Affirmative action policies (here in the U.S.) are aimed disproportionately at alleviating discrimination against women and people of color because (on their respective axes of treatment), they are the ones actually subjected to sexist and racist discrimination. In a dramatically different political context, the already-existent affirmative action policies in place would apply just as well to "white" people and to men, if (by some profound shift) people in either group found themselves the routine targets of discrimination.
As usual, practically all opposition to AA boils down to one or more of the following:
- willful ignorance: holding on to a grossly incorrect (mis)understanding of AA despite ready access to corrective information (this is, by far, the most common basis of opposition);
- opposition to substantive equality: what the antiracist scholar Eduardo Bonilla-Silva identifies as "abstract liberalism," in which rhetorical support for equal rights and equal treatment under the law is voiced, but any attempts to actually implement policies based upon achieving equal rights and treatment is opposed;
- plain opposition to political and legal equality: a relative handful of people both accurately understand AA and yet still oppose it, because they oppose political and legal equality generally.