Reflections of an Affirmative-Action Baby

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 02:43:57 AM. White men from fancy schools advanced quickly at the New Republic. Asking how much of their success was due to race, gender, and class would have meant asking the same of myself.
In 1991, the African American Yale Law School professor Stephen Carter wrote a book called Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby. I remember reading part of it at the time. Little did I realize that the book’s title applied to me. Two years after Carter published his book, I joined the New Republic as a summer intern. I was thrilled. I had been reading the magazine since high school, and idolized its most prominent writers: Michael Kinsley, Hendrik Hertzberg, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Lewis, Michael Kelly, and, yes, Leon Wieseltier, who last month was accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen of his former colleagues. If someone had made TNR writers into baseball cards, by age 15 I would have had a complete set. I considered myself qualified. Because I’d spent years mimicking TNR’s writing style, I had the right sort of clips. But as a white man graduating from an Ivy League school, I also had the right sort of identity. It was difficult to disentangle the two. And I didn’t really try. I didn’t try because the magazine afforded me extraordinary opportunity. Soon, I was not only working alongside people I revered, I was being given the chance to ascend to their level. Asking how much of their success was due to race, gender, and class—as opposed to merit—would have meant asking the same of myself. At some level, I knew the answer. White men from fancy schools advanced quickly at the New Republic because that’s who the owner and editor in chief, Marty Peretz, liked...Read more
Share this

You might also like

Similar