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White Women Benefit Most, Widely Absent

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2003

Updated: Sunday, August 10, 2008 00:08

"What do you say to allegations that white women are the biggest recipients of affirmative action programs," a reporter asked Gratz following the race cases before the Supreme Court.

The sentiments expressed in this case presented the statistical information that supported the reporter's views as well as the questions surrounding the position of the two plaintiffs in the cases against the University of Michigan.

While statistically the most benefited from affirmative action programs white women were underrepresented during the courts proceedings Apr. 1.

"I support the law schools case. I'm in support of affirmative action," said Ellen Walker a Caucasian law student at the University of Michigan.

Walker, 32, is in her third year said diversity makes a visible difference at her school.

"As of now the student body is diverse. People come to the law school with difference interests, I'm afforded the opportunity to learn more about other areas and the perspectives of the people from those places."

Many of the white women who participated in the rally considered affirmative action as more of a race issue than a gender issue.

"I have benefited from affirmative action. I haven't benefited in admissions, to my knowledge, but I haven't thought it through," Walker said.

The gender issue, with respect to affirmative action practices was also presented in the courtroom. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor presented the courts previous support of using gender as a criterion in attempting to integrate women into higher education.

"I probably have [benefited], it affects everyone, I don't know why more [white] women aren't here but it's close to finals. It would have been better if more came," Walker said.

Megan Barber an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Michigan thought it was important that she show her support of affirmative action.

"Someone talked to me about the protest weeks ago and let me know what was going on. I wanted to do my part," Barber said. "Many of the people at my school are neutral on the issue. I'm for affirmative action."

While many supporters of affirmative action were quick to quote statistics of the notion that white women are the biggest recipients of affirmative action benefits, the numbers were not reflected in those present at the rally.

Erin Anderson-Ruddon, 18-year-old freshman at the University of Michigan experienced the isolation of being a minority.

"I feel alienated by the sea of black faces who [can] make a connection to the current case, and the former case, Brown v. Board," Anderson-Ruddon said.

Ruddon said that she felt alienated by signs that equated the issue of affirmative action so strongly to race.

"I don't think most [white] women realize it effects them so much. Some of it has benefited me," Anderson-Ruddon expressed as she recounted her experience with taking the ACT, a standardized exam substituted for the SAT in some regions.

"The [exam] was balanced for men because they don't do as well as women on the English portion, but balance for women because they don't do as well on the math portion," she said using an example of how non-blacks may have benefited.

Both, Barber and Anderson-Ruddon, agreed that there is a stronger association of affirmative action with race more so than gender, while each noticed the importance of understanding the broader, social, affects of affirmative action programs that benefited the whole of society.

"I think there should be more of an emphasis of unity and diversity than on race," Anderson-Ruddon said. "I heard people chanting 'black power' I don't think this is about one group having 'power' over another. It's against the point.

It doesn't help, it alienates people."

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