Affirmative Action

Will Trump's America Demand Quotas for Whites?

India's upper-caste protests show that the scenario is not so bizarre.

|

Imagine a day in America when privileged whites mount a movement to fight for affirmative action and racial quotas—for themselves.

That might seem farfetched, but without a major rethinking of these programs, such a scenario might simply be a bad economy and an opportunistic demagogue away.

For proof, consider India, where the affirmative action war (they call them "quotas" and "reservation" in India) has

White March
holotone / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

entered a new phase. No longer are upper-caste Hindus aggressively fighting to end India's 60-year-old quota regime in university admissions and government jobs. Instead, led by a 22-year-old upper-caste firebrand, Hardik Patel, they are now marching in the streets demanding a piece of the quota pie for themselves.

Reservation was enshrined in India's constitution to undo centuries of caste-based discrimination by giving India's lowest castes and disenfranchised tribes a leg up. It was supposed to sunset in 10 years. Instead, the whole system has taken on a complex life of its own.

In 1952, India's constitution set aside only 22.5 percent of seats and jobs for dalits or untouchables—who were at the absolute bottom of the caste ladder—and some very poor and "backward" tribes. But over time, vote-grubbing politicians expanded the size of these quotas, to 50-plus percent, and their scope, to encompass not only dalits but OBCs—"other backward castes"—a catchall category that includes anyone politicians say it does. Even super-elite engineering and medical schools that were once regarded as pure meritocracies and therefore off limits to quotas are now required to set aside about a quarter of their seats.

Reservation has always been a thorn in the side of upper-caste Hindus who resent that less qualified lower-caste candidates get substantial preferences in admissions. But when quotas were expanded to OBCs in the mid-1990s, some upper-caste students went so far as to publicly immolate themselves to protest the unfairness of the system and demand its end.

That, however, is not Hardik Patel's agenda. He wants the government to classify the Patels as a "backward" caste so that they too can benefit from quotas. Never mind that the Patels, famous in America for dominating the motel business, are neither "backward" nor poor—nor, for that matter, underrepresented in high office. In India, they have historically been major landowners and merchants who have had the market cornered in the diamond polishing business. Not all are rich, but very few live below the poverty line. And in Gujarat, Hardik's home state where 15 million of India's 270 million (Gujjar) Patels live, several chief ministers, including the current one, have been Patels.

Still, for the past two weeks, Hardik has brought Gujarat to a standstill with his protests. He himself was a mediocre student who barely scraped through college, he admits. But he says he's fighting on behalf of students like his sister, who was rejected from a medical school where her OBC friend was accepted despite lower scores. Indeed, stories about top-tier upper-caste candidates losing out to barely qualified lower-caste ones are an outrage staple in every upper-caste Indian household. Hence, Hardik's militant speeches urging upper-caste solidarity—and ostracism of caste traitors—have attracted millions of "respectable" people, prompting alarmed state authorities to impose curfews and (stupidly) detain him. That, of course, only added to his allure. He is now planning to take his crusade national and make common cause with other similarly disaffected upper castes in other states by marching across the country on the same path that Mahatma Gandhi walked to oust the British.

No doubt Gandhi, who fought for the rights of dalits even harder than he fought the British, would be spinning in his grave. But Hardik and his supporters are convinced that playing the victim and fighting for caste spoils over a merit-based system is the right thing to do.

So here's the question: Will America's anti-affirmative action movement (that has so far restricted itself to the laudable goal of pushing ballot initiatives to end race-based admissions) make a similar U-turn?

At first blush, it appears unlikely. For starters, there is far more white guilt in America about slavery than there is among India's upper castes about caste oppression. What's more, preferences in America have never quite reached the highs (or lows!) they have in India. Under-represented minorities might get a leg up in elite American universities, but they are required to meet minimum qualifications that very often lower-caste candidates in India don't. Most importantly, however, unlike India's constitution, America's legal traditions generally hew to the ideal of color-blindness, offering those who oppose preferences legal redress that quota opponents in India don't have.

But what's ultimately fueling Hardik's movement is economic frustration. The upper castes in India were willing to tolerate quotas when the economic pie was growing fast enough that they didn't care about losing some opportunities due to a policy, even an unfair one, in the name of greater social justice. (Unfairness is a luxury good!)

But India's brief flirtation with economic liberalization in 1992 produced a revolution of rising expectations without private jobs and opportunities to fulfill them. Today India has a quota system that leaves many in the upper castes totally high and dry, and that seems utterly intolerable. (The irony here is that India's upper castes are doubling down on this system even as dalits, who experienced a significant economic and social improvement for the first time in India's history after liberalization, are recognizing that markets are more reliable means for progress than quotas, as noted by the Cato Institute's Swaminathan Aiyar.)

America's privileged classes might be more benevolent and better off than India's. But the white working class in America is hardly immune to cracking under the competitive pressures of a globalized economy that constantly threatens its economic security and mobility. It is precisely such anxieties that Donald Trump has exploited to scapegoat immigrants and catapult himself to the top of the GOP's 2016 ranks. Is it so inconceivable then that Trump—or someone like him—could one day pull a Hardik and channel white economic anxieties and resentment over "reverse discrimination" into a demand for preferences for whites?

Quotas and racial preferences stem from a noble impulse to redress past oppression, no doubt. But they ultimately depend on majority buy-in, and are too vulnerable to being co-opted by powerful interests.

India shows that relying on neutral standards that apply equally to all to distribute opportunities might be a safer—and cleaner—way to promote social justice.

This column originally appeared in The Week.

NEXT: More criticism of the First Amendment Defense Act from the right

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. OHHH naah

    1. “Will Trump’s America Demand Quotas for Whites”

      I certainly hope so. It’s past time we get America back on an even keel with equality for EVERYONE!

  2. We should fight this looming threat by recognizing the burden of rich, White men in America and make sure that the exploitation of White male CEOs ends right here.

    Shikha, you would know better than me… Do you think that the reason why there are still Maoists in India stems from the fact that there are people there that think they are descendants from God and go around acting that way?

    1. Your a socialist,a evil form of government the killed 100 millon or so people.Anyone that believes in it is evil,so,go to hell.And Mao was one of the worst.

    2. The point is that we should not give so many advantages to historically disadvantaged groups that we start to actively disadvantage the historically advantaged groups. Because they will get pissed and start acting like the upper castes in India (assuming Shikha’s characterization of the situation is correct).

      Another way of thinking about this is “all people are created equal and should be treated equally by the government”.

      1. “Another way of thinking about this is “all people are created equal and should be treated equally by the government”.”

        That sounds like something written on an old piece of paper by a bunch of long dead white guys. /sjw

        1. JWatts,
          yes, and I imagine most of us nod and agree with your ironic jest at the expense of PC nonsensical teaching about civics-yet in truth, in some places here we are teaching kids and young adults that we suck, our past sucks, etc. The article is dead wrong about a scant presence of PC hiring in America-at least a third of US hiring is direct Gov, or Gov related-and both are often laden with PC demands. Other NGO hiring self imposes the same here and there, and good luck fighting it.

          I hope as tech improves, and we all have the equivalent of body cams and legal zoom cyberlawyers ready to advise, that a more squeaky-fair marketplace prevails. If more are aware of ridiculous injustices, more are likely to vote for elimination of ridiculous policies that mandate them.

    3. Because every white male is a CEO billionaire, dontcha know.

      A self proclaimed socialist spouting drivel. What a surprise.

  3. We’ve had racial quotas since the end of the Lochner era.

  4. Imagine a day in America when privileged whites-

    Well, I’m out.

  5. People like president Obama and Miss Kim in Kentucky can break laws, but still have people that support them for whatever reason. Neutral policies that are fair and favor no particular group wouldn’t work in the U.S. because we’re so polarized and against each other.

  6. Did anybody else think of House Tyrell and other Game of Thrones imaginaria when reading about the Patels?

  7. I for one look forward to embracing my now white privilege quota power !

  8. i guess the idea of “redressing past oppressions” could be seen as noble in the abstract (if you think something you do now can affect something that happened in the past), but doing something immoral now seems like a very poor way of trying to compensate for people having done something immoral in the past

    1. Two Wongs do not make a White!

      1. Occidents happen!

    2. Those past oppressions can reverberate into the present. And it is noble to want to counter that. What’s not noble is wanting to do so through government force.

      1. yeah i mean i do see coming from a disadvantaged background limiting your options, but we can’t really raise people up, all we can do is keep other people down. if your goal is absolute fairness regardless of what you have to do to get there than yes, of course we need affirmative action stuff, but as good as the end is im not sure it justifies the means

      2. More whites were brought over a slaves than Africans. Why don’t we ever talk about those past oppressions done to the (mostly) Irish?

        Because they don’t matter today, all those people are long dead and there grandchildren are long dead. It is the past. Everything else is grievances to divide and conquer

        1. 1) I want to see a cite for that. I know a lot of Irish were sent to work in the Caribbean but that it was more than Africans is hard for me to believe.

          2) Regardless of the historical accuracy of your claim, I’m not really concerned with who suffered more in the past. The reality is that there are people that get stuck in cycles of poverty in the here and now. There is nothing wrong with wanting to help those people. And there is also nothing wrong with recognizing that these disparities fall largely (not entirely, but largely) along racial lines. I don’t blame slavery for that, but there is more to race history in the U.S. than slavery. I can buy that Jim Crow, the War on Drugs, and some of the Great Society reforms that were intended to help but have actually done more harm than good all play big roles.

    3. …but doing something immoral now seems like a very poor way of trying to compensate for people having done something immoral in the past.

      I think that the solution to this is to replace the idea of reparations with a return to dueling. It gets at the issues both of historical grievances and armed violence, so we can watch the Social Justice Left explode like a computer having a conversation with Captain Kirk!

  9. It appears that India is approaching the US in embracing a culture of victimhood. We need to put our top minds on this right away, to avoid being surpassed.

  10. This is actually the system that should be blamed to destroy the education by inventing the quoata system. The professionals of Help with Essay | EssayEmpire.co.uk are against this system and they demand a good education system.

  11. Silly Shikha, there will never BE a Trump’s America.

  12. Reservations to BC/SC/ST should continue till Upper caste/Brahmin/Patel cleans manhole in streets for 2000 years;

  13. Patel is barking at the wrong “OBC” tree;

    Upper caste/Brahmin are just 3% in India and grabbed more than 50% Cabinet ministers/Judges/UPSC/Private jobs in India;

    Brahmin population is less than 3% in India; Check the number of Brahmin in Narendra Modi regime;

    Parrikar is Brahmin; Doval is Brahmin; Gadkari is Brahmin; Sumitra is Brahmin; Sushma is Brahmin; Jaitely is Brahmin; Smriti is Brahmin; Nirmala is Brahmin; Suresh Prabhu is Brahmin; Ravi Shankar is Brahmin; Kalraj Mishra is Brahmin;Maneka is Brahmin; Ananth Kumar is Brahmin;Anant Geete is Brahmin;Harsh Vardhan is Brahmin;Nadda is Brahmin;Jayant Sinha is Brahmin; Dharmendra Pradhan is Brahmin;Piyush Goyal is Brahmin; Mahesh Sharma is Brahmin;Manoj Sinha is Brahmin;

  14. That might seem farfetched, but without a major rethinking of these programs, such a scenario might simply be a bad economy and an opportunistic demagogue away.

    Of course it’s a lousy idea. But it’s no more lousy than quotas for everybody else. But by the logic of progressivism, given that whites are statistically underrepresented in IT and basketball, I’d like progressives to explain their logic behind quotas for one race and no quotas for another

    The usual explanation goes something like “whites (=people with light skin) used to oppress blacks (=people with dark skin)”, but that doesn’t work historically. In the US, the non-slavery states always had the majority of the population, and even in slave holding states, the vast majority of whites were not slave holders. In addition, slave holding wasn’t restricted to whites; blacks in the US were slave owners as well (and in Africa, the primary perpetrators of slavery were black). Numerous whites lost their lives fighting slavery, and many millions immigrated long after slavery was abolished. Finally, if you’re looking for a group of people most close related to the old slave owners, it’s not whites, due to rape and extramarital affairs, it’s blacks from the South.

    So, while it is true that the primary victims of slavery were dark skinned and most slave owners were light skinned, it doesn’t logically follow that anybody with light skin is therefore responsible for slavery.

    1. Finally, if you’re looking for a group of people most close related to the old slave owners, it’s not whites, due to rape and extramarital affairs, it’s blacks from the South.

      I’m not buying that without some evidence.

      1. The surviving rich white land and slave owners fled to Brazil at the war’s end. They are still there and live in a very similar way than they did before the war. It is a surreal place to visit.

        I never thought of that before, but yeah, the blood lines of the antebellum aristocracy still in the US are probably best represented in the southern black population.

      2. It follows from simple demographics and history. The vast majority of whites immigrated after the abolition of slavery or are descendants of northerners. On the other hand, Africans didn’t immigrate in large numbers after the end of slavery. Yet African Americans all have a significant percentage of white ancestry. Obviously, most of that white ancestry has to have been from southern slave holding states, so even without rape and infidelity by slave owners, African Americans as a whole would be statistically more closely related to slave owners than whites as a whole. But we know that, actually, slave owners frequently slept with female slaves, making the relationship even stronger.

        You’re welcome to try to come up with a counterargument: in what possible way do you think that the average 21st century white American is more closely related to slave owners than the average 21st century black American?

      3. I’m not buying that without some evidence.

        Here’s a piece from SCIENCE/AAAS from last December discussing research compiled using 500,000 American genetic samples from 23&Me;, looking at how the averages break down among different races (blacks averaged 73% African, 23% European).

        Genetic study reveals surprising ancestry of many Americans

        The source of that article, from that research, is a journal article from CELL (published this January).

        The Genetic Ancestry of African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans across the United States

    2. right my great grandparents on my dads side and great great grandparents on my mother’s immigrated in the early to mid twentieth century. if somebody has to pay reparations for what their ancestors did, which makes sense, as you are totally responsible for the actions of people who died before you were born, if you inherited any of their genes, it shouldnt be me. interesting how reparations have been rebranded a affirmative action

  15. Okay, I have a few problems:

    “America’s privileged classes might be more benevolent and better off than India’s. But the white working class in America is hardly immune to cracking under the competitive pressures of a globalized economy that constantly threatens its economic security and mobility.”

    How is the white working class a ‘privileged class?’ We’re talking about people who are basically lower middle class when it comes to an American standard of living.

    Secondly, you don’t give any evidence as to why India’s idiotic proposals on this subject have anything to do with a potential Trump presidency. No one here has even proposed quotas for white people. Moreover, America is going to be majority non-white by 2040 at current growth rates. Even today we’re 37% non-white. If someone tried to implement pro-white quotas you’d have close to 40% of the country opposed before you even got into all the white people who would be repulsed by the idea. Anyone who tried to implement that would be booted from office.

  16. Affirmative action for whites or for boys isn’t unknown in American magnet schools and universities. The stated justification for affirmative action keeps changing from addressing past injustices to promoting diversity to reflecting the community to who knows what next.

  17. I made sure that my kids’ birth certificates did not list them as “white”. If this fucking bullshit of racial preferences is going to be around for the foreseeable future I want them to have the option of listing themselves as “other” if they want to for reasons of employment or schooling. Fuck progressives with a rusty hammer. It is one small way to protest their racist crap. I encourage as many people do this as possible to bring down their central planning schemes.

    1. “It is one small way to protest their racist crap.”

      You are not protesting anything. You are shamelessly buying into the system in the expectation that racial otherness will benefit your children.

      1. I am not buying into fuck all. I have merely made the decision that the government will not determine the race of my offspring. They will.

    2. Yes! It is NOT the government’s business what my ancestry is, nor my child’s. And like Doctor Whom said, the reasons for these qoutas keeps changing–what reason will be given next? So the government gets to continue to hold human beings back and/or compel certain outcomes based on things beyond an individual’s control…..and it’s completely legal (in this constitution shredding environment.)

      Finally, what is the deal with this over played, overly simplistic, and binary black/white non sense? America is made up of many ancestral backgrounds. Where I grew up, the population was about 30% Native American. The local National Guard units reflect a similar proportion. But when the active duty bean counters from the inspection teams come in; that isn’t diverse—that isn’t their “ideal.” There aren’t enough of “group X.” Who is looking out for Native Americans in this ‘regime of fairness’? Fairness programs aren’t fair. Let free people be free. We are big enough boys and girls to figure out with whom we want to associate based on their behavior.

      1. Straight up. 20 years ago I was given a form that had twenty different racial designations. There were about ten different Asian categories. There was one for ‘white’. Since then I have picked ‘other’ or ‘decline to state’.

  18. Oh, and fuck Shikha as well. She belongs at The Nation, not reason.

    1. I have a dream that one day Reason will start hiring real libertarians once again.

      1. I’ll believe that when I see it!

    2. Yes, I have grown tired of her non-libertarian screeds. Representing freedom, she does not.

      1. The libertarian position is that government should not be discriminating based on race. Full stop.

  19. the Patels, famous in America for dominating the motel business

    Oh yeah, everyone knows the Patels. We’re talking about Pi, right?

    1. lol Pi

      I knew this gal named Raj Patel, an exchange student in Texas. She was very attractive and exotic.

      Yeah white affirmative action, I’ll bet that’s right around the corner lmao

  20. Quotas are stupid. Diversity is a fact, and should exist organically, not via regulation.

    1. “Diverse society will fail” –Putnam;
      http://www.boston.com/news/glo…..diversity/

  21. The ” fight for affirmative action and racial quotas” is a zombie movie from the point of view of a zombie, where the live people are the bad guys.

  22. “Imagine a day in America when privileged whites mount a movement to fight for affirmative action and racial quotas?for themselves.”

    Why not? The “logic” of diversity is quotas. Why should whites put up with a ceiling on their participation, while other groups only have a floor?

    1. Exactly. Something has changed. For 30 yrs or so it was impossible to seriously and openly call the SJWs evil liars. There was no word for ‘SJW’. I am now seeing that change. I was beginning to think it was impossible.

      The libertarians who write and post here seem completely blind and deaf to it. All they see and hear is COLLEGE RAPE POLICY and “get all gays gay married!!!” A moment is coming. It isn’t the libertarian moment. The libertarians have become the SJWs. Crying, weeping, whining little SJWs. At the worst possible moment. The ash heap of history awaits you, wood chippers.

  23. Is it so inconceivable then that Trump?or someone like him?could one day pull a Hardik and channel white economic anxieties and resentment over “reverse discrimination” into a demand for preferences for whites?

    Yes. Yes, it’s inconceivable, you fearmongering pants-shitter. Jesus Fucking Christ on a bicycle, you just compared the racism of mouthbreather yokels to the Indian caste system. Think about that for a moment. This article is bad and you should feel bad.

    1. Shikha is a SJW on the “flood America with foreigners” front.
      She is using this subject – comparing a system whereby the “advantaged” and “disadvantaged”, if placed side-by-side, were indistinguishable, to our skin-color/other-worldly based system of reverse discrimination – as a sideways attack on Trump’s belief in the rule-of-law and the need for secure borders.
      SJW’s have one thing in common – no matter what ridiculous reasoning they can come up with, or how bad the consequences – they never feel bad about their efforts.
      It is done for our own good.

  24. To summarize this article:

    “A bunch of really stupid affirmative-action stuff is taking place in a big country on the other side of the world.

    Donald Trump might cause the same thing in the U.S. I have no logical basis for writing this; I just think he’s a dick.”

    1. Well, never let logic get in your way of forming an opinion. Just don’t share it with us.

  25. This is a fucking stupid idea.

  26. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.online-jobs9.com

    1. How hard is it to set up a filter to reject spam? Or would that go against libertarian principles?

  27. It’s not a noble impulse. It’s an emotional, self-defeating, conscience salving impulse.

    We work best when we work for our own interests. The best way to help people is to help people help themselves.

    1. Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

  28. Why would America want to welcome Indian bigots into the country?

  29. the Patels, famous in America for dominating the motel business,

    That’s racist!

    1. Google “map shows most racist people on earth”;You’ll be SURPRISED;
      http://goo.gl/eEgavk

  30. Let us give Independence, not Reservations to Upper caste/Patel;
    https://goo.gl/8nr4bD

  31. Imagine a day in America when privileged whites

    For starters, whites in America are not “privileged.” They are legally discriminated against via affirmative action, minorities-only contracts, hatecrime laws which do not include whites among victims, corporate policies such as Bill Gates scholarships which do not allow whites to apply, and the ongoing bashing of whites in the media, academia and “diversity” indoctrination.

    Insofar as minorities are “under represented” in academia or business, this is due to such factors as high rates of illegitimacy, school dropouts and violent crime (notably blacks). i.e., when judged by the content of their characters, selected minority groups fail and then claim that some mysterious force called “white privilege” is keeping them down.

    What whites are being punished for is being successful: studying harder, obeying the law, and creating productive enterprises–something I would think that a libertarian magazine would appreciate.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.