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Americans are right to be skeptical about merit

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

SAN DIEGO -- Is the merit system dead? Can America -- this so-called land of opportunity -- really be called a meritocracy?

Once upon a time, if you got good grades, attended a good college, and landed a good job, you were guaranteed a good life. Nowadays, that argument is a tough sell.

One group that isn't buying it is a couple of dozen hardworking, veteran, award-winning Latino journalists I know who -- despite top-flight resumes -- are out of work, while many less-qualified white journalists are comfortably employed. After being booted out of radio, television, print and digital media, they've had a difficult time regaining their footing in what some are calling an industrywide "brownout," where the Latino voice in journalism is being slowly extinguished.

Ironically, the people who are snuffing it out are white liberals -- editors, producers, program directors -- who like to tell the country that President Trump is a racist who hates Latinos. Is unemployment what love feels like?

Trump has only a passing acquaintance with merit. He used family money and connections to get ahead by failing up.

From Hollywood to the presidential race, white privilege is in bloom. It turns out a white male can co-write a script about "Crazy Rich Asians" -- if crazy rich white studio executives are hiring. And, as Beto O'Rourke showed, someone can spend more than $80 million, lose a Senate race in Texas, run for president as he was "born" to do and land on the cover of Vanity Fair.

 

Merit, s'merit. That's only for immigrants, silly. Republicans think we should admit "high-skilled" people with advanced degrees and special expertise. How long before they realize that there are plenty of people of color from Africa, Asia and Latin America who are qualified to meet that higher threshold, so they have to come up with another way to bleach the immigrant pool?

You can't really blame Americans for rolling their eyes. Even if merit isn't dead, it certainly has seen better days.

Far away from Washington, Hollywood celebrities and other members of the 1% are trying to buy their kids tickets into prestigious universities by faking athletic ability and hiring smarter people to take their admissions test for them.

Sometimes, it's not even white privilege that corrupts the system. It's just plain ol' privilege, tied to wealth and fame.

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