What a posh Marin background & a Womyn’s Studies degree will teach you

A posh Marin background and a good heart can’t overcome a social justice education that teaches that wealth creation happens through shakedowns.

Marin IJ Marin background Iris Brilliant Lisa Gray-Garcia
The photo and lede of a Marin IJ article that caught my eye.

Marin is one of America’s richest counties. Mill Valley, in Marin County, is one of the most affluent cities in California, with a median household income of $132,192 (not that this income gets you into the fancy houses in Marin). It is also one of the most politically progressive counties in the United States, with a relentlessly high voter turnout.

Marin Country Day School is one of the poshest, most expensive private K-8th schools in Marin County. For those who don’t qualify for aid, while it’s not quite as expensive as Harvard, it’s right in the middle when it comes to college fees. University High in San Francisco, located in the heart of posh Pacific Heights (Larry Ellison’s and the Getty’s neighborhood) is also right up there when it comes to annual tuition: $44,750, not including another $4,300 in costs. And if you’re the daughter of a well-known Mill Valley physician, you don’t get financial aid when you go as an out-of-state student to the University of Michigan. Instead, you pay $43,000. You pay that $43,000 even if you’re a Womyn’s Studies major.

And why am I droning on with all this data about the affluent lifestyle? Because of a young Marin resident who made today’s local paper:

The 29-year-old daughter of a well-known Mill Valley physician, [Iris] Brilliant grew up wealthy and privileged in affluent Marin County.


The daughter of Girija and Larry Brilliant, a co-founder of the Bay Area nonprofit SEVA, Brilliant attended Marin Country Day School and San Francisco’s University High before graduating from the University of Michigan, majoring in gender studies and creative writing. She now works in Oakland as an organizer for the national nonprofit Resource Generation.

Before I go further, let me say right off that, if SEVA lives up to its stated principles, it’s an admirable organization:

Mission: Seva Foundation partners worldwide to create self-sustaining programs that preserve and restore sight.

Vision: A world free of avoidable blindness.

Given my own vision deficits, I can only give thanks every morning that I live in America and can get glasses that enable me to see and function normally. I give to a different vision charity, but this SEVA certainly seems worth keeping an eye on (pun intended).

Although she grew up in an an enclave that capitalism made possible, Brilliant speaks in the illiterate cant of the true social justice warrior:

“They mentor people with class and race privilege about gentrification and ways in which we need to stop participating in it,” Brilliant explained. “I went though that several years ago and it was really impactful.”


“I work with people similar to myself, who either grew up wealthy or earned wealth in their own lifetime, to learn how to utilize their material and social privilege to support the social justice movement,” she explained.

The only time Brilliant makes sense is when she speaks about her Marin background and points out that Marin’s children are indeed insulated from poverty:

“I come from a rich family and I know we’re good people. But I think we have to take seriously what’s being asked of us — to look at giving our wealth back to these communities that are made completely invisible to us so it’s easy for us to ignore them and keep living these materially comfortable lives. I think that’s wrong, and it needs to change.”

Brilliant is correct that this parochialism doesn’t necessarily serve children well. Incidentally, to the average Belvedere, Ross, or Tiburon child, “poverty” means living in a three bedroom, two bathroom house, driving a Honda, and buying clothes that don’t have designer labels. For girls, especially when they’re in middle school (the cruel years), the wealth-based social hierarchy can be painful.

Brilliant doesn’t show up in the Marin IJ just because she grew up in a good home, went to expensive schools, has a good heart, and speaks Marxist gibberish. Instead, she’s partnered with another woman — Lisa Gray-Garcia — to help alleviate poverty. Gray-Garcia comes from a very different background than Brilliant’s:

Gray-Garcia, nicknamed “Tiny,” was a child of the streets, homeless and destitute and desperate, her troubled single mother’s sole caregiver when she was just 11 years old.

You have got to admire a child who can rise above that type of heinous upbringing, but it doesn’t mean you have to agree with the lessons she learned and the demands she now makes on the larger society. Take for example the idea Garcia-Gray and Brilliant have for ending poverty.

Well, wait a second. Before I get to their ideas, let me talk a minute about some ideas that Brilliant and Garcia-Gray don’t advocate, but that I think are pretty good.

Right off the bat, I’d have federal and state governments stop funding expensive universities that offer “Womyn’s Studies” programs and, instead, turn that money to trade schools. Mike Rowe is a fierce advocate for a reallocation of wealth from education that teaches useless skills to education that teaches useful skills:

The mikeroweWORKS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity that rewards people with a passion to get trained for skilled jobs that actually exist. As CEO of the Foundation, Mike Rowe spends a significant amount of time speaking about the country’s dysfunctional relationship with work, highlighting the widening skills gap, and challenging the persistent belief that a four-year degree is automatically the best path for the most people.

Through its scholarship programs, including the Work Ethic Scholarship Program, the Foundation provides financial assistance to qualified individuals with a desire to learn a skill that is in demand. The Foundation has been instrumental in granting more than $3 million in education for trade schools across the country.

If you’d like more information about redirecting American taxpayer money from the liberal arts to skills that actual benefit society, check out Lt. Col. Allen West on the subject:

America doesn’t have an unemployment problem – it has an education and skilled worker problem. Right now, there are millions of available jobs all around the country with top companies offering good pay and benefits. However, the problem for these potential employers is a lack of skilled or properly educated workers. This is a massive issue in America, which President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are working to address.

Recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the number of potential jobs in America at an all-time high – roughly six million available jobs – but new hire rates are dropping. Why? Officials in Atlanta say while the construction industry in their city is booming, many companies and individual contractors cannot get skilled workers to fill much-needed positions. In Nevada County, California, contractors describe the labor shortage as “terrible”, an “enormous problem” that has now reached a “critical” shortage. Detroit Chamber of Commerce officials say they are losing a half a billion dollars a year in potential economic growth due to a lack of skilled workers in many job sectors.

Read more from Lt. Col. West here.

Here’s another way to alleviate poverty: Work with inner city cultures to improve their own values to align them with moving up the economic scale. I wrote recently about the fact that, until America blacks take their own inner-city pathologies seriously enough address the problems themselves, rather than loudly and violently demanding that everyone else fix the problems, nothing will change. It will just be a continuing power trip for the politically connected with inner city youth continuing down the road to poverty and perdition. (Along those lines, I’ve got my eye on Jason Riley’s newly published False Black Power? (New Threats to Freedom Series).) I focused on America’s black culture, but the reality is that the fierce drive to thrive that characterized earlier immigrant generations, and that still makes Asians immigrant powerhouses, does not exist in communities pacified by Leftist assurances that they are not responsible for their own well-being, but should, instead, always look to Democrat politicians for succor.

At the political level, reducing taxes would help. As I’ve told my kids forever, governments don’t create wealth. They just print money. Individuals create wealth. In a dynamic society, one free from a strong caste system of the type that’s existed everywhere in the world except for America (although America’s Leftist elite are trying damn hard to create one), having wealth circulate in society — as opposed to having the government strong-arm that wealth from the earners, take a cut for its politicians and bureaucrats, and then return it to favored constituents — is the surest way to create wealth in a rising cohort of Americans. Reducing unnecessary bureaucracy is another way to help that money flow from one citizen to the next.

I’m suspect that you, my readers, can think of other things by which people can raise themselves up. However, I’m willing to bet that none of you came up with Brilliant’s and Gray-Garcia’s way:

Brilliant, Gray-Garcia, First Nations leader Corrina Gould and other activists associated with Oakland’s Poor Magazine, which Gray-Garcia co-founded in 1996, have joined together in a new kind of “community reparations” movement — one that identifies rich people as “wealth hoarders” who can make things right by “redistributing” their excess money, land and assets to the poor and homeless.

For the past year, groups of black, brown, indigenous and disabled people have been embarking on what they’re calling “Stolen Land/Hoarded Resources Tours” of upscale neighborhoods across the country, going door-to-door with a novel spin on the concept of sharing the wealth through a new “Bank of Community Reparations,” founded by a coalition of Bay Area nonprofits. There is also a Go Fund Me website.

Loosely modeled on India’s Bhoodan Movement, which involved wealthy landowners gifting land to the poor, the tours began last Earth Day in San Francisco’s Nob Hill and Pacific Heights neighborhoods, then moved on to Piedmont in the East Bay, Beverly Hills, the Hamptons, Manhattan’s Park Avenue and the Main Line in Philadelphia. Last Sunday, the tour arrived in Belvedere, one of Marin’s wealthiest enclaves.

I know I’m showing my age when I say that, in my day, we used to call this type of activity “begging.” Begging, of course, has an old and honored tradition. It’s existed at all times in all places in the world because, no matter the system, there are always people who get lost, whether through dumb bad luck, mental health problems, substance abuse, the coils of the prevailing economic system, war, etc.  Since no system has ever alleviated poverty, the best one can hope for is a system that enables the greatest number of people to leave poverty. I once did a long, possibly coherent, post about the difference between static poverty and dynamic poverty, so I won’t repeat it here. You’re welcome, of course, to check it out.

It’s also begging with an edge. I have to admit that, were I to open the door to a group of people insisting that I essentially stole their money because I have money and they don’t, I might feel a bit intimidated. I would certainly be polite, and I might feel really compelled to donate lest the situation get out of hand. That’s not even begging, when you think about it. That’s strong-arming.

This approach also ignores the fact that, as Brilliant should know better than most, America’s wealthy are extraordinarily generous, whether they are because of genuine charitable concerns, guilt, or tax deductions. In addition to paying most of the nation’s taxes, the rich give truly stunning amounts to charity, with those funds helping not only Americans, but people all over the world. (Some of the funds go to vanity projects, of course, especially to buildings on obscenely rich college campuses that pretend that Brilliant’s major — Women’s Studies — is actually a thing.)

I’m not sure that I have an ultimate point here. Maybe it’s that, come the revolution, the rich are literally going to be eaten by their own expensively educated children.  Maybe it’s that, if you’re a Marxist, the only way to get wealthy is to beg, borrow, or steal, never to earn. Maybe it’s that the Left, while perpetually obsessed with wealth, has no understanding of actual economics, including the wealth creation process.