Two law professors, one from the University of Pennsylvania and one from the University of San Diego, are under fire after publishing an essay in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month bemoaning the breakdown of America’s “bourgeois culture.”
The opinion piece chided Americans for dropping their standards in the last half century or so, aruging that society has paid the price for abandoning things like marriage, family, social structures, community service, and even patriotism. The blueprint laid out for Americans in the post-war era kept the country together, and was, essentially, a roadmap for personal success.
[1950s] 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 pair conceded that the 1950s had their (very major) problems, but that the solution to those problems wasn’t a breakdown of societal structure — reactionary abandonment eventually led to deeper divisions within society, eventually miring the already disadvantaged into further trouble.
That wasn’t enough, however, for University of Pennsylvania graduate students, who published their own response Monday, deriding the two law professors for their enthusiastic embrace of racism, sexism, and discrimination — and accusing the two professors of “normalizing white supremacy.”
… if understood within their sociocultural context, stem from the very same malignant logic of hetero-patriarchal, class-based, white supremacy that plagues our country today.These cultural values and logics are steeped in anti-blackness and white hetero-patriarchal respectability, i.e. two-hetero-parent homes, divorce is a vice, and the denouncement of all groups perceived as not acting white enough i.e. black Americans, Latino communities, and immigrants in particular.
As if it weren’t enough to take issue with what the two professors were saying, the UPenn students called for one of the professors, UPenn’s Amy Wax, to be investigated (and perhaps punished) by the school for her obvious racism.
But neither Wax nor her co-author say they intend to change anything about the piece — or apologize for it. Those who would call it out for “white supremacy,” they say, missed the point of the argument. And if scholars and students disagree with the substance of the piece — that the breakdown of the family eventually led to more serious societal issues across races and genders — they’re free to publish opposition pieces.
The name calling, Wax says, happens because they can’t come up with a cogent argument against her thesis.
“What the objections boil down to is that the bourgeois virtues are somehow racist, or somehow cause racism — contentions that I and my co-author expressly contest, of course,” Wax wrote in an email to the Washington Free Beacon. “But if, indeed, bourgeois values are so racist, the progressive critics should be out there in the street demonstrating against them, stripping them from their own lives, and forbidding their children to practice them. They should be chanting, ‘No more work, more crime, more out of wedlock babies, forget thrift, let’s get high!’ … Of course, there’s little chance we’re going to see anything like that, which shows the hollowness, indeed the silliness, of the critiques.”