Of no party or clique

From a transcript of the Atlantic staff meeting Jeffrey Goldberg held along with Ta-nehisi Coates after (and about) the Kevin Williamson mess: Coates is asking himself why he didn’t say don’t hire him:

So I thought about it, like, you know how did I miss that? I’m Mr. Blackity Black, how did I miss that? And I think one of the things that happened is, again, like understanding the mission of The Atlantic, which I get. It might not be my mission, but I get it, and I work here. I understand it. Debate various views, you know, we fight it out. “Of no party or clique,” right? And I told Jeff this already, but we have been of a party and a clique. The Atlantic, like most magazines — not The Atlantic because it’s specifically bad, but for most of its history it has been basically white dudes. That’s what we’ve been. I mean not totally, not completely. We did publish Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King. And I mean, it’s not that that’s all we published, but that’s basically been what one would say the consensus is. When you have an already established consensus like that, certain values are then easily manifested.

That is such a crucial point and it gets overlooked so easily. “Of no party or clique” except the one of educated prosperous white men. The “educated” part is inevitable and necessary for a non-tabloidish magazine, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is itself a party or clique. One reason for that is simply that education and prosperity are linked, so education tends to filter out the points of view of people who aren’t prosperous and don’t have the card up the sleeve of education to get prosperous if they need to. You can be educated and poor but the poverty is more voluntary than is the poverty of people with little or bad education; it’s more voluntary and more subject to change – barring bad physical or mental health, which is another basis of cliques and parties.

I think one of the things that happened at this magazine now that I’ve championed, I’m happy to see just looking at this room. If we had done Atlantic University in 2008, 2009, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, it would not have looked like this. This publication is diversifying. And I wonder if that consensus that says of no party or clique then has to come up for question. What is debatable comes up for question because you bring different people in, and those people are not just brown-skinned or dark-skinned or women who would normally — you know, who are just the same as any other. Their identity — and I know this is bad in certain quarters, but I don’t think it is — that identity cannot be neatly separated from the job. So maybe the job changes a little bit.

The only kind of identity that can be neatly separated from the job is of course the usual one – the default one – white educated middle-class men healthy enough to do the job. That’s “normal” so the normal white guys can think their identity has nothing to do with the job; the weird abnormal people who don’t fit that description don’t have that luxury – or handicap, depending on how you look at it.

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