WASHINGTON, DC–A grass-roots coalition representing the highest socioeconomic stratum of Americans marched on Washington Tuesday to demand that the nation's wealthiest one percent be granted official minority status.
Journeying to the nation's capital from monied enclaves and gated communities across the nation, the marchers gathered on the National Mall in a unified call for "an end to the discrimination we face daily as members of America's least-recognized minority group."
"We have been invisible for far too long," said billionaire shipping heiress Mrs. Winston O. Lathrop, of the Boston Lathrops, in an impassioned speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. "Just because we are among the richest persons on the planet does not mean we are not human beings. Just because we have yachts, mansions and vast corporate holdings in major multinationals does not mean we deserve to be treated as second-class citizens."
Calling the current system of federal support for only certain minority groups "grossly unfair," the marchers demanded that the nation's wealthiest one percent be afforded the same benefits other minorities enjoy.
"Public schools, from what my servants tell me, now offer Hispanic and African-American students special counselors who are sensitive to their unique needs as minorities," said Manhattan socialite Virginia Des Jardins, founder of One Percent Nation, a newsletter dedicated to increasing awareness of minority-elite issues and raising identity-consciousness among one-percenters. "Where are the counselors who can relate to our special needs? Unless you were raised in an environment with 17 maids, you cannot possibly understand what it's like. And day after day, as the economic gap between us and the masses widens, the situation only worsens, and we become ever more marginalized."
Exacerbating the problem, Dallas-based oil baron H. Milton Endicott said, are affirmative-action programs that give economically disadvantaged minorities preference in hiring and college admissions at the expense of the minority elite.
"Black students are becoming an all-too-familiar site on Ivy League campuses and in the board room," Endicott said. "It's getting harder and harder to get accepted to Harvard solely on name alone. All we're asking for is a level playing field."
Marchers, accompanied by their chauffeurs, manservants, and thousands of paid employees, were vocal in their demands for special programs that would help members of the minority-elite live in a society that, as one rallygoer said, "all too often views us with fear and loathing, just because our massive stockpiles of wealth somehow make us 'different.'"
"People on the street stare at us like we're not the same as them–and why?" mining magnate Herbert Lassiter IV said. "Because of the vast sums we have hidden in Swiss banks? Because we receive dinner invitations from Saudi royalty? Because our ties cost more than their families earn in a year? We must learn to embrace these differences and use them to bring us closer together, not to drive us further apart."
Lassiter also stressed the importance of intervention for at-risk one-percenters, many of whom are driven to low self-esteem and self-destructive behavior by the outside world's great indifference to their plight.
"Misunderstood by a world that sees them as outsiders not to be trusted, more and more of the wealthiest one percent are turning to white-collar crime," Lassiter said. "I've seen kids as young as 23 spending up to six months in minimum-security facilities for tax evasion, wasting away in places that offer only the most rudimentary of golf and dining accommodations. That's a hell no young scion should ever have to face."
One-percenters, Des Jardins said, need access to "safe spaces" where they can nurture and foster their own sense of socioeconomic pride and identity with others of their own kind, free from the disapproving glare of the non-wealthy majority. Educating the masses about the special challenges facing the wealthiest one percent, Des Jardins said, is also vital. Such efforts, however, are only the beginning.
"Until the majority learns to stop their terrible othering of the wealthiest one-percent, there will never be true equality," Des Jardins said. "For every one of us, there are 99 plebeians who view us with bigotry and anti-plutocratism."
Organizers called Tuesday's march a "major step forward" but recognize that the road to acceptance for the ultra-rich will be a long, hard one.
"I look forward to a glorious day when the wealthiest one percent can walk down the street, hand in hand with their lessers, as brothers," textile heir Julius Worthington White said. "But, sadly, that day is still a long way off."
"They look down on us, just because we're superior," White continued. "Well, our response is, 'We're here, we're fabulously well-off, get used to it.' We shall overcome."