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NYT Published an Ode to White Supremacy & People Are Appropriately Pissed Off

We don't all miss the WASPs.

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As an op-ed for the New York Times, Ross Douthat wrote a piece titled “Why We Miss the WASPs.” You might remember Douthat as the guy who wrote that in-defense-of-incels piece “The Redistribution of Sex” earlier this year. He’s known for his truly terrible takes on politics and religion and this new piece is no exception.

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In this new op-ed, Douthat essentially argues that WASPs–white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, well-off, well-connected elites known for their decorum and nepotism (think Emily and Richard Gilmore)–died off as a ruling class after George H.W. Bush left office and that Americans are worse off for it. The piece expresses the nostalgia he believes we’re feeling over the loss of this aristocracy. Except Douthat is playing awfully fast and loose with his use of “we.”

He believes that you can “describe Bush nostalgia as a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.”

What exactly does that mean? “Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.”

I don’t know what made Douthat think he was qualified to ascribe these views to all Americans, but that “we” most certainly does not include as many people as he seems to think it does.

Somehow, Douthat manages to dig himself an even deeper hole than “diverse” people don’t lead as well than WASPs. He goes on to say that WASP “cosmopolitanism” is more authentic than modern cosmopolitanism, because modern cosmopolitanism is, apparently, by nature “performative.” Wrap your head around this:

The WASP virtues also included a cosmopolitanism that was often more authentic than our own performative variety — a cosmopolitanism that coexisted with white man’s burden racism but also sometimes transcended it, because for every Brahmin bigot there was an Arabist or China hand or Hispanophile who understood the non-American world better than some of today’s shallow multiculturalists.

Basically, he’s saying white people with a fetishized interest in other cultures understand and appreciate those cultures better than “multiculturalists,” which I assume includes actual people from those cultures. Why elect Hispanics to public office when you can elect white “Hispanophiles”? There’s a reason why this article is being called out as a love letter to white supremacy. Because with its underlying message of we ruled you better than you rule you, it is one.

Douthat posits that WASP rule didn’t need to die out, that “adaptation rather than surrender” was possible and would have benefited Americans, which, we know by now, means wealthy white American men like him.

He writes, “In such a world the establishment would have still admitted more blacks, Jews, Catholics and Hispanics (and more women) to its ranks … but it would have done so as a self-consciously elite-crafting strategy, rather than under the pseudo-democratic auspices of the SAT and the high school resume and the dubious ideal of ‘merit.’ […] The goal would have been to keep piety and discipline embedded in the culture of a place like Harvard, rather than the mix of performative self-righteousness and raw ambition that replaced them.”

“A WASP establishment that couldn’t muster the self-confidence to hold on to Yale and Harvard was never likely to maintain its hold on a mass political organization like the G.O.P.”, he writes.

Douthat’s argument that the WASPy elite could have “admitted” more diverse ranks while still keeping their sensibilities intact operates under the assumption that WASPs died out (and this is if you believe they did, which would require you to ignore the power they still hold and the fact that three of the four presidents since Bush Sr., including, you know, his son, would probably qualify as WASPs) because they allowed diversity into their ranks, rather than acknowledging that women, POC, queer people, immigrants, and other marginalized groups demanded and fought hard for access to these institutions. And they did so specifically because WASPs were not representing them adequately.

Thanks, Ross Douthat, for the unnecessary reminder that there will always be a market for narrow-minded rich white men looking to share their opinions about rich white America.

(via NYT, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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