The GOP’s meritocracy narrative is their latest effort to cement white supremacy in Texas.
Last week, Greg Abbott made many Texans mad when he ordered Universities to do away with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and only hire people based on “merit.” Merit is a word we’ve heard a lot from Republicans. Abbott used it in December, Senator Paul Bettencourt used it several times in a hearing about a coal plant, and Sherry Sylvester used it in this far-right attack on diversity.
What is meritocracy?
Meritocracy is a belief that asserts that citizens, regardless of the social stratum from which they start, should aspire to, and in fact can attain, the height of social and economic success described as the American Dream.
Meritocracy is a myth.
The first-known appearance in a text of the phrase “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” was in 1834 and was supposed to be satirical. Instead, it was intended as a metaphor for something absurdly impossible.
It may seem like a harmless expression that inspires a national work ethic, propelling all who participate toward the American Dream. But, that kind of upward mobility is simply unattainable for the majority, and the narrative is a key driver of the racial wealth gap.
Meritocracy under American capitalism will always remain a myth because income, wealth, and status inequalities are unavoidable. For American capitalism, inequalities are necessary for the top to thrive.
The idea of meritocracy relies on a belief in equal opportunity and social equality. Something that our young country has yet to achieve. America’s wealthy elite use their money, power, and influence to benefit themselves and ensure they remain in the upper class. This is often done at the expense of the lower class, further proving that meritocracy doesn’t exist.
Meritocracy is dog-whistle racism.
While the idea of meritocracy may seem to promote the concept of equal opportunity, it is rooted in racism. This is because it perpetuates the false notion that everyone has the same access to resources, education, and opportunities. The reality is that systemic barriers such as racism, sexism, and classism make it impossible for specific communities to attain the same level of success as others.
Meritocracy also reinforces the existing power structure, which white people have long dominated. This structure enables those in power to define what qualities are considered meritorious and what are not, often through discriminatory practices. This allows them to maintain control over the narrative and the definition of what constitutes success, further perpetuating the racial divide.
The use of the term “meritocracy” by politicians and other elites is, therefore, a dog whistle for white supremacy. It is a way to justify the inequalities in our society and maintain the status quo. Using this term, those in power attempt to convince the public that the playing field is level, and those who fail have only themselves to blame. This is a subtle way of blaming marginalized communities for their oppression while ignoring the systemic inequalities perpetuating it.
When you hear politicians like Greg Abbott and other Republicans talking about “merit,” it’s important to understand what they are advocating for: a system that favors the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the most vulnerable members of society.
It’s important to understand the history and true meaning of meritocracy to recognize its perpetuation of inequality and the harm it does to marginalized communities. We must continue to fight for real equality and a society that values the contributions and potential of all individuals.
You can now read an ad-free version of Living Blue in Texas and help support our mission to turn Texas blue. Sign up now.
You agree to receive updates from Living Blue in Texas by clicking submit. We will not sell or share your information. Use the unsubscribe link in those emails to opt-out at any time.
You must be logged in to post a comment.