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A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege

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Our first story is about a fictional gang.  Let’s call them the Elays.

In recent months the Elay’s drug dealing business has been adversely affected by a wave of non-payment of debts.

They are concerned that this is due to their having been seen as too soft and have agreed that it is necessary to demonstrate the opposite.  They do so by abducting two unfortunate clients, holding them hostage in a gang house basement intending to administer a punishment attesting to their newfound resolve with respect to deadbeats customers.

Realizing they lack the necessary manacles, blowtorches, and electric chainsaws they dispatch a junior gang member named Baracksi to obtain them.

Baracksi is an Asian American woman, believed to have a same sex lover.  Upon her return, the Elays make good on their threats. The screams of their victims resounding through the neighborhood, as intended, the Elays are pleased that their message has been effectively communicated.

Finally, they complete the job with blasts from a sawed off shotgun, stuffing the corpses in the back of their SUV, eventually depositing them in a dumpster at a construction site across town.

***

It is now some months later and the Elays have been apprehended and face prosecution for their crimes.

Oddly, as the trial proceeds, it takes a very unexpected turn: it appears that the Elays have made offensive and hurtful comments with respect to Baracksi’s gender, sexual preference and her ethnicity. Baracksi’s emotional testimony of her treatment by fellow gang members becomes the focal point of the trial. Responding to widespread outrage, the DA then decides to withdraw the kidnapping, torture and murder charges. Eventually the Elays are convicted for creating a hostile work environment, required to undergo a regimen of sensitivity training and enroll in a seminar in which they learn about privilege theory.

The Elays return to the streets but with a difference: seeing the error of their ways, Baracksi has become the gang leader, instituting for many years a highly effective and profitable enterprise, one which divides the spoils among an increasingly diverse membership including all genders, races, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

***

Our second story is about a non-fictional gang known as Yale University.   Over the institution’s history it has prided itself on having provided the education, world view and moral foundation for those those who established and provided judicial sanction for the torture regime in Iraq, the overthrow of democratically elected governments on three continents and the assassination of heads of state and opposition leaders in operations Phoenix and Condor.  Other Yalies have been leading figures in implementing the globalized financial system enriching themselves enormously at the expense of the immiseration of millions of families.

As consumers of the news are aware, Yale is now coming under scrutiny, but not for any of this.  Rather a spotlight is being directed on the plight of Yale students attempting to claim a much coveted degree specifically, those are not white and/or male who, it is claimed, encounter insensitivity, hostility, and even abuse from Yale administrators, faculty and fellow students.

This should come as no surprise.  As we saw in the case of the Elays, it’s probably a good bet that thuggishness directed at those outside the gang will express itself within it, as Baracksi experienced.

What does seem strange is that what is happening within Yale’s walls has become the focus of the left’s attention.  Rather than facing up to Yale role’s in wholesale domestic and international outrages, it chooses instead to limit its focus to the retail offenses experienced by Yale students during their brief tenure in New Haven.

While protests to remove the stain of racism, sexism and bigotry are always justifiable it should be understood that, to a significant extent, they are pushing on an open door. The composition of elites is far more multicultural and meritocratic than it has ever been, achieving this having been a longstanding priority of the Ivy League for many years.  Consistent with this, while Yale administrations are usually highly resistant to activists’ demands, particularly when these target salaries and working condition for Yale employees, the president responded quickly and forcefully in this instance.

But is a fully diverse and mullticultural elite something we should welcome unconditionally?  Here it is worth picking up the thread of the fictional Elays.  As it turns out, having acted on a commitment to inclusivity mattered little to the neighborhood.  While there were high initial hopes for Baracksi, her administration proved to be no less ruthlessly predatory than that of her predecessors.  The numerous victims quickly realized that the change in the complexion of their tormentors made little difference in their day to day lives. Their fervent desire remained what it always was: for the Elays to disappear, their routine terror eventually becoming a distant, unpleasant memory.

The same thing should be said of the central institutions of our ruling class which have created the permanent wars, perpetual economic stagnation and the ecological catastrophes from which we are trying to extract ourselves.

Yale and the education it provides have always functioned as important weapons in the soft power arsenal through which elite power and privilege is projected and preserved.  No cosmetic alteration in the face it presents to the public or those who function within in it should blind us to what it is and who it serves.

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John Halle blogs at Outrages and Interludes. He tweets at: jghalle.

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