As I've pointed out more than a few times, there's no more intensely felt jealousy and anger than the jealousy and anger of percents 2, 3 and 4 against the perceived wrongs of the evil top one percent. The phenomenon plays out in arenas ranging from the Occupy Wall Street protests a few years ago to the furious opposition of my affluent Greenwich Village neighbors to new condos priced for purchase by people even richer than themselves. When a large number of the Occupy Wall Street protesters got themselves arrested in late 2011, and were required to provide publicly available addresses, the Daily Caller did a big service by putting together a slide show of large homes of many of the participants. Enjoy it here.
And now we have the terribly significant protests by the "oppressed" and "marginalized" students from places like the University of Missouri, Claremont McKenna, and my favorite, Yale. Yale is my favorite not only because I went there myself (class of 1972!) but also because the whole concept of the "oppressed" and "marginalized" Yale student is something I have a hard time getting my head around. I went there on scholarship myself, and my overwhelming feeling was one of gratitude for the opportunity -- even though the fraternities and secret societies could not have been less interested in me. Do students attending this uber-elite Ivy League school really think that anyone (or at least, anyone outside their own campus) is going to take them seriously in a claim to be "oppressed" or "marginalized"? Newsflash: the day you accepted Yale's offer of admission is the day you stopped being one of the "oppressed" (if you ever were) and became an official member of the elite. Better get used to it.
When I first learned about the Yale protests, I saw that the big issue was that the protesting students claimed that they felt "unsafe." And my initial reaction was that that seemed to make sense, because New Haven is not a safe city. Its murder rate, at about 20 per 100,000 per year, is more than five times the current rate in New York City (although still well less than the 40 - 50 per 100,000 in places like Baltimore, Detroit and St. Louis), and rates for other crimes are similarly elevated. Or perhaps they were thinking of the very serious threat of international terrorism, which could very well turn its sights on the elite kids at some fancy Ivy League school. But, of course, neither of those is what the protesters were talking about at all. Instead, they asserted that they felt unsafe because the associate master of Silliman College had written an email in which she urged that despite "genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation," it might be OK for a Halloween costume to be "a little bit obnoxious":
I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students. . . . Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.
As far as I can find, it is that seemingly exquisitely sensitive and even deferential language -- and nothing to do with a couple of dozen murders a year in their midst -- that is making certain Yale students feel "unsafe." Or at least so they say. Another possibility is that there actually was at least one offensive costume out and about on the Yale campus on Halloween; but in extensive looking around the internet, I can't find any indication that such a thing actually existed. If you haven't seen it, this video of a Yale student confronting Nicholas Christakis (husband of the email author) gives a flavor of the intellectual and emotional level of the protest:
The shrieking young lady in the video has been identified (again by the enterprising Daily Caller) as Yale student Jerelyn Luther. The Daily Caller also came up with an address for her family home in nearby Fairfield -- one of those very affluent coastal Connecticut towns between New Haven and New York. Zillow puts an estimated value on the house of $876,188, which is by no means at the top of values in this area, but still well into the top 5% of home values in the U.S. Here is a picture from Zillow:
They have it as 3,324 square feet, which makes it about triple the size of the house my family lived in when I was in high school and college. The kitchen has recessed lighting, top-of-the-line appliances and nice stone counter tops:
There are lots more pictures of both the exterior and interior on the Zillow site. (The pictures of the house on Zillow were probably compiled in connection with a prior sale, so it may not look the same today. On the other hand, it's hard to believe that the new owners would have made the place worse.)
But no matter how well off you are in life, there's always someone yet better off. For example, take the guy who sparked the protests at the University of Missouri with his hunger strike. That would be one Jonathan Butler, an African-American Mizzou grad student, who, according to Omaha Metro here, turns out to be the son of Eric Butler, Executive Vice President of the Union Pacific Railroad. According to an SEC filing smoked out by Western Journalism, Mr. Butler father earned some $8.4 million last year, in addition to a family net worth exceeding $20 million. I guess that would put the Butler family in the super-evil top tenth of a percent. Asked about the purpose of his hunger strike, Omaha Metro quoted the younger Mr. Butler as follows:
“For me, it really is about a call for justice,” he said. “I’m fighting for the black community on campus because justice is worth fighting for. And justice is worth starving for."
Butler famously forced the resignation of Mizzou's President when he got the black players on the football team to threaten to strike in the middle of the season. Other than the President's resignation, what was the goal Butler was seeking?
Instead of being governed by a board, Butler wants “shared governance” so that students, teachers and staff at the system’s universities have more input into big hiring and operational decisions.
In other words, what he was seeking was some power for himself -- a member of the super-elite -- in running the university. Now, how about those black football players? They are the subject of the ongoing NCAA naked antitrust conspiracy to be sure that they are paid nothing in what for many of them is the only brief chance they will have to make some real money in their lives. Nope, they get nothing.
Anyway, back in my days in college, we had our share of protests. Yale was partially shut down by protests in the Spring of 1970, my sophomore year. I admit that I didn't support those protests either. But there were some fundamental differences between those protests and the current crop. The 1970 protests were directed toward things occurring in the world outside the university, notably the Vietnam War, the shootings at Kent State, and, as to New Haven, the trial of several Black Panthers accused of conspiracy to murder. The goal of the protesters was to motivate as many people as possible in the community to support their effort. In the current situation the protesters appear to be leveling charges of racism and improper behavior against others in their own community, and in particular are aiming charges at their fellow students, their professors, and the college administrators. This seems like a very unlikely way to win friends and allies.