Do Elites Discriminate Against White Christians?

And does it start with college admissions?

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Pat Buchanan thinks American elites discriminate against white Christians. At least, he thought so in 2000, when he "accused Harvard--and, by extension, the entire American elite" of the practice, according to The New York Times' Ross Douthat. Douthat brings it up because he sees the same argument on Glenn Beck's and Rush Limbaugh's shows and in the "backlash" against Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark. He also thinks it might be partly true that American elites are favoring certain groups over others, with American colleges in particular are perpetuating the trend. Now he's got a debate on his hands: are American elites really biased against white Christians?

  • The Real Minorities  Douthat says that "noxious and ridiculous" as Buchanan's complaints might be to liberals, "to understand the country's opresent polarization, it's worth recognizing what [he] got right." For starters, it appears that, due partly to affirmative action, "the most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they're working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions." Then those working-class whites become underrepresented in "law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts." It becomes a problem for society, "breed[ing] paranoia, among elite and non-elites alike."
  • White Christians Are the Focus, Rather Than the Poor?  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer marvels at how Douthat can see "working-class whites" underrepresented and focus on their whiteness and Christianity rather than their class. It sounds like, Serwer argues, the real problem with college admissions is not affirmative action but "the implicit size of the pie retained by the wealthy." In other words, "Douthat's implicit conclusion isn't really that we should expand the share of the pie at elite institutions to the underrepresented as a whole; it's to wave his foam finger for one group of underrepresented people over another."
  • Newsflash: Elites Are Often, Themselves, White Christians  "What discrimination exists comes down to a question of class, not culture," concurs Tim Fernholz with his American Prospect colleague. He's thus not too impressed with Douthat's column, which he decides is essentially "offering a mealymouthed support for a kind of soft affirmative action for, well, he doesn't quite say white Christians ... but for those whom he believes are culturally affiliated with white Christians."
  • Hang On: There's a Good Point Here, counters progressive Matt Yglesias. Simply put, it's this: "while liberals are eager to draw attention to the idea of a given institution having insufficient black representation, nobody speaks up for the poor underrepresented white Christians." Fernholz doesn't manage to "refute" this, Yglesias notes. That said, he notes that Buchanan's original speech was more focused on the high numbers of Jews and Asians at elite institutions, rather than blacks--he was "at best making fun of liberals and at worst engaging in his signature anti-semitism."
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