about the rage I'd known when a female friend confided that I was wasting my time applying for a position at a local college because word was out that the department had to hire a woman. I didn't tell him that I had begun to buy into the ideas that reverse discrimination and hiring quotas were evils that worked against the principles of fair play. And I didn't tell him that I wanted some organization -- the National Association for the Advancement of White Protestant Males Who've Never Made It -- to carry my banner, to speak out in my defense, to give me rationales for coping with personal failure.

I'm glad I didn't serve this mush to Charlie. It was stinky stuff. Cooked up in a caldron of self-pity, it wasn't fit for human consumption. Unfortunately, I had started to become addicted to it. I hope to goodness that it's out of my system now.

There were good reasons that Charlie and I had been habitually unemployed. But these reasons had more to do with us as individuals, I think, than they did with any conspiracy to keep us out of the mainstream. Neither of us had really taken control of our lives. . . . Strange, I don't hear Lee Iacoca, Jesse Jackson, or Barbara Walters advancing this doctrine. (September 16, 1985: 8)


Would Newsweek have printed such a column if it had been written by a black man for other blacks? To ask the question is to know the answer. The import of Lovelock's public self-flagellation was clear enough for white males: blame yourself, not the system, and especially do not criticize affirmative action. If you do, you're making excuses. Anyone can make it to the top in America if they try! Stop whining and get on with it!

Lovelock and Newsweek were articulating the values that reinforce blaming the victim and that underpin the American male, sex-role behavior: individualism, responsibility for self, and self-blame. Admittedly, these values have been a powerful motivating mechanism for many American males. And this sex-role orientation has also made white males vulnerable to the steamroller of affirmative action.


No institution has more vigorously suppressed white males' claims of injury under affirmative action than has the Democratic party and its liberal allies in the mass media and the university. I shall have much more to say concerning the possible political impact of affirmative action quotas in Chapter 12. Suffice it to say here that, after twenty years of pushing race and gender preferences, the Democratic party has begun to search for a way to stem the flight of white, male voters to the Republican presidential candidate. According to Newsweek (November 18, 1984: 58), 73 percent of the white, male vote nationwide went to Ronald Reagan in 1984, and in some regions the figure was close to 90 percent. Similar patterns prevailed in the 1988 presidential election.

Walter Mondale's landslide loss of the 1984 awakened the concerns that led to Stanley Greenberg's embarrassing research findings of anti-quota anger in Report on Democratic Defection in Michigan. I have already discussed in Chapters 1 and 5 the acrid denunciations of preferential treatment programs that Greenberg and his associates obtained in their 1985 and 1987 studies. Again, the strength of the outbursts surprised Greenberg and his colleagues -- and his sponsors, as well.

What is of interest here is the reception accorded Greenberg's findings by his sponsors. Greenberg presented these and other similar data to a convention of state Democratic party chairpersons. He reported that "they were not pleased." The next day, the Democratic party's national committee met and, according to scattered reports in the press, attempted to suppress Greenberg's reports -- which nonetheless got some play in Michigan newspapers. Yet the findings had such profound implications that another study was commissioned in 1987. Initially, the findings were kept under tight wraps, though Greenberg admitted the findings on affirmative action were much the same.

The Democratic party has fought to render invisible the issue of affirmative action. It also has denied white males the right to legitimate complaint


under such treatment -- it has tried to deny the victims altogether. At least one prominent Democrat, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano, has directly stated that Democratic support of affirmative action, coupled with failure to understand the legitimate objections of whites to such policies, is a major reason the Democrats have not carried a majority of white voters in presidential elections since Harry Truman's election in 1948 -- with the sole exception of Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (Califano, 1988).


There is little question that institutional responses to white males' encounters with affirmative action barriers has generated alienation and tension. More research needs to be conducted on how both white males and the institutions have dealt with these feelings. Also, what have been the human costs in terms of time, energy, and commitment lost to both the victims of reverse discrimination and the perpetrators?

The mass media might have studied such questions. But they have not.



MLJ said...

I assume that this is about positive discrimination. I believe that liberalism is viewed by many as being all-inclusive,kind and understanding. That is why they are so surprised when the reality of what is going on hits them (viz the Christian hoteliers).
In fact it seems to me that PC/ cultural marxism selects its own victims and is merciless towards them. I suppose that all regimes do this but not in the name of equality?

fellist said...

I agree that PC/CM has its own designated victims, but I’m not sure that there are many liberal true-believers out there.

I grew up in Bradford in the 80s and 90s and while I heard many working and middle class Englishmen and women complain about Pakistanis, mass immigration, and institutional bias against Whites as Whites, I don’t remember ever hearing anyone advocating ‘positive discrimination’ or higher levels of immigration.