The bootstrap myth


The bootstrap myth, also called the meritocracy myth, says that anyone can come to America with nothing and, with hard work and clean living, rise into the middle-class in one, two or three generations: “My grandfather came here with $25 in his pocket. If he can do it, anyone can. What is wrong with black people?”

As commonly conceived it is

  • way too simple and
  • mainly used in a racist, self-serving way

Many whites use it to support their idea that American society is fair, that racism is dead. And then, in almost the same breath, they use it to support their own racist ideas! You know, that Asians and Jews have more intelligence, that blacks are shiftless layabouts, and so on.

In my experience, which mainly concerns West Indian New York, plenty of people do come to America with nothing and lift themselves into the middle-class –…

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