The GI Bill Was Affirmative Action for Poor Whites
One popular CONservative meme goes something like this-
“White men never benefited from affirmative action”
While there are many ways to poke a hole in this myth, let me select one- The GI Bill
So what was the GI Bill and why was it introduced?
The G.I. Bill (officially titled Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m) was an omnibus bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses. Since the original act, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service.
The G.I. Bill was created to prevent a repetition of the Bonus March of 1932 and a relapse into the Great Depression after World War II ended.
What was its effect?
An important provision of the G.I. Bill was low-interest, zero down payment home loans for servicemen. This enabled millions of American families to move out of urban apartments and into suburban homes. Prior to the war the suburbs tended to be the homes of the wealthy and upper class.
Sounds like welfare, ohhh.. if is was for whites, it cannot be welfare?
Another provision was known as the 52–20 clause. This enabled all former servicemen to receive $20 once a week for 52 weeks a year while they were looking for work. Less than 20 percent of the money set aside for the 52–20 Club was distributed. Rather, most returning servicemen quickly found jobs or pursued higher education.
But wait, what about the IQs of working class whites? Why educate them?
A cursory look at the available statistics reveals that these later bills had an enormous influence on the lives of returning veterans, higher education, and the economy. A far greater percentage of Vietnam veterans used G.I. Bill education benefits (72 percent) than World War II veterans (51 percent) or Korean War veterans (43 percent). Moreover, because of the ongoing military draft from 1940 to 1973, as many as one-third of the population (when both veterans and their dependents are taken into account) could potentially have benefited from the elaborate and generous welfare system created by the expansion of veterans’ benefits.
Hmm.. sounds like welfare for working class whites.
Whereas the G.I. Bills of 1944 and 1952 were given to compensate veterans for wartime service, the Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 forever changed the nature of military service in America by extending benefits to veterans who served during times of war and peace. At first there was some opposition to the concept of a peacetime G.I. Bill. President Dwight Eisenhower had rejected such a measure in 1959 after the Bradley commission concluded that military service should be “an obligation of citizenship, not a basis for government benefits.”
But the original GI Bill benefit blacks? African-Americans and the G.I. Bill
Due to the prevailing social climate that existed in the United States after World War II, one in which racism was a prominent factor, African-Americans did not benefit from the provisions of the G. I. Bill of Rights as much as their white counterparts. Though the bill did provide a more level playing field than the one blacks faced during Reconstruction, this is not saying much. Representative John Elliott Rankin, an economic liberal who was also an avid segregationist and racist, sponsored the bill in the United States House of Representatives. Although the law did not specifically advocate discrimination, the social climate of the time dictated that the law would be interpreted differently for blacks than for whites.
Not only did blacks face discrimination once they returned home after the war, the poverty confronting most blacks during the 1940s and 1950s represented another barrier to harnessing the benefits of the G.I. Bill as it made it problematic to seek an education while labor and income were needed at home. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), because of its strong affiliation to the all-white American Legion and VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), also became a formidable foe to many blacks in search of an education because it had the power to deny or grant the claims of black G.I.s. Additionally, banks and mortgage agencies refused loans to blacks, making the G.I. Bill even less effective for blacks.
The Black middle class failed to keep pace with the white middle class because blacks had fewer opportunities to earn college degrees. In addition to the other obstacles, gaining admission to universities was no easy task for blacks on the G.I. Bill. Most universities had segregationist principles underlying their admissions policies, utilizing either official or unofficial quotas. Even if they could gain admission to universities, public education was in such a poor state for blacks that many of them were not adequately prepared for college level work. Those blacks that were prepared for college level work and gained admission to predominantly white universities still experienced racism on campus.
I am not saying that no blacks benefited from the bill, just that the implementation and social conditions in the 1940s and 1950s favored whites to an extent that it was discriminatory. So what percentage of the post-ww2 white middle class owed its lifestyle and opportunities to the GI bill?