From Noah Feldman’s “The Triumphant Decline of the WASP” in today’s New York Times:
But satisfaction with our national progress should not make us forget its authors: the very Protestant elite that founded and long dominated our nation’s institutions of higher education and government, including the Supreme Court. Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph.
To illustrate this, I include a picture of that “Protestant elite” ceding their socioeconomic power:
It’s an odd op-ed all around, writing out all the people and groups who forced open the door of opportunity, often at risk of their own lives. Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, and a host of others simply evaporate from the record, leaving behind only the wise white (male) Protestants sagely extending privilege to all: the Founding Fathers of myth writ large over the entirety of the American experience. It’s a version of history to which no Irish (or Jewish or African-American or women or so on) need apply. They are, in Feldman’s formulation, eternally the beneficiaries of wisdom, but never its holders.