About White Men’s Success, Nepotism and the Lie of Meritocracy
White men love to tell us to work harder cuz that’s what they did, and they’re wrong to do it. They should stop it immediately.
On social media, everyday we’ll see white men in business, tech or thought leadership drop posts about what it takes to be successful. They will share tips about waking up at 4am, drinking green juice, running 30 miles and then getting to work. They will talk about how that’s how they built their billion dollar companies in 3 years. They will do it while wearing grey t-shirts and wrinkled jeans, sipping $20 bottles of water, and somehow not seeing the irony of any of it.
Then they will feel good about giving the rest of us the “keys to success” cuz: goodness of their heart. While I’m somewhere rolling my eyes to the sky because all of it is performative, disingenuous and, frankly, daft.
Most recently, a wealthy white man got on social media with a graphic that said “Don’t use your pull to get someone a job.”
I can’t stop thinking about this. His caption included “It is unacceptable to use your personal influence to help someone get a job because doing so undermines the meritocracy.”
It is a showing of someone lacking sense of world awareness and justice. It is layers of privilege that is so hard to even fathom, because to think the world is a meritocracy requires a suspension of logic and reasoning that is so concerning that I’d need to ask you “are you okay?” Cuz surely we can’t live in the same world. Buttttt that’s because we don’t live in the same world.
To think you worked your way to the top purely from your own intelligence and skillset is a form of superiority complex and the worst type of arrogance. To think you got there without anyone vouching for you is to be daft to the ways of the world.
To speak about your success, without acknowledging the extreme privilege you carry as a cisgender, straight, white male working in a system created BY and FOR people like you, is to give yourself WAY too much credit. And then to tell other people not to use their power to ensure that those who wouldn’t typically have access because it will somehow mean they didn’t earn it. Nepotism has made the world go round and for a member of the old boys club to advise people not to use their pull to get a job is like a shark telling you it’s safe in the deep ocean. The hubris. My soul cringes at it.
Chad leaving behind the countless times he’s gotten an opportunity because someone made a phone call is wild. Banging the drum on optimism and work ethic as the way to success is to ignore the webs of oppression that run the world. They forget the nepotism, the Old Boys Club, the wives who are raising the kids almost by themselves so they never have to worry about things like: family care. And they forget the caucasity, cis-het, Christian (by identification, not practice, only) parts of them and privilege they carry. I don’t wanna read another interview or hear another word from a rich white dude telling us his secrets to success, unless he tells the truth about ALL THE HELP he’s received along the way, simply for being a white dude. It’s so disingenuous. It’s trite. It’s condescending.
It’s the world ruining attitude of “I am where I am on my own volition. Why can’t the rest of you catch up?” None of this exists in a vacuum. People like this are the reason why we might be losing Affirmative Action protections as early as this year. People like this are the ones who think government programs are “giving ha
nd outs” which even if they are, SO? People like this are why student loan forgiveness is constantly halted (and really, why the predatory system exists to begin with).
The world is not a meritocracy, and the HARDEST working people, who break their backs every day are not the ones whose names we know. They aren’t the ones who capitalism, racism, patriarchy favors. They are not the ones who benefit. So the white dudebro prosperity framework is dangerous and damaging.
I think about the visceral reaction this whole thing gives me, and I reflect on how many of us have been convinced that we must do life and work alone. We must struggle and strive constantly, by ourselves, in silos. I think about h
ow I recently had to convince my 20-year old niece to let me help her get an internship because she thought she had to hit walls to earn what she needs.
This is partly why I am, and will always be, unapologetic about vouching for people I know. Guilt free. I’m gonna always be a fan of hooking up folks (especially those who look like me), and nepotism cuz that is what white folks have done for a millennia without shame: make the calls to advance someone in their family or network.
So for the Chads and Brocks of the world to think they built empires by themselves? Whew… power, caucasity and maleness is a hell of a drug cocktail.