Just watched an old episode of Blue Bloods last night where a WASP radio host (like Limbaugh or Beck) came to NYC for a rally. Selleck's character PC Reagan didn't like his ideology BUT as PC had to ensure his 1st amendment rights... course that angered almost everyone else including many intelligent whites.
BUT he had an excellent solution !! He decide to give the guy's meeting FULL police protection so they wouldn't be disturbed by protestors so he marched about 200 cops into the theater where it was held. Almost all the cops were minorities or of other ethnic backgrounds... African American, Latinos, Orientals, Italian, etc !! The Host was appalled !! Laughed my azz off !!!
In the sense that the article uses WASP, it's both a religious and ethnic/racial designation and a class identification. So although both Carter and Clinton are white A-S Protestants, they're not WASPs in the sense of the article because they do not belong to the right class. But the article gets lots of things wrong. McNamara, for instance, doesn't belong to the WASP group. First, he's from an Irish immigrant family. Second, he graduated from a public high school. Third, he went to Berkeley. Three strikes--he's out.
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WASPs are the people who go to one of the prep schools in New England--Choate Rosemary Hall, Deerfield, Lawrenceville, Hotchkiss, Andover, St. Paul's, Exeter, Northfield Mt. Hermon. A place like The Hill School might let you pass, but it's not really in the same category. And then you have to go to one of the Ivies. Some of the liberal arts ivy-likes (Williams, Haverford) will do, but it's really the Ivies that count. Going to the Ivies, by the way, means also joining the right club--like the Bushes in Skull and Bones at Yale, for instance. At Harvard there are 7 or 8 "finals clubs" that serve that purpose. If you saw that movie about Facebook and Zuckerberg (I forget the title--another sign of incipient Alzheimer's), it was one of the finals club that Zuckerberg couldn't join but the twin rivals did.
So no, WASP doesn't mean middle class, low or high. In the way the article uses the term, it means the hidden aristocracy of the US. It's there--but we don't see it, don't recognize its presence, and don't understand its functioning.
One story: when I was in graduate school at Harvard, I got to teach a lot of classes with what I thought were just plain kids. In my first year of teaching I'd ask the kids what they did over the weekend--you know the routine, MrB. I stopped pretty soon, though, because I didn't really want to hear about the quick flight to Switzerland for a weekend of skiing or the Saturday in Paris for a shopping spree. But it's not only the money, important as that is. A kid invited me to a party one time, and stupid me said sure--and that evening I rubbed elbows not just with sons of bankers and daughters of Wall Street financiers, but also with kids of ambassadors and federal judges, children of prime ministers and kings. And these were the kids I had in class, whom I didn't recognize as being who they were, so to speak. I mean, I did recognize some of them because their families were famous enough. But for the most part these were the scions of movers and shakers who preferred anonymity.
That's the category that WASP refers to. How important those folks have been in American history is hard to overstate. In terms of cultural product alone the influence is tremendous. In a joking but not really sort of way, one of my colleagues once came up with a canon of American literature that came entirely from graduates of Harvard. My colleague went to Harvard as an undergraduate and Penn as a graduate student, and comes from one of those families that falls into the WASP category, although in a marginal sort of way. He wasn't really serious--but it is an indication of how WASPs define America.
All that is clearly coming to an end, thanks to many things, but (I think) primarily because the 60s changed the nature of what matters in social practice. Again, one story: Harvard used to have a quota for Jews. The point was not that Jews needed a boost to get into the school. On the contrary, the number of Jews had to be kept down so as to make it possible for the legacies to be admitted. That quota system disappeared some time in the late 60s. Legacies still make up a large contingent of students, but even they have to work! And for the most part they do well.
I won't get into the reasons why legacies do well academically--I think we all know the advantage of having parents with social and economic status. So I'm not suggesting that the legacies shouldn't be in the school. But I do think that the old system dovetails pretty neatly into the new meritocracy.
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