S2 E13: White Affirmative Action

August 9, 2017

When it comes to U.S. government programs and support earmarked for the benefit of particular racial groups, history is clear. White folks have received most of the goodies.


By John Biewen, with Deena Hayes-Greene of the Racial Equity Institute and recurring series partner Chenjerai Kumanyika.

Photo: U.S. soldiers returning home from World War Two the same month that Congress passed the GI Bill of Rights, June 1944. Credit: History.com

Download a transcript of the episode.

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20 comments on “S2 E13: White Affirmative Action

  1. Pete Haskell Dec 17, 2017

    As a former leftist who voted for Barack Obama the first time he ever voted in his life I think a discussion needs to be had about the disproportionate rate of black on white and black on black violence according to the Department of Justice and FBI crime statistics around 15% of the population commits 50% of the homicides this is absolutely staggering and explains why many people are afraid of blacks including the police now you might say the Department of Justice and FBI statistics are skewed but the way in which the data is collected precludes any bias to effectively combated we must be honest about the problems we are having as a nation


  2. Gobsmacked! I knew some of the things related in this story I admit. The steady,
    onconchanable, institutionalized, racism through hundreds of years towards African Americans is astounding. Now I know why my half-black daughter came from her African American studies class so mad! Thank you for this program!

  3. Lorraine Jan 12, 2018

    Denial of the existence, pervasiveness and impact (both past and present) of systemic racism is not just a matter of feeling good, but necessary to keep it in place.

    I have always been stricken by how critical it is to white Americans to cling to the belief that everything they have has been earned by sheer merit and grit. Acknowledging anything else is completely off the table. Of course white folks also work hard and earn what they have. But “leg up” given to white Americans by multi-generational racist policies and laws have built in so much advantage that is blatantly ignored, and is in fact instead mistakenly recognized as evidence of worthiness (i.e., we have more, so we must be superior and deserving). That advantage is fiercely guarded and maintained, and one of the primary ways it continues to be maintained is through the very tribal denial that any advantages were ever bestowed or continue to be reaped.

  4. Crystal Lachman Jul 8, 2018

    We don’t need Affirmative Action we need restitution for damage done. There’s nothing that can restore the horrendous acts of domination and violence towards black people. Previously I had a bit of an issue with letting someone into college based on skin color, but now I believe that all African Americans should be given education, property ownership, etc. I believe we as a nation give to Native Americans for some of the damage done, it’s absurd that we don’t even think to provide benefits and some kind of tangible, meaning financial and opportunities for African Americans. As a nation we need to do more than stop racism and prevent people from being racist, we need to pay a debt for all of the suffering that we have caused.

    • Trying to come up with something realistic that I feel we can get majority behind – so we may actually get something done and move on in a more proper fashion….

      I have this idea for a 10-10-10 plan in the USA.

      Classism – all US citizens get $10K
      Racism – non whites get additional $10K
      Sexism – women get additional $10K

      Plus specific reparations for other items where the GOV mistreated people, on a one by one basis.

      As and on a side note : if I ever come to “control Hollywood” – I’d aim to set it up so that the MAJOR LEADING roles are all people who are NON WHITE – at least for a spell…. to sort of equalize things out.
      Asians, Hispanics, Indians, Blacks… etc.

      • As far as the GENERAL “10-10-10” plan I have(classism, racism, sexism)… If people want to adjust the numbers and come to something like 5-15-10 or something… I’d have no issue with that, yet there may be more resistance to the PLAN from some WHITEs compared to not having that resistance.

        • Patricia Jun 4, 2020

          Why? Because many of us are hearing this part of history, what’s been going on behind the curtains by policy makers for CENTURIES, for the FIRST time. It is mind-blowing! I care, I grieve, I didn’t do any of this to anyone, but it still breaks my heart. I WILL be looking for opportunities for change so that all of my human brothers & sisters are treated with honor, grace, & fairness!

  5. Mary C Hollingsworth Apr 16, 2020

    We hear about all the ‘bad’ stuff on the news, gangs, shootings, drugs, mostly involving people of color. Very little about the good people of color are doing. Does the media play into bias? How much does this influence our kids in school?

  6. Brian K Freeland May 25, 2020

    The denial of RACE dynamics in America distorts reality with purposefulness as demonstrated bt the clique “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps!”

  7. I was curious who this person in stubborn denial of reality Dan Pliszka was so I looked him up. He’s a motivational speaker and author of a book called “Life is Great!” I hope he wakes up and realizes some important clues as to why he can make that assertion. https://www.dpgreatlife.com/

  8. Anne gentleman Jun 27, 2020

    Episode 13 was especially.interestimg and thought provoking
    Again everyone should be hearing these talks. Well done, very well done

  9. Mary Childs Jul 1, 2020

    Thank you!

  10. Gini Graham Jul 27, 2020

    this needs to be required reading…a history poster in every classroom…a monument titled “what made WHITE America great in the first place”….
    this has been an absolutely life changing series…exceptional content..exceptional
    reporting, style, “hearability’ (!). thank you sooooo very much

  11. Leah Randolph Jul 29, 2020

    Amazing episode. This is hands down one of the most profound episodes of the entire series. If a person only listens to one of the 14 episodes… this one should be it. But absolutely listen to ALL 14 episodes!!

  12. Linda Sep 12, 2020

    I agree that episode 13 is the most informative, helpful and eye-opening to me as a white person who, from time to time, has thought, “well, those injustices happened so long ago they don’t excuse black people from not being successful these days – look at the Obamas, Colin Powell, etc. – so many black people who are successful in this country – why aren’t more black people like them? They had the same disadvantages.”
    I had no idea of this history of numerous advantages for whites and not for people of color until listening to this series!! Whew!! So sad and unfair.
    I wonder – if part of remedying this and changing things is for us white people to give up some power, what does that look like?
    Kind of scarey for me, to tell the truth.

  13. Heather Freitag Oct 14, 2020

    This entire series has been so incredibly important, so valuable. I have deeply appreciated every episode. You do such a great job of handling heavy nuanced issues with intellectual honesty, unwavering commitment to justice, and with humility. I have particularly appreciated the history components (and expert contribution), the discussion around the vast measure of White on Black violence- it’s sheer scale is horrifying. We have not accounted for this, we have not owned it. Thank you for turning the lens around and looking at Whiteness. So glad I found this podcast.