The Contradictions of ‘Entitlement’: Elite Common Sense about Merit and Moral Worth

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Rachel SHERMAN, New School for Social Research, USA
This paper draws on 50 in-depth interviews with affluent and wealthy New York parents to look at how they talk about “diversity,” especially in relation to their children. I compare the diversity talk of white to African-American and Indian-American interviewees, looking especially at how they think about their children’s schools and other social environments. Both parents of color and white parents see “exposure” to a range of social others as serving two functions: to help children situate themselves in the world and recognize their advantages, which is a moral imperative, and to help them get ahead in a cosmopolitan world, which is an instrumental one. But white parents tend to talk in general terms about “diversity” (implicitly conflating race and class in their portrayals of social others). Parents of color talk in more nuanced (though varying) ways about helping their children navigate the relationship between race and class. The paper reflects on the implications of these differences for the social reproduction of privilege and privileged identities.