In Does the VRA require drawing districts for white people in majority-minority states? it was asked if the Voting Rights Act could be applied to white minorities any time soon and the answer seems to be no. This got me curious - are there any examples (in the US or some other country) where affirmative action was applied to a White minority? A hypothetical example would include White students in China being granted free tuition because they’re underrepresented in local universities.

The definition of "White" for me is the same as in the US Census: "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa."

  • 5
    The US census definition is relevant in the US, not necessarily readily applicable everywhere.
    – Relaxed
    Aug 13, 2021 at 17:12
  • 4
    Does SA Apartheid count as "or equivalent", or is motivation also a relevant factor?
    – Peter
    Aug 14, 2021 at 6:19
  • 1
    @JonathanReez Is affirmative action in favour of Sami people in (white-majority) Scandinavian countries relevant to your question? The origin of the Sami people is not clear, but modern genetic research suggests that they for the most part originated in Europe, and would therefore fulfil your definition of "white". And legally, Sami are considered "indigenous people" in Scandinavian countries.
    – michau
    Jul 27, 2022 at 8:05
  • 1
    The Soviet Union might also have had something like this... degruyter.com/document/doi/10.7591/9781501713323-008/html
    – Fizz
    Jul 29, 2022 at 3:05
  • 1
    I guess the main point of unclarity/leeway in your Q is if the majority in the country has to be non-White (using US standards), and additionally if you're talking just about statistical majority of the whole population or the majority of the (true) powerholders.
    – Fizz
    Jul 29, 2022 at 3:34

6 Answers 6


There is affirmative action in the People's Republic of China, which targets the 55 officially recognised ethnic minorities in China, including the Russian minority, who are of European origin.

According to the linked Wikipedia article, the policies of the affirmative action include/included things such as:

Minority students applying to universities receive bonus points on the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (gaokao)

The government established bilingual programs to help minorities learn Mandarin Chinese

The Chinese government officially allowed minority parents to have more than one child per family instead of the one demanded for Han people as part of the (former) one-child policy

The above policies apply to all officially recognised ethnic minorities, including, but not limited to the Russian minority.

This page provides some details on bonus points for the Russian minority. Here is an automated translation of the first question and answer:

Do Russians get extra points for the college entrance exam?

For ethnic minority candidates from ethnic autonomous counties and ethnic townships who apply for the Chinese language-taught general institutions of higher learning, 20 points will be added for the cultural course when they are admitted.


It's very difficult to prove a negative, as there is no comprehensive listing of every single program endorsed by every single organization in the world anywhere, and if there was then it would be prohibitively long to scan. Therefore, giving a negative answer to this question is difficult to factually back up. However, Wikipedia has a pretty decent listing as a good place to start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action

Looking through Wikipedia, the only countries with official affirmative action programs/laws are majority-white locales, with the exceptions of the listed locales in Asia: China, Israel, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan. Ignoring Israel, because it is a majority "white" country (in that its population is majority Jewish people descendant from "white" denominations (under the US Census definition), those primarily being the 3 tribes of Ashkenazi (Eastern Europe), Sephardi (Spain), and Mizrachi (Middle East)), we have:

(Paraphrasing from Wikipedia)

  • China: Affirmative action in favor of "ethnic minorities", which Wikipedia defines as "non-Han". This is basically a blanket statement including anyone who is not "Han Chinese", which is a subgroup of Chinese people. In theory this could include white people, but is probably not what is being asked about. No.

  • India: Affirmative action is based on the Indian historical caste system, to try to raise people of "lower" castes upwards in society. This is not racially based and would not affect white people. No.

  • Indonesia: Affirmative action in favor of an ethnic indigenous group in the Indonesian region. No.

  • Malaysia: Affirmative action in favor of ethnic Malaysians to help boost them in relation to the Indian and Chinese populations. No.

  • Sri Lanka: Affirmative action based on cultural origin, specifically the Tamil population. Not based on race, so No.

  • Taiwan: Affirmative action in favor of aboriginal Taiwanese. No.

Therefore, at least in the scope of the examples that Wikipedia cares to list on their page on the topic, the answer appears to be that no, there are no official widespread affirmative action programs in favor of white people anywhere in parts of the world where white people are minorities.

  • 3
    The majority of Israelis are of Mizrachi and Sephardi descent (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israelis#Jews). Therefore, your assertion of Israel as majority "white" is incorrect. It is more correct to say that Israel is culturally "white", due to the historical dominance of Ashkenazim within Israel's power structures and the powerful influence of Socialism upon Israel's founding id.eology (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_Zionism)
    – Moshe
    Aug 15, 2021 at 3:11
  • 1
    @Moshe If you look a the chart on the page you linked, sorting decending order by percentage, the top percentages, aside from "Israel" itself (which is like myself saying I am Canadian; my lineage in the last 100 years is in Canada but before that it was elsewhere), the top 2 percentages are Europe/Americas/Oceania and Soviet Union, which together total 48.9%. Add in Romania and Poland down the list which total 7.2%, and you have "white majority".
    – Ertai87
    Aug 15, 2021 at 3:40
  • 2
    Not so. "Israel itself" is primarily Mizrachi. The state has only existed for 73 years. Intermarriage is now rampant, thank God, but it will take at least another century for "Israeli" to become a truly coherent identity in itself. Same is true of culture. There is only the beginning of a single coherent culture. We've all been apart 2000 years. This family reunion is a messy business. It takes time.
    – Moshe
    Aug 15, 2021 at 17:34
  • 1
    China lists Russians as ethnic minority (they had some villages on their side of the border I believe) so you may assume they have positive discrimination for a tiny amount of people who look european.
    – alamar
    Jul 22, 2022 at 18:10
  • @alamar Read my caveat in the answer. I noted that white people may be included in "ethnic minorities" that China's affirmative action laws covers, but that's probably not included in the spirit of the question.
    – Ertai87
    Jul 25, 2022 at 19:54

Frame shift: where do you see this both being necessary and to be expected?

  • a white minority that is doing badly

  • a government that is well-run and compassionate enough to run ethnically-based affirmative action-like programs?

  • a government that recognizes race-based criteria in a positive sense

Starting with the last, a number of European states don't allow racial data in official statistics. France is the one I am most familiar with.

Second, I wouldn't expect a dictatorship or some really corrupt country to run this kind of program. So, just to take an example off the top of my head, Zimbabwe is straight out. Japan is well run but not particularly known for going out of its way to support other ethnic groups.

And finishing with the first, from the small list of countries that are left, in most cases whites are either a majority or a somewhat prosperous minority.

If in the future whites do become a significant badly-off minority in some well-run political entities that use affirmative action, well, yes, I would expect the same sense of justice (as well as self-interest not to entrench permanent poor, hence low-tax-value, underclasses) that motivated affirmative action to apply to that white minority.

If it didn't it would undermine the justification for having affirmative action in the first place. Is it about making the country as a whole better off or taking revenge for past misdeeds?

But for now this remains a somewhat hypothetical, if interesting, question.

p.s. Driving everything from guilt isn't super-productive. As a European, white, non-British (French, actually), 1st-gen immigrant to Canada, I am willing to consider the guilt of what was done to indigenous people by the British. After all, most European colonial powers exhibited beastly behaviors in their colonies, so there is a sense of "solidarity" between us.

But Canada is becoming ever more ethnically-mixed. If Europeans become a minority in a province, should you expect say Asian-descent Canadians to take on the tax burden of paying for "white guilt"? Why not vote out those affirmative action programs toward indigenous people? You need a more positive and forward-looking justification for those programs, intended to help people.

  • 2
    Anecdotally speaking from personal experience, Japan is precisely the type of country where I would expect some sort of white-centric affirmative action, if it were to exist anywhere. It is a country with a very large non-white ethnic majority, with a lot of barriers to entry for those outside that majority (language being the largest one but far from the only), with a more-or-less Western-like set of values, with a fairly large white minority (inasmuch as Japan has a large minority of anything, which it doesn't), most of whom work low-skill low-wage jobs (mostly as English teachers).
    – Ertai87
    Aug 15, 2021 at 1:29
  • 4
    That said, as you made reference to, the Japanese government really kind of doesn't give a single fuck about any minority group; their position on all this sort of stuff can mostly be described as "if you want to live in our country, you will do what you need to do to live here without our direct interference, or you won't be able to live here". There are additional cases where Japan has instituted policies against foreigners as well (I don't know the details, but something about foreigners receiving a Japanese public pension was a big one a while back)
    – Ertai87
    Aug 15, 2021 at 1:32
  • 1
    @Ertai87: Are English teachers in Japan really "low-skill low-wage" jobs? Having known several (when I was learning the language), it always seemed more of a way to live in the country for a few years and get your expenses covered.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 23, 2021 at 20:36
  • 1
    @jamesqf Of the people I know who at one point or another moved to Japan to teach English, more of them turned it into a life-career than didn't, and of those, almost all of them do not have an "employable" university degree (e.g. STEM), and also almost all of them eventually got married to a Japanese person who had a "real" job to support them financially; one example is a friend of mine who was an English teacher for 15+ years who married a VP at Toyota.
    – Ertai87
    Nov 23, 2021 at 20:48
  • 2
    Also, speaking from personal experience, English teaching in Japan is more-or-less minimum wage, inasmuch as Japan has a minimum wage (which it kind of doesn't; legally it does but it's almost impossible to find a job which pays that much, you will almost always get more, although the minimum wage in Japan I think is $6/hr so "more" does not necessarily mean much). Based on research I did (about 10 years ago), annual salary for a foreign English teacher in Japan is roughly $30-40k/yr (adjusted by cost-of-living), although it might have increased over the last decade.
    – Ertai87
    Nov 23, 2021 at 20:54

The soviet union was a pioneer of affirmative action with a policy known as Korenizatsiya. This aimed to promote the cultural and political interests of non-Russian minorities within the USSR such as the Ukrainians.

The de-Russification was also implemented on ethnic Russian groups and their children. For example, all children in Ukraine were taught the Ukrainian language in school. The policies of korenization facilitated the Communist Party's establishment of the local languages in government and education, in publishing, in culture, and in public life.

Affirmative action in the USSR also included prioritizing minorities including Ukrainians for political appointments and other government jobs

Since Ukrainians would be considered white, I believe this example meets your criteria.


Title, boldface added:

Are there examples of affirmative action (or equivalent) being applied to White groups?

From text of question:

...This got me curious - are there any examples (in the US or some other country) where affirmative action was applied to a White minority?

Re "or equivalent":

Slavery applied many affirmative advantages to a White minority of people-owners.

As did Jim Crow laws, and thousands of once-legal forms of racist discrimination.

As do the Jim Crow 2.0 voting laws the emergence of which the VRA was designed to combat.

  • 6
    Slavery only conferred advantages on slave owners, not all of whom were white. (In the US, moreso if you consider the rest of the world.) It was arguably disadvantageous to the majority of whites (and free blacks &c) who didn't own slaves. Likewise, the various "Jim Crow" laws didn't confer any material advantages, AFAIK.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 23, 2021 at 20:40
  • @jamesqf, Slavery conferred advantages on slave owners, slave owner's families, and their households, (which could be quite large), plus slaves could be rented out like a power tool, which conferred advantages on the slave owner's peers and projects. For example, if rented slaves built a splendid college campus, (whites only), its students and their families had the exclusive enjoyment and benefit of the fruits of slave labor... even if no student nor family member owned a slave.
    – agc
    Aug 10, 2022 at 3:16

Let's be perfectly clear... Institutions like the Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action were not created to help minorities. They were created to remedy the systematic political, social, and economic disempowerment — disenfranchisement, segregation, red-lining, barred access to workplaces and financial resources, etc. — that certain groups have historically been subject to. One doesn't need to the concept of 'race' to understand that systematic social and economic alienation can pose excess risks, burdens, and obstacles to groups trying to make their way in society, and we only need to look at the case of women to realize that a group can have a numerical majority and still be subject to such alienation. Framing this as a minority/majority issue is disingenuous at best.

Institutions like the Voting Rights Act and Affirmative Action address power, and the way that a group with power can use their power to further disempower other groups. If it's a stepladder, it's a stepladder meant to help people climb out of the generations-deep hole that's been dug for them, so they can climb up to something like a level playing field.

Since perhaps the 16th century, whites of European descent have held hegemonic political, social, and economic power over most of the world. There are places where their influence is weaker (such as China, Japan, and the Koreas), and places where they have left or been driven out (as in India and much of Africa) but there isn't any corner of the world where whites of European descent have been systematically oppressed and disempowered. As a matter of objective history, whites have always dug holes to push other people into. Why would we give a ladder to some group that's already standing at the top?

  • 6
    If you count Jews as "white" (the US census does), there's certainly been a lot of systemic discrimination against them in Europe and the US. Aug 13, 2021 at 22:37
  • 9
    More examples include: Armenians (Turkey and Azerbaijan), Kurds (Turkey), Assyrians (Iraq), Albanians (Kosovo). The list goes on and on. Your answer is very much US-centric. Aug 13, 2021 at 22:48
  • 9
    there isn't any corner of the world where whites of European descent have been systematically oppressed and disempowered Ever heard of Zimbabwe? That's not a point to support the OPs question, as I don't see Zimbabwe being well run or using affirmative action in any other way than to support cronyism by party members. In which case it's not affirmative action, just corruption and that's a much older gig. Aug 14, 2021 at 3:21
  • 4
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica my point was that ethnic groups of any skin color have routinely been oppressed throughout history. There's also plenty of examples of black-on-black oppression. Aug 14, 2021 at 19:12
  • 5
    @Ted Wrigley: Seems your problem is that you are seeing all "white" people as the same, when that's emphatically not so. Consider the status of Irish & Italians in the late 19th & early 20th century US. Or poor white "hillbillies" in Appalachia. Or for a more international & historic example, you might consider the English occupation of Ireland, and to a lesser extent Scotland & Wales.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 23, 2021 at 20:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .