Following up on last week's post on the op-ed by Amy Wax (Pennsylvania) & Larry Alexander (San Diego), Paying The Price For Breakdown Of The Country's Bourgeois Culture:
Philly Voice, 18 Law Professors Argue Colleagues' 'Bourgeois' Ideal Is Racist and Classist:
There are rare occasions ... in which the opinions expressed by another law professor display both a moral toxicity and an intellectual bankruptcy that require us to put collegiality aside, and to call out such opinions for what they are. Such is the case with the opinions expressed recently on Philly.com by University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax and University of San Diego law professor Larry Alexander. ...
There are assertions ... which are divorced from intellectual rigor and serve no purpose beyond coddling the existing prejudices of their speakers and listeners who wish to justify similar prejudices. The opinions expressed by Professors Wax and Alexander fall squarely within the latter category and do not deserve our respect. They are dehumanizing, inherently racist, and ultimately irrational. It bears emphasizing that the professors’ opinions are offered without evidentiary support, which is — to say the least — a glaring omission from two trained lawyers and frankly shocking coming from two professors charged with educating students about law and logic.
Nor, in these times, do these opinions deserve our silence. Silence is an especially pernicious response to overt expressions of racism. The silence of respectable people has enabled bigotry and injustice of all varieties to flourish in this country for far too long. Silence is no longer an option.
We hope that the students at Penn and USD Schools of Law understand that this is not the best that the law has to offer. We specifically hope that minority law students at those and other American institutions do not believe that their faculties consider them inferior. After all, what unites us as an American nation is not our race, ethnicity, or language, but our dedication, to paraphrase President Lincoln, to the proposition that all people are created equal. As legal academics, we owe it to our nation to do all we can to uphold that most basic American value, and to do so with fairness, intellectual rigor, and decency. Our nation should expect no less of us, and we should expect no less of one another.
Inside Higher Ed, Outrage Over Op-Ed:
“People are outraged at me for sort of touting a life script that’s been out there forever,” Wax told Inside Higher Ed. “I’m waiting for them to get there and march against bourgeois values. I’m waiting for that. If they were really being consistent, they would go out there and say, ‘We’re going commit crimes, and get high, and go on strike and go on food stamps, and have a bunch of out-of-wedlock babies, because we want to have nothing to do with these tainted, racist values,’” Wax said. “These clearly aren’t universal values, no one can argue that with a straight face, in the sense that they have come out of a particular time, a particular place and a particular culture.”
When asked if there could be outside factors to not following those values, beyond choosing to not follow them, she called that idea a nonstarter, and shortly after declined to speak further. “Anyone can adhere to them if they so choose,” she said.
For Alexander, any claims of racism are misplaced. “There’s not a single racist claim in it,” he said. “I have a multiracial family. This is the kind of thing — when you don’t have an argument that deals with the claims made, you just make claims like it’s racist, it’s sexist, it’s homophobic. That’s a sure sign you don’t have an argument.”
Alexander’s interpretation that the norms he highlights are causes of success — and his devaluation of outside factors, such as systemic racism -- lies in his belief that racial discrimination is largely nonexistent today, he says, which makes identity politics’ focus on race a problem. “Offense is largely manufactured,” he said. “This is another thing people can cite in order to claim power … This is another way to arrogate power, by claiming you’ve been offended.”