Sure Seems Like This Ridiculous Racist Lady Shouldn't Be Teaching Law At Penn
Today, the New Yorker ran an excessively long interview with America's Most Fanciest Racist, tenured Penn Law Professor Amy Wax, a woman who is famous exclusively for popping out of the woodwork at least once a year and publicly saying something so appalling that Penn has to issue a statement about how they don't agree with whatever appalling thing she recently said and then consign her to teaching electives or give her a "paid vacation."
You may recall the time, back in 2017, when she made the demonstrably false claim that she had never seen a black student graduate in the top quarter of their class at University of Pennsylvania. Or the time when she suggested that even if Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were true, she shouldn't be "bitching" about them now, because "basic dignity and fairness" say that it is now too late for that. Or the time a couple months ago when she started going off about how we should only allow white European immigrants into America, on account of how immigrants from other areas of the world are loud and prone to littering.
Oh, how I wish I were making any of this shit up. I am not.
Because I am a beautiful, selfless person, I have gone through and picked all the craziest parts out of Wax's interview with the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner, instead of sitting and peeling sheets of dead skin off of my recently Baby Foot-ed feet, which I assure you is actually more compelling and less gross than anything Amy Wax has ever said in her whole life.
Let's jump in, shall we?
The whole first portion of the interview is mostly just Wax waxing on about her belief in "cultural-distance nationalism," which is really just a fancy way of of saying "white nationalism." She contends that it's not actually "white nationalism" because it is just a coincidence that all the people she thinks are worthy of emigrating here come from European countries. She is very sad that there is a cultural taboo against saying this, or even "just asking questions" about it. She has a very curious mind, you know.
You have to understand that I come to this whole question of immigration with an unanswered question in my mind, something I got interested in years ago, and I have tried to get people to answer it. And the question is: Why are successful, peaceful, orderly, prosperous, technologically advanced, democratically sound countries so rare and so few, and why do they clump up in one tiny corner of the globe, namely Europe, the Anglosphere? We also have Japan, which is a wonder, I think, in many ways, a very admirable country. Perhaps Taiwan. And why is the rest of the world essentially consisting of, in various degrees, failed states? Why do we have a post-Enlightenment portion of the world and a pre-Enlightenment portion of the world? And I guess, to be really crude about it, you would use Trump's succinct phrase: Why are there so many shithole countries?
In case you were curious, "imperialism" and "colonization" are not the answers she wants here. Mostly she just wants to be able to ask the questions and "think rigorously" about the questions in a way that implies that non-White people are somehow not as good as white people.
Wax is not afraid to ask any question, regardless of how stupid it is:
I'm Jewish. Why are Jews so Jewy? How did that happen? Why do French women, at least until recently, look so French? I mean, what is going on? I have a friend who's Dutch, a Dutch artist, and he's very well off, and, every morning, he gets up and cleans the front window of his house. It sparkles. I said, "Why are you doing that?" He said, "Because I'm Dutch." So people do differ, there are these differences, and we just take them for granted.
There are, of course, lots of reasons for why ethnic culture is passed on through generations. For instance, the reason Italian people "talk with their hands" has to do with the fact that there were like 47 dialects of Italian back in the day, and if someone wanted to be able to communicate with someone from a different area, they had to do a little bit of sign language to get their point across. Things become habits, kids copy what their parents do, etc. etc. It is absolutely fine and interesting to talk about these things, when you don't talk about them in a "Why are Jews so Jewy?" kind of way, when you don't talk about them in a way that makes it clear you are angling at something racist.
One of the cultural "differences" that most delights Wax is how well-behaved French and German children are at the opera. Because, again, she's a fancy racist.
I witnessed people, children, behaving in ways that I rarely see American children behave. When I go to the opera in Munich, an afternoon performance, full-length, designated for children, of "The Magic Flute" or something, I also notice it. These young children sit quietly, well behaved. They wouldn't dream of creating a ruckus, just like they wouldn't dream of littering.
Littering, it seems, is a real big thing to Amy Wax. Not just because it's bad for the environment, but because she is really stuck on the idea that only non-white people litter. While you may be thinking, "that is not a stereotype I have ever heard in my life!," calling immigrants dirty and filthy has a long and not-so-proud history in this country. In the interview, Chotiner brings up a particularly gross thing Wax said in past about this, which I would also like to take a moment to address.
One of my pet peeves, one of my obsessions, is litter, and if you go up to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, or Yankee territory, versus other places that are 'more diverse,' you are going to see an enormous difference, I'm sorry to report.
Oh really now? Because I grew up in a very white town in Massachusetts, and I now live in "diverse" Chicago, and guess which one is cleaner? IT IS CHICAGO. I am not kidding, you could probably eat off the sidewalks here. Conversely, the most "famous" person from the town I grew up in was a white lady who was found living in what was deemed "The Blackstone House Of Horrors," with a bunch of dead babies in a closet. So there.
Then we've got this whole little segment about how all the non-littering white people prefer to hang out with other non-littering white folks, in the Berkshires. I just ... I can't.
We can make observations about this, and, frankly, every summer I do the grand tour of the upper-middle-class, cognitive élite watering holes to visit all my friends, and I notice that these are places that people love to go. They love to go and hang out with other people from the quote-unquote "same ethnicity" in nice, quasi-European, decorous, neat, clean, quiet, litter-free, beautifully maintained, orderly places. That's where they like to go.
People like to hang out with people of the same ethnicity. Is that what you said?
Yes. Yes, they do. I mean, I was recently in the Berkshires. If you look around, it's ninety-eight-per-cent white. Why do people go there? It's not very vibrant. It's not very diverse.
But non-white people and their propensity for littering are not the only subjects that delight Amy Wax. She also likes to talk about how it is a fact that women are less intellectual than men are. Except about fashion!
O.K., well, there's a literature in Britain, a series of papers that were done, and I need to look them up, that show that women are less knowledgeable than men. They know less about every single subject, except fashion. There is a literature out of Vanderbilt University that looks at women of very high ability—so, controlling for ability—and, starting in adolescence, women are less interested in the single-minded pursuit of abstract intellectual goals than men. They want more balance in their life. They want more time with family, friends, and people. They're less interested in working hard on abstract ideas. You can put together a database that shows that. The person who has the literature is a man named David Lubinski, and he shows that intelligence isn't what's driving it. It is interest, orientation, what people want to spend their time doing.
Now, is that sexist? We can argue all day about whether it is sexist. We can argue from morning till night. And it is sterile. It is pointless. Let's talk about the actual findings and what implications they have for policy, for expectations.
To back up this point, Wax sent The New Yorker two studies by Richard Lynn -- "a British psychologist who is known for believing in racial differences in intelligence, supporting eugenics, and associating with white supremacists" -- and a Wikipedia page. It is almost as if she was trying to prove her own point!
The interview concludes with Wax recalling an event that almost definitely did not happen in real life:
This doorman in New York recognized me the other day, and he said, "How you doing?" And, "I hope you have a long life." But he said to me, "I'm very disappointed about what happened to you, because I thought, when Trump was elected, we could say whatever we wanted." And I said, "Well, obviously we can never say whatever we want. That's called civilization." But I was very interested in that. He said, "We are totally scripted for what we can say and what we can't say, regardless of what reality presents to us." This guy was a person of color. I don't know where he was from.
Please. I just did a Google Image search for Amy Wax ten minutes ago and I could not pick her out of a line-up. I close my eyes and all I'm getting is a less pretty Frances Bay with Groucho Marx eyebrows, and that is barely in the ballpark. There is no damn way that the one person in all the world that would recognize Amy Wax on the street just happened to be an ambiguous POC doorman who was very sad about how Donald Trump didn't make it socially acceptable for her to go around talking about how white people are better than non-white people.
Here is a good rule for life — it is safe to assume that anyone who talks about questions they are "not allowed" to ask, because of political correctness, is full of shit. Especially when they ask those questions over and over again, while talking about how they are not allowed to ask them. People can ask all the questions they want, but they can't always get the answers they want, they can't always be treated like a fabulous intellectual if those questions are stupid, and if they are very obviously angling for an answer that will justify some racist bullshit they believe in, people are going to notice and point that out.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse