Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Equality of opportunity is key here. In its minimal form, it requires an end to all forms of discrimination – racism, sexism, heterosexism etc. More robustly, it would also require that people not be victimised because of their class. Legally, of course, only race matters, which is what the Fieldses mean when they say that ‘once racecraft takes over the imagination, it shrinks well-founded criticism of inequality to fit crabbed moral limits, leaving the social grievances of white Americans without a language in which to frame them.’ Thus, even though the poor are by far the most under-represented group in American four-year colleges and universities, when Jennifer Gratz (the lower-middle-class daughter of a man who never went to college) won her case against the University of Michigan in 2003, her complaint was of discrimination against white people. Abigail Fisher, the upper-middle-class daughter of a man who attended the very college that refused to admit her, and who thus belongs to a group that has no problem getting access to good colleges, has lodged exactly the same complaint, and her case is currently before the Supreme Court. In Racecraft’s terms, what we have is a situation in which poor white people can assert what is really a grievance against rich white people only by fighting a policy designed to benefit a few black people. And rich white people, by turn, can assert their class privilege over poor white people by fighting that same policy. The policy meanwhile is of no help to the black poor: ‘On highly selective campuses,’ according Richard Kahlenberg, a prominent proponent of class-based affirmative action, ‘86 per cent of African American students are middle or upper class.’ So while the true injustice of American higher education has been its increasing stratification by wealth, the debate about class that ought to have taken place has been almost entirely effaced by the debate about race." - Walter Benn Michaels, "Believing in Unicorns"

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