White Affirmative Action Key points from the article * To see all the effects of race requires looking back a few generations. I left college with no student loans. Why was my father able to pay for my college education? As a World War II-era veteran, he went to graduate school on the GI Bill and got a subsidized mortgage from the Veterans Administration, benefits from which most veterans of color were excluded. As a homeowner, he got the mortgage interest deduction, a tax break unavailable to the majority of people of color who were renters. * If Id been born a person of color in 1956, the odds are very likely that Id be less well off today. In 2001, the typical white family had $120,000 in net worth (assets minus debts), seven times as much as the $17,000 net worth of the typical family of color, according to new Federal Reserve data. Most white people are homeowners with retirement accounts thanks to government policies that boosted our parents, grandparents and ancestors assets. The financial benefits of affirmative action programs are dwarfed by the benefits of, say, the Homestead Acts of 1862, which gave millions of acres to white settlers, and which excluded people of color. * When President Bush weighed in with the Supreme Court against the University of Michigans affirmative action policy, he was acting within this long tradition of the federal government promoting the advancement of white Americans. There has been no legal challenge to Michigans preference for legacy applicants (children of alumni), or to the preference given to low-income white students. Only the boost to qualified applicants of color was attacked. Slavery was a long time ago, goes the argument against preferences for African Americans. And it is true that the best-known transfers of wealth from people of color to white people taking land from Native Americans and Mexicans, as well as slavery are no longer in living memory of Americans today. Segregation and legal discrimination were outlawed with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But long after de jure racism was past, policies with de facto racially disparate impact continued. White people still tend to get easier credit terms, better schools, shorter prison sentences, and more generous government benefits than people of color. The truth indeed.