The Labor Department's Biased Report on Reverse Bias

January 01, 1996  ·  Michael Fumento  ·  Racism

As humorist Dave Barry might write, "I swear I am not making this up." Robert Reich’s Department of Labor has released a report saying that reverse discrimination — discrimination against whites, or males because of race or gender — is practically non-existent.

If you have trouble buying that, the media didn’t. The Washington Post headline ran: "Study Finds Little Evidence of Reverse Discrimination," while the Associated Press’s story was entitled, "Report: Reverse Bias is Rare." Also rare, indeed non-existent, was anybody quoted in rebuttal.

It certainly would have been nice to hear the reaction from the two California professors who wrote that state’s anti-reverse discrimination initiative. How silly they — and the great majority of Californians polled who say they support the initiative — must feel to find out they’re seeking to outlaw a figment of their imagination.

On the other hand, reporters were able to find people supporting the report. AP quoted executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Ralph Neas, as saying, "It further shatters one of the myths about affirmative action, that reverse discrimination is widespread."

The report’s author, Rutgers University Professor Alfred Blumrosen, wrote, "This research suggests that the problem of `reverse discrimination’ is not widespread." He refers to it in quotes, emphasizing that the very term is questionable. You know, like when the liberal media writes about "the liberal media."

Yet how did Blumrosen reach his conclusion? It boils down to this: Reverse discrimination claims are rarely filed with the federal government. Moreover, even when they are filed, they rarely succeed.

Apparently it never occurred to Blumrosen, Neas, nor any of the reporters who covered the story that maybe, just maybe, the reason there are so few official complaints about reverse discrimination is that the practice is legal. It’s the law of the land. A person denied a job or promotion in 1994 because he’s a white male is no more likely to file a complaint than would a black man denied a job or promotion back in 1954. Blumrosen is like a 1950s southern sheriff saying, "Yup, our Negroes here are happy as pigs in slop. They most never complain. And when they do, they’s always wrong."

Reverse discrimination is in fact so routine that we hardly even notice it. You probably don’t even think twice about it when that employment application you fill out asks your race and ethnic background, do you? But no, it wasn’t because they’re trying to identify black people to give them free sickle cell screening.

Government employers, especially colleges and universities, routinely give jobs and promotions to women and minorities who lack the qualifications of white males. (The University of Wisconsin’s program of restricting employment opportunities for white males was set up by a lady named Donna Shalala.) Various federal and local contracting programs discriminate against whites, including those of the Department of Transportation.

It is DOT’s that is now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court by a white-owned Colorado Springs, Colorado construction company. The agency bypassed his bid to build federal highway guard rails in favor of a higher bid from a Hispanic-owned firm.

While reverse discrimination in police department hiring can sometimes be justified on racial grounds because there can be advantages to having minorities serving in minority hirings, it’s the mandated hiring of women that has put the squeeze on white male police applicants. In the Los Angeles police department at one point a woman could get hired with an exam score of 94, a black male 95, and a Hispanic male 96. But a white male had to score more than 100 on an exam that only went up to 100! College applications programs, though not covered by Blumrosen’s review, almost universally discriminate against whites.

One of the few universities that has released its affirmative action application acceptance data is the University of California at Berkeley. In 1989 it turned away about 2,800 white students with perfect 4.0 GPAs, while half the minority students it admitted that year had scores below a 3.53 GPA.

The key to surviving a court challenge with such discrimination is to just use the right terminology for your program. "Quota" or "preference" might get you in trouble. But use the words "goals," "set asides," and "timetables," and you’ll be hard to beat.

How to explain such foolishness as this report?

Simple. Affirmative action is Blumrosen’s baby. Yes, the newspapers forgot to tell you that Blumrosen is former director of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a long-time promoter of programs that favor minorities over males and whites.

Assigning Blumrosen to evaluate reverse discrimination was the equivalent of Judge Lance Ito dismissing the jury and replacing it with 12 people wearing t-shirts reading, "O.J, we still love you."

There are arguments to be made that reverse discrimination is necessary, especially in some highly limited instances. What is not debatable is that reverse discrimination is the inherent flip side of affirmative action. For every person given a position who would not have gotten it on individual merit, someone else who did merit it has been denied.

Blumrosen himself says 12 million Americans have benefited from affirmative action. If so, then that’s the number of Americans who have suffered reverse discrimination: 12 million.

Black author James Baldwin once observed, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." Apparently that’s just what Professor Blumrosen and the Labor Department are counting on.