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David Brooks: the reason for inequality is uneducated people can’t order fancy sandwiches

David Brooks NBC NewsWire / Contributor

David Brooks was widely ridiculed on Twitter Tuesday for his latest New York Times column where he made reference to his “friend with only a high school degree” and described her discomfort with the words at a “gourmet sandwich shop.”

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

The paragraph spawned all sorts of parodies online with many criticizing Brooks’s perceived elitism or even saying it was just rude.

The article “How We Are Ruining America,” attempted to highlight the importance of what Brooks describes as “informal social barriers” — like how to pronounce the above sandwiches and ingredients — which he argues “segregate” lower classes even more than formal barriers like housing costs and access to education.

To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.

For Brooks, the reinvestment of upper-class and upper-middle-class families in their children is positive except that it comes at the cost of socially excluding lower classes from access to similar opportunities because they cannot easily integrate into a wealthier communities.

Whether that message is any comfort to his friend when she reads his column remains to be seen.