(1) Bryan Caplan quotes Harford on peer sanctions/ostracism for "acting white":
[A]s long as African Americans remain disadvantaged and clustered together in ghettos, a black student who studies hard is acquiring the ability to escape from poverty, crime, and deprivation - and from those around him. That may not be popular. People don't like to see their friends developing escape plans; even the option to escape makes us nervous.
[There are] analogues of "acting white" in communities as diverse as the British working class (that certainly matches my experience at school), Italian immigrants in Boston's West End, the Maori of New Zealand, and... Japan's lowest caste.
(2) Caplan adds:
This all sounds great, until you realize that there are plenty of cultures that don't work this way! Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe were part of the working class when they arrived. But almost all of the social pressure in Jewish culture was to do well in school and make a better life, not remain in the working class. The same goes for earlier waves of Asian immigration. Japanese-American gardeners of the sixties encouraged the next generation to do well in school and move up; that's why I've haven't heard anyone talk about a "Japanese gardener" for twenty years, even though they were ubiquitous when I was a kid.
(3) Cf. Russell Arben Fox's communitarian perspective:
Read the church's "Black Value System" that Rev. Wright and TUCC uses, and see how he connects the disavowal of middleclassness to a disavowal of the meritocratic (and thus always at least potentially elitist and nonparticipatory and undemocratic) values which hold sway in a capitalist state like our, a state determined above all to discover the most talented individuals out there, and enable (and encourage) them to professionally and socially make lifestyle choices so as to seal themselves off from the rest of their community.
(4) From the linked PDF:
The highest level of achievement for any Black person must be a contribution of substance to the strength and continuity of the Black Community.
(5) Cf. H.E. Baber's The Multicultural Mystique:
White privilege is the privilege of self-invention. Immigrants and members of ethnic minorities do not have that luxury. Even when they are not locked out of the mainstream by discrimination and economic disadvantage, multiculturalist notions of authenticity, role obligation and group loyalty dog them.
Communitarianism creeps me out. It's so oppressive to discourage people from developing their own talents or pursuing their own dreams; to bind them forever to whatever local "community" they happened to be born into -- however parochial, intolerant, and limiting.
I'm so incredibly grateful to be where I am now, to have the opportunity to dedicate my life to the discipline of philosophy; I can't even begin to imagine being nearly so happy doing anything else. The academic philosophical community is the first to which I've felt that I truly belong. But if I had been born a Maori, if my skin were a darker shade, then suddenly I would have been obliged to remain with my ethnic community instead? *shudder*
That's not to defend any kind of egoism, of course. I certainly think we ought to care about more than just our own self-interest, and strive to make the world a better place. But there are any number of ways to do that, some of which may be better or worse suited to our individual talents and temperaments. The world is a big place, and we needn't limit our attention to the little corner of it that we're born into. Utilitarian benevolence sits better with liberalism than communitarianism, it seems to me.
Moreover, I'm not even a pure individualist. I think that self-chosen communities can matter a great deal, and their collective achievements may even outweigh the individual interests of their members. But this only holds insofar as the members endorse it; unchosen communities are not automatically trumps.
So, count me in favour of meritocracy and the upward-mobility (though not the crass materialism) of "middleclassness". Count me in favour of "elitism", understood as the claim that some ways of life are better than others, tempered by the cosmopolitan insistence that the best forms of life not be closed to anyone merely due to the circumstances of their birth. (Sadly, this demand is yet to be met. Much more still needs to be done to enable humanity. But entrenching class divisions in the name of "solidarity" is not the place to start. We should want as many people as possible to join the creative classes -- to vacate the working class and its culture, not hold people there and reinforce it.) Count me in favour of liberalism.