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Americans are right to be skeptical about merit

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

And maybe athletic ability. Professional football player Antonio Brown signed with the Oakland Raiders, missed much of training camp due to a self-inflicted foot injury, and apparently got into a screaming match with the general manager, thus disrupting the franchise. The Raiders fined Brown a total of more than $250,000 and voided some contract payouts. The wide receiver asked to be released. The Raiders dropped him.

Yet, that same day, the New England Patriots rewarded him a one-year contract worth up to $15 million with a $9 million signing bonus. Later, the team added a second-year option in Brown's contract that would pay him $20 million if it keeps him on.

Is this how we penalize childish outbursts? Shouldn't "merit" also include following the rules and being a team player?

A new book by Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits makes an important contribution to the conversation that Americans ought to be having about merit in the post-merit age. In "The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle-Class, and Devours the Elite," Markovits argues that the wealthy are gaming the system while making a mockery of the assumption that those who get ahead deserve to get ahead.

One group that isn't getting ahead -- and may be going backward -- is Latino journalists who have largely disappeared from the media landscape over the last 10 years. You'll find a few scattered here and there, but that's a paltry offering for an industry that professes enlightenment at a time when Latinos are driving front-page news through hate crimes and the immigration debate. It started just after the 2008 financial crisis, when many media companies pared down staffs and many Latinos, who perhaps didn't fit into the black-and-white color paradigm in which the media operates, were shown the door. Even now that the economy has recovered and unemployment is at historical lows, many media companies have shown little interest in replenishing their Latino work force.

Now that Latinos are the talk of the nation, much of the nation's media doesn't care what they have to say. In many corners, it's still a case of white people hiring other white people to create content for white people.

 

Merit. Sure. Whatever you say.

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Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

 

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