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The Rhetoric of Entitlement

There’s been a lot about affirmative action in the media recently because the Supreme Court is considering a case that challenges the constitutionality of any consideration of race in university admissions decisions. The poster girl for the case is 23-year old Abigail Noel Fisher who charges that she was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin because she was white. No matter that her GPA (3.59) and SAT scores (1180 out of 1600) were not particularly distinguished and that there were black and Latino applicants with even better SATs and GREs who were also denied admission. Ms. Fisher and the conservative nonprofit Project on Fair Representation, which is funding the lawsuit, believe she was effectively punished by the admissions committee for being white.

Well that is just it! I cannot take any more whiney white people arguing that they are “victims” of reverse discrimination. Aren’t the conservatives behind the Project on Fair Representation the same ideological group as contemporary social Darwinists? Don’t they think we’re all just supposed to be duking it out without any protections whatever in order to ensure that the fittest of us survive? So what if life is sometimes unfair? That’s just part of the old Hobbesian state of nature, the situation into which we’ve all been thrust. Aren’t we just supposed to learn how to deal with it?

Babies can’t help being born to poor parents, but conservatives have no problem condemning these “innocent lives” to overcrowded and underfunded schools. Poor kids are supposed to find some way out of that situation without any help from the government.

Conservatives have never cared economic unfairness, so why this sudden concern about racial “unfairness”? Are legions of exceptionally well qualified white people being denied entrance to the university of their choice by crazed liberals who are giving unjustified preference to less qualified minorities? Now that would be a frightening thought, wouldn’t it! Fortunately, it’s a myth. How do I know this? Because Abigail Noel Fisher is the best example of purported reverse discrimination conservatives have produced.

A 3.59 GPA-are you kidding me? I know a kid with a 4.9 GPA who’s hired a college admissions consultant to help improve his chances of getting into the institution of his choice. I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as a 4.9 GPA. Obviously neither did Ms. Fisher, or she might have thought twice about parading herself before the public as a victim because her 3.59 GPA failed to get her into one of the top universities in the country.

Since the Project of Fair Representation is interested in issues of fairness that relate to race, how come they’re not concerned about the over-representation of blacks in U.S. prisons? There’s a much higher proportion of blacks in prison than in the general population. There’s actual documentation that shows that when juries are white, blacks are more likely than whites to be convicted of a crime even when the evidence that points to their respective “guilt” is effectively the same, and that when convicted, blacks receive harsher sentences than whites convicted of the same crimes. That doesn’t seem very “fair.” How come the folks over at the PFR aren’t fuming about that?

Oh yeah, conservatives aren’t really concerned about racial unfairness in general. They’re concerned that WHITE people might be being treated unfairly. They don’t care if other races are being treated unfairly, but WHITE people should never have to suffer “unfair” treatment!

As a white person, I have to say that I find this pathetic display of white entitlement disgusting. I hope that I speak on behalf of decent reasonable white people everywhere when I say that white people do not necessarily expect that life will always be fair. Government should address gross injustices–I think most of us agree on that–but it is ludicrous to suggest that the government step in to correct the situation every time life is less than ideally “fair.”

I think it is unfair that I don’t look like Demi Moore, that I don’t have long legs, and that I was not raised in a bilingual household. I think it is unfair that my husband and I are forced to live in different cities if we wish to practice our chosen professions. It is unfair that I do not make enough money to be able to pursue all my interests, and indeed that I don’t have enough time to pursue them all.

There are things the government could do to redress at least some of these “injustices.” Obamacare could cover plastic surgery. The government could mandate higher salaries and lighter work loads. There could be all kinds of federal incentives for employers to hire spouses, etc., etc. I’m not holding my breath, though. Those things simply aren’t important enough to warrant government action, and neither, I submit, is failing to get into the college of your choice when you are only a moderately qualified applicant.

Show me the bona fide genius who can’t get into Harvard because her spot was taken by some academically unqualified minority and I’ll start to become concerned. I haven’t seen that yet, and I’m not going to see it, because it doesn’t happen. White people who are deluding themselves that it does are simply looking around for someone else to blame for their own mediocrity.

When did white people become so pathetic? Black people have had to live for generations under a system that is demonstrably unfair to them. There’s plenty of documentation for that. Where do white people get off thinking that they are entitled to ask the government to redress a “wrong” done to them that would appear to be no more than a figment of their fevered imaginations?

Where has this sense of white entitlement come from? When Jeil 2 Savings Bank of South Korea came under investigation for alleged irregularities by its executives and major shareholders, its president, Jeong Gu-Haeng, committed suicide. When white guys in the U.S. run their banks into the ground, not only do they take no responsibility, they expect the government bail them out. That is no more, nor less than they feel they are entitled to. White people can’t handle having to deal with the consequences of our own actions. We can’t handle anything that is really difficult. Difficulties are “unfair”!

This sense of white entitlement is increasing. Even as our achievements are diminishing, our sense of entitlement is growing. It’s not just an unattractive character trait (nobody, after all, likes a whiner); it’s morally offensive. It’s also dangerous. It’s making us stupid. It’s making us lazy–dare I say shiftless? It’s part of the reason, I would argue, for the precipitous descent of the U.S. from its former position of world economic dominance.

White people have benefitted from the handicaps placed–both intentionally and unintentionally–on minorities for as long as the country has existed. Unfortunately, this is now coming back to bite us, and by that I’m not referring to reverse discrimination. You know how you make somebody strong, how you make them smart? You handicap them, put a lot of obstacles in their path. Many minorities have had so many obstacles in their paths for so long that they’ve become smarter and stronger than we are.

This situation puts me in mind of a remark by Chinese-American comedian Joe Wong when he learned about child labor practices in the U.S. while studying for his citizenship test:

“Hang on–those kids got PAID?”

That’s the kind of mettle we wimpy white people are up against in this cold new world. We’re on our way to becoming a minority in all but the least skilled and least demanding of occupations and institutions of higher learning, and not because of the phantom menace of reverse discrimination, but because we’ve made ourselves too damn stupid and lazy for anything else.

White people better hope the Supreme Court doesn’t decide in favor of a “colorblind” constitution–we’re going to need affirmative action!

M.G. Piety teaches philosophy at Drexel University. She is the editor and translator of Soren Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs. Her latest book is: Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard’s Pluralist Epistemology. She can be reached at: mgpiety@drexel.edu 

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M.G. Piety teaches philosophy at Drexel University. She is the editor and translator of Soren Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs. Her latest book is: Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard’s Pluralist Epistemology. She can be reached at: mgpiety@drexel.edu 

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