Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart has an exquisite, anguished, self-flagellating meditation at the Atlantic’s website Tuesday. Beinart, a white, Yale-educated man, has come to the realization that he benefited from a certain kind of affirmative action in his New Republic days. “White men from fancy schools advanced quickly at the New Republic because that’s who the owner and editor in chief, Marty Peretz, liked surrounding himself with,” he writes. “I was a beneficiary of affirmative action. Except that [other] version[s] remedied historic injustices. Mine perpetuated them.”
Beinart recognizes that his unearned privilege—owed, as it is, to an accident of birth—has served to exclude others: There are only so many slots to go around in elite journalism, and that he occupied one particularly plum position kept people of color and women out. Beinart further suggests that it was this culture of pro-white-man affirmative action that allowed a culture of alleged sexual harassment to flourish at his old magazine.
Beinart’s cri de coeur is being widely hailed today. The piece is “astonishingly honest and self critical,” gushes one journalist. The piece is “really important” agrees a former colleague of Beinart’s at TNR.
Yet, to my mind, the piece ends on a rather discordant note. “What kind of journalistic career would I have had without affirmative action? A less successful one, probably,” Beinart winds up in anguish. “Ensuring that I am never again complicit in an institution that tolerates sexual harassment means embracing a world in which I lose some of my undeserved advantage. Only by doing that can I offer the women of the New Republic the apology they deserve.”
It’s profound, moving, self-critical point: Beinart realizes he must surrender some of his privilege. I don’t doubt his sincerity at all. So, to truly begin to remedy the injustices that Beinart so eloquently elucidates in his piece, there can only be one solution: He must resign from his role at the Atlantic, and from the City University of New York, where he holds a professorship.
The world is zero-sum, particularly at strapped institutions like magazines and public universities. Each dollar that Beinart receives from the Atlantic and the CUNY is one dollar that could be going to less privileged women and people of color. Beinart, as he admits, was born on the equivalent of third base; he didn’t really earn his prominent role through merit.
The good news is, it’s not too late. Beinart’s piece can be fixed with an easy edit. The following sentence should simply be appended to the conclusion of his piece. “And it is for this reason that I am resigning form my role as contributing editor at the Atlantic and professor at the City University of New York.” Beinart is obviously sincere in wanting to stop perpetuating injustice, so I’m certain he’ll take this advice post haste.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard