I collect mentions of the meritocracy myth. This one comes from Kimberlé Crenshaw’s Harvard Law Review paper “Race, Reform, and Retrenchment: Transformation and Legitimation in Antidiscrimination Law” back in 1988.

Race consciousness also reinforces whites’ sense that American society is really meritocratic and thus helps prevent them from questioning the basic legitimacy of the free market. Believing both that Blacks are inferior and that the economy impartially rewards the superior over the inferior, whites see that most Blacks are indeed worse off than whites are, which reinforces their sense that the market is operating “fairly and impartially”; those who should logically be on the bottom are on the bottom. This strengthening of whites’ belief in the system in turn reinforces their beliefs that Blacks are indeed inferior. After all, equal opportunity is the rule, and the market is an impartial judge; if Blacks are on the bottom, it must reflect their relative inferiority. Racist ideology thus operates in conjunction with the class components of legal ideology to reinforce the status quo, both in terms of class and race.

The eradication of barriers has created a new dilemma for those victims of racial oppression who are not in a position to benefit from the move to formal equality. The race neutrality of the legal system creates the illusion that racism is no longer the primary factor responsible for the condition of the Black underclass; instead, as we have seen, class disparities appear to be the consequence of individual and group merit within a supposed system of equal opportunity. Moreover, the fact that there are Blacks who are economically successful gives credence both to the assertion that opportunities exist, and to the backlash attitude that Blacks have “gotten too far.” Psychologically, for Blacks who have not made it, the lack of an explanation for their underclass status may result in self-blame and other self-destructive attitudes.

Source: Race, Reform, and Retrenchment: Transformation and Legitimation in Antidiscrimination Law

The meritocracy myth and the “lowering the bar” narrative are big barriers to inclusion. This study frames the struggle as “merit vs. the diversity imperative” and identifies it as one of four primary organizational challenges to D&I.

See also:

The Pipeline Problem and the Meritocracy Myth – Ryan Boren

The “Fix Injustice, Not Kids” Principle: Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities’ cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities. Equity initiatives focus, not on “fixing” students and families who are marginalized, but on transforming the conditions that marginalize students and families.

Source: Basic Principles for Equity Literacy

Solve for the Infinity

Selections from “Thriving at Work While Autistic, Introverted, Shy, and Otherwise Different: Part 3” on intersectionality, equality, equity, and autism at work:

Abundantly confident people who are energized by competition and enjoy a bit of a fight (typically men, extroverts, and those without conditions associated with higher physiological reaction to stress) may feel that all others should be happy to play by their rules. And if some are not, then these others are flawed, and perhaps even inferior.

Equality is not equity. The most well-intentioned mono-focus equality programs, such as gender-based, assume homogeneity within the group – but groups are not homogeneous, and the most privileged in the group benefit the most. White women benefit more than women of color. Affluent women benefit more than poor women. Those without disabilities benefit more than those with disabilities.

When the system is blind to intersectionality, those with multiple intersectional backgrounds get squashed by that seemingly unbiased system.

And the most insidious thing about systemic discrimination is the built-in gaslighting mechanism.

The system makes you think it’s your fault.

Except, autism is not a problem. It’s a solution. When there are too many variables to solve for, it makes sense to solve for the infinity – the symbol of both the infinite number of possible intersectionalities and autism acceptance.

There is rarely a need for special mechanisms for each intersectional identity. The same practices that would allow my autistic self thrive would allow every other aspect of me to thrive. Transparency, psychological safety, consideration of human differences in legitimate options for work organization, scientifically-developed job descriptions, the inclusion of a wider variety of voices – the same practices would make work better for all people. The same practices will make organizations more productive. When there are too many variables to solve for, solve for the infinity – for the infinite number of all possible intersectionalities, by embedding foundational principles of justice for all into systems and processes.

Source: Thriving at Work While Autistic, Introverted, Shy, and Otherwise Different: Part 3

See also:

It’s basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.

Intersectionality is simply about how certain aspects of who you are will increase your access to the good things or your exposure to the bad things in life. Like many other social-justice ideas, it stands because it resonates with people’s lives, but because it resonates with people’s lives, it’s under attack. There’s nothing new about defenders of the status quo criticizing those who are demanding that injustices be addressed. It’s all a crisis over a sense that things might actually have to change for equality to be real.

Self-interrogation is a good place to start. If you see inequality as a “them” problem or “unfortunate other” problem, that is a problem. Being able to attend to not just unfair exclusion but also, frankly, unearned inclusion is part of the equality gambit. We’ve got to be open to looking at all of the ways our systems reproduce these inequalities, and that includes the privileges as well as the harms.

Source: Kimberlé Crenshaw on What Intersectionality Means Today | Time