New York City’s leading contender for the mayoralty has been thrilling the city’s liberal elites with his denunciations of income and social inequality. New York is a “tale of two cities,” former public advocate Bill de Blasio repeatedly intones, which he will remedy with a bracing dose of “progressive” government in City Hall. The revelation that de Blasio cut his activist’s teeth as a long-time organizer and fundraiser for Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinistas elicited a bored yawn from the political commentariat; Republican rival Joe Lhota’s effort to capitalize on the prophetic roots of a career politician who has remained immaculately untouched by the private sector drew only scorn.
Guess which of the “two New Yorks” de Blasio’s white liberal supporters are fanatically dedicated to staying in? It’s not the “diverse” one. Many of the city’s grotesquely expensive private nursery schools recently declared that they would no longer require a high-stakes admissions test (yes, the stakes are high for kindergarten) because it had triggered a run on $200-an-hour test-prep courses and a bragging-rights frenzy among parents regarding their toddlers’ scores. The liberal elite’s obsession with getting their children into the most selective school only accelerates with each birthday, as that final make-or-break threshold of success — the possible arrival of an Ivy League acceptance letter — approaches.
And what drives the white liberal’s obsession with maximally selective schools? In part it is plain old status hunger. A courtier in Versailles was not more concerned with preserving his social rank and with mating his children with similarly privileged aristocrats than a New York liberal is. But the all-consuming focus on school admissions is also driven by the horror of sending one’s child to a school where he would have to actually mix with the “second” New York.
Of course, the liberal parent counts on his school’s admissions committee to provide just enough “diverse” students to allow him to feel self-righteous about his progressive values. But those “diverse” students had better be hand-selected to make sure that they are only totemic representatives of ghetto culture and will not bring its behavioral attributes across the school door.
De Blasio’s supporters assume that he will leave their ability to self-segregate intact. If his bid to use government power to “create a more fair and inclusive world” actually required them to live in “one New York,” they would bolt him faster than you can say “Whole Foods liberal.”
— Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.