Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Should the best person for a job get it regardless of gender or race?
On Your Right
The New York Philharmonic thought so. It was one of many U.S. orchestras that adopted blind auditions in the 1970s to eliminate discrimination in selecting musicians. A candidate would play for judges from behind a screen, all personally identifying information redacted from their application. The innovation was a success particularly for women, whose participation in top-tier orchestras grew dramatically thereafter. Now, none other than the New York Times argues that blind auditions should end, and that the selection process should “take into account race, gender and other factors” because there aren’t enough Black musicians in the orchestra.
Being a professional musician in a major philharmonic orchestra is a prodigious undertaking. It requires profound talent and decades of grueling work. It demands grace under pressure and sacrifice. As exemplified by the New York Philharmonic’s blind auditions, it is the ultimate meritocracy. A violinist can either make Niccolo Paganini’s caprices seem almost playable, or not. But we are now told by the wizards of wokeness that meritocracy itself is merely another racist artifact, a tool of white supremacy.
One of these wizards is Pennsylvania State University’s professor Angela Putman, who examined “ideologies within college students’ discourse that are foundational to whiteness” a while back. Her conclusion, published in 2018, was that meritocracy, the belief that people should rise based on the fruits of their own labor, is a “white ideology.” In her mind it is unfortunate that this “white ideology” is widely accepted in academia. I wonder how she justifies her grading.
Meritocracy as white supremacy is also peddled by such guilt hustlers as the very white — and apparently very guilty — Robin diAngelo, whose execrable screed “White Fragility” is neatly dissected by Christopher Paslay in a recent American Thinker.
The reasons this anti-merit twaddle has appeal are many. It might soothe educated, white upper-middle-class strivers exhausted by decades of competition, as Ross Douthat explains in the New York Times. Or they may adopt its sloganizing as a sort of camouflage, hoping that the mob will pass them by, or at least guillotine them last. A few people might actually believe it. But those most active in the left’s white supremacy frenzy are simply and shamelessly co-opting the emotional crusade in all its earnestness; its contradictions and hopes; its illogic, bile and profound turmoil; that they may focus all its energy on the crux of their animus: our country and culture, which they wrongly see as uniquely evil and deserving of obliteration.
What they do not, and apparently cannot, comprehend is that in their effort to rid themselves of American society, they are giddily smashing everything which has for two centuries given the world a force for remarkable good. They criticize merit, diligence and self-control as emblems of whiteness, apparently without irony or recognition that they thereby suggest nonwhites are prone to mediocrity, sloth and self-indulgence — a reprehensible argument with which generations of Democrats from Jefferson Davis to Gov. Clarence Morley to Sen. Harry Byrd would doubtless have agreed.
If we really wish to be rid of racism, we must once and for all rid ourselves of the idea that any particular group of humans chosen for their skin color — or sex, or shape, or ethnicity, for that matter — will all have certain other characteristics in common: industry or laziness, intelligence or dullness, grace or clumsiness, virtue or vice. It was this tendency to disaggregate humanity into groups based on superficialities that created some of the problems we face today. We will not resolve those problems by doing more of the same, flavored with admixtures of rage and lust for vengeance manufactured by demagogues.
Instead of denigrating merit, we should embrace it, because merit is the measure that ignores outward characteristics such as skin color or gender. Instead of dismissing the search for excellence and the effort it demands as an artifact of white supremacy, we should all remember that doing anything worthwhile, from creating a limited field theory to writing a symphony to developing a reliable shot from three-point land, requires work. Lots of it.
And we should all understand that, by insisting that race is the most important factor in America’s political, social and economic existence, the progressive left proposes to return our nation to the calculations of 1860, hoping for a better outcome this time for their racialized and divided vision of a future for the country.
That won’t end well. For anyone.
Morgan Liddick’s column “On Your Right” publishes Tuesdays in the Summit Daily News. Liddick spent 27 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service, primarily living abroad. He also spent 12 years teaching U.S. history and Western civilization at community colleges in Colorado and Texas. He lived in Summit County as recently as 2015. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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