The Legal Beat
Law Professors Say White ’50s Culture Is Superior, Other Racist Stuff
Posted on Friday August 11, 2017
A picture of John Wayne lords over a recent op-ed by Professor Amy Wax of Penn Law and Professor Larry Alexander of USD Law titled “Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.” In a nutshell, the professors argue that if everyone went to school, got married to their biological opposite number, and stayed married for the kids, everything would be fine in this country.
John Wayne was a twice-divorced college dropout.
This actually tells you everything you need to know about the laughable swill these two dropped on an unsuspecting public this week. This dynamic duo of dumb spend the op-ed concocting a theory as terrifying as it is bereft of factual support when they posit that all of America’s woes really do stem from failing to live up to the ideals of an era when (white) men were men and everyone else kept their goddamned mouths shut. Make America Great Again indeed.
Of course, the original op-ed doesn’t phrase it that way. Instead, Wax and Alexander draw up a thinly veiled avatar for white male supremacy that they call “bourgeois culture.” Don’t worry… they can’t keep up the veil for long:
That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.
The 1950s are a curious star in the conservative intellectual constellation. The “culture” that Wax and Alexander exalt held just as much sway in the 1930s when Americans couldn’t put bread on their tables. Yet it’s the 1950s — in the aftermath of the economic devastation of every other economy on the planet, and with a non-conservative government committed to high taxes and public works projects — that gets singled out as proof that this dominant paradigm provides the guaranteed blueprint for permanent success.
Some might say there’s nothing racist or sexist about saying people should be neighborly, which is true. But don’t waste effort auditioning to be an apologist for this screed. Professor Wax has a follow-up in The Daily Pennsylvanian in case her thrust wasn’t clear:
“I don’t shrink from the word, ‘superior,'” she said, adding, “Everyone wants to come to the countries that exemplify” these values. “Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans.”
That’s the thing right there. One could say, “everyone wants to go to liberal democracies” or “everyone wants to go to strong economies.” In fact, “everyone wants to go to relatively moderate climates” may be as true as any of these other statements. Even if, in some polemicist’s hands, these can be racially coded language, they’re at least arguably fair claims. Wax, on the other hand, wants you to know her heart’s in it for the white superiority and, you know, we thank her for her honesty.
By the way, if you were gambling on when the “unauthorized whitewashing of MLK” would happen, it’s paragraph 7:
This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.
“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard,” is not one of those Dr. King quotes Wax or Alexander want anyone to remember.
This whole op-ed is atrocious. Here’s just the opening paragraph annotated.
“Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available.” That’s why we’re approaching full employment I suppose. Certainly H1-B visas exist, but to suggest that a software engineer at Google is representative of the jobs available in America is laughable. “Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows.” Actually, labor force participation is up since the 1950s. I’m thinking that’s why the “male” is thrown in there. Maybe women have driven some men from the labor force, which is a bad thing because… making babies or some such. “Opioid abuse is widespread.” It’s a real problem, but maybe it’s all those heroin knockoffs being prescribed and not whether or not Johnny’s mom stayed at home. “Homicidal violence plagues inner cities.” Homicide rates are at historic lows. “Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more raised are by single mothers.” It’s a stretch to say 40 percent is “almost half,” but whatever. “Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.” Fund public schools? Oh wait, no, ban gay marriage! That makes more sense.
Then they go off on “rap culture” and anti-assimilation “Hispanic immigrants,” just in case you didn’t realize they’ve never interacted with a person of color ever, but they have no problems pontificating about them.
Surely the battle lines are already being drawn between the forces who will call upon the law schools to fire these professors and the right-wing backlash furthering the wildly exaggerated “campus war on free speech” narrative. Neither Wax nor Alexander should be fired for holding unpopular opinions. They should be fired for being bad scholars.
An op-ed isn’t an academic journal, of course, but belching out so many lies and half-truths while draped in the imprimatur of the credibility that the law school’s name brings is an institutional embarrassment. It undermines that credibility with students and peers. Op-eds for local newspapers may not be held to the strict standards of a scholarly journal, but that doesn’t absolve professors of the need to conduct themselves as scholars for the good of the institution that employs them. Frankly, doing right by your employer is probably a good “bourgeois value” when you think about it.
But, hey, if either of these professors get unceremoniously dumped, they won’t have to remain unemployed for long. There are a lot of open federal appellate seats, and if we’ve learned anything from Judge John Bush landing on the Sixth Circuit after blogging it up about Birtherism, belching out a string of lies and half-truths on the internet is a positive career move.
Joe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.