The Recent College Bribery Scandal Is Peak Whiteness At Work
Bribery and cheating are functions of white supremacy.
When people think about white supremacy, rarely does bribery and cheating to gain college entry come to mind. Many conjure classic instances of hegemony and terror perpetrated at the hands of raging white folks. Obvious examples may be the tyranny and overarching dominance of whiteness that blankets the nation and nearly all of its institutions — financial, government, education, medical and so on — or perhaps the more blatant cases of violence found in the country's history of slavery, lynching and the hate groups known for brutalizing folks who are not white. We’ve seen these examples in massacres like the Trail of Tears; the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Alabama; the hate crime committed against James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas; the nine church members murdered in Charleston, South Carolina; and a host of victims (bless their souls) slain by white extremists, who occupy a running list kept by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
However, white supremacy encompasses so much more than deliberate acts of violence. As Chauncey Devega explains, “White supremacy works on an institutional and interpersonal level. Its ultimate goal is securing more resources, power, opportunities, and privileges —material, psychological or otherwise — for the in-group over the out-group.”
The recent college admissions scandal, in which 50 people — including quite a few business executives, CEOs and Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman — were arrested and hit with charges that range from conspiracy, fraud and racketeering, is not simply a matter of privilege and socioeconomics in which a few well-off folks facilitate higher education for their children. It also represents a literal function of white supremacy. In our current society, having one’s academic career associated with a prestigious institution has its benefits, because of how it can open doors and afford premium seats at many powerful tables. Although hailing from filthy richness and elite schools can double down on one’s occupation at the table. (Remember that C-student from Yale who went on to Harvard Business School and eventually became the 43rd U.S. president?)
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Cs get degrees. However, it is safe to assume wealthy students who receive purchased degrees usually inherit whole tables and gatekeeper responsibilities, including being the beneficiary of nepotism, partiality and bias. In turn, this maintains the status quo: White folks on top, and people of color beneath them. An age-old practice, this is part and parcel to the disenfranchisement and economic inequality that the non-white population in the U.S., particular Black people, experience. Quite frankly, terrorism doesn't even come close.
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Inequality.org published statistics that make the racial wealth divide clear. Between 1983 and 2016, Black family wealth median has decreased almost half from $7,323 to $3,557, while the median for white family’s wealth has increased almost $40,000 during the same period. In a nutshell, white households have 41 times the wealth as Black households. According to this data, the rich have literally gotten richer as the poor have become even poorer.
William Rick Singer knows how all this works, and not only created a wealth-building lane for himself, but also facilitated this grand scheme. According to court documents, Singer was the go-between for wealthy parents and the ivy league institutions they wanted to access to. Allegedly, over an eight-year span, Singer roughly received $25 million total from top-earning moms and pops to bribe school officials in exchange for college admission by way of athletic recruitment, exam cheating and bogus test scores. Some desperate parents reportedly went as far as spending between $200,000 to $6.5 million to obtain false medical documentation so their children could receive extended testing time after citing a learning disability, and even had mock photos taken of their children playing a sport — all in order to guarantee admission.
These attempts are a smack in the face to the hard-working parents, who get that elbow grease in just to afford college expenses. Additionally, it's a backhanded smack to young Black scholars, like Michael Love and Kayla E. Willis, who put that work in when it came to their academics, and to those who need additional funds and seek scholarship money to attend prestigious universities. It's a left hook to Kamilah Campbell, who drew skepticism from the Educational Testing Board for scoring exceptionally higher on her second-attempt SAT exam after studying months to do just that. It's an uppercut to Kelly Williams-Bolar, who was jailed for falsifying an address so her children could attend a better school, and powerful right hook to Tanya McDowell, who was convicted of "stealing education" when she enrolled her son into a Norwalk school out of their home district. McDowell was homeless at the time, and eventually served three years on her sentence and owes over $6,500 in restitution, according to a report from The Hour.
“I see it as an explicit example of white privilege and institutionalized racism,” Derrick A. Harriell, director of the M.F.A. program and associate professor of English and African American studies at the University of Mississippi, told Blavity. “What disturbs me most, as has been discussed, are the ways in which our Black and Brown youth are often made to feel inadequate or like imposters at these universities, when organized cheating has been and will continue to go on.”
"There can be no separate college admission for the wealthy, and I will add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either," Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement to NBC News.
In a perfect world, Lelling’s appeal sounds promising. Yet in many ways, most of us know that’s untrue, and the way white power is set up, it is likely the scammers know this, too. Like white supremacy, white privilege is something that's well established, and because the scales of justice seemingly weigh less in that direction, white supremacy can remain in tact.
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