“Merit”: Word Hijacks the Conversation around Racial Disparities [VIDEO]

By Channing Kennedy Jun 18, 2009

Welcome to the second installment of our new video series, WORD!, in which we take a look at the language that controls the discourse around race. Today’s WORD! is: "Merit" In a meritocracy, perfection is realized. It has to be. Right? Every day we run into those undeniable virtuous people (our family, our friends, ourselves) who never needed a helping hand and purely through hard work and high moral character have earned their high social status. So those who don’t excel in life (incidentally often people of color and the poor) get what they deserve. Or do they? For extra credit, check out the newsweek article "The President’s Whiz Kids," about the limitations of meritocracy in action. about the WORD! series: Words. You cant escape them. They headline the evening news, buzz around the water cooler and blow up your cell. They invoke powerful images that convey values, beliefs and an understanding of how the world works. And when repeated, words shape how problems are defined and which solutions are pursued. Words. They whitewash. They blindside. They leave you seeing red. In this series, ColorLines Magazine looks at what we talk about when we talk about race.