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New Report on Race and College Admissions:

There is a new study out on "the increasing number of students falling into the 'race/ethnicity unknown' category of postsecondary demographic data. The study findings suggest that a sizeable portion of students in this category are white, in addition to multiracial students who may have selected white as one of their categories." The study reports that over the decade ending in 2001, the proportion of students identified as being of unknown race grew from 3.2 percent to 5.9 percent. Prior to this study, the authors report, it was thought by many that the rise in "none" reflected a rise in multiracial self-identification, such that old categories no longer applied.

The study finds otherwise. Instead, it finds that most of those who report no racial identity are actually white. Here's a stunning statistic: At one of the three colleges included in the study, the share of students classifying themselves as white rose to 70 percent after they were admitted, compared with 42 percent behforehand. The proportion of students of unkown race dropped to 4 percent from 32 percent. The report (page 11) speculates on the reluctance of some to elect a racial classification at the admissions stage: "It is possible that some increase in unknown students is due to an impression among white and AAPI [Asian-American/Pacific Islander]students that their race/ethnicity would work against them in the admissions process."

The report notes that these reporting biases pose serious problems for the bean-counters whose job it is keep track of these sorts of things. One proposal would be to essentially force students and institutions to elect racial classifications by taking away the "unnkown" category for institutions reporting. The report observes, "Requiring institutions to collapse groups of students into the 'unknown' category results in less accurate informaiton at the federal level. Perhaps more disconcerting, it reinforces this practice at the institutional level. As we hear an increasing call for institutional accountability for student learning outcomes, we should also demand to know precisely what groups of students are present in our learning environments."

Joe Malchow pointed me to the study, and he has some personal reflections of his own.

Nobody Special:
Is this really surprising, though?

I've always just gone ahead and filled out the affirmative action statements, because I assumed that people would count "none" "decline to state" and "other" as white/asian in order to discriminate against me in favor of certain minorities.
1.7.2006 8:21am
David Hecht (mail):
Gee...how about, we do away with racial classifications everywhere?!?

Twenty years ago, there were only two industrial nations that kept official government statisitics on the race of each of their citizens.

But since that time, SOUTH AFRICA have abolished theirs...
1.7.2006 8:44am
Alabama Attorney:
My siblings and I are 1/16 so-called Native American. When my brother applied to college in the early 1990s, as an experiement we decided to list his ethnicity as "Other: 'Mixed Anglo and American Indian'" He was admitted to Columbia, Princeton, and MIT. The first two schools apparently classified him as white.

MIT, however, called him to ask for more particulars -- whether he participated in any Native American rituals, whether he was a member of any Native American tribes, etc. My brother answered honestly, saying no to every question designed to divulge some connectedness with this fractional portion of his heritage.

Despite my brother's negative answers, MIT chose to classify him as Native American and gave him reduced loans and various "opportunity grants" as part of his financial aid package. If he had taken MIT's offer, he would have been asked to borrow just $1,000/year and contribute work study of only about $1,000/year, including the summer.

This minority financial aid package was a huge advantage over that of white students, who were required to borrow about $3,000/year and work enough to earn at least $2,000/year during the school year and a similar amount each summer.

In the end, my brother attended Columbia, but only after using MIT's award to get Columbia to come about half way to matching MIT's racist financial aid preferences.

With such a huge disparity in financial aid awards as well as admissions criteria, it's no wonder that increasing numbers of applicants are hesistant to disclose their ethnicity to the educrats. I predict the next step will be large-scale lying about minority status to take advantage of the financial privileges given to politically correct minorities.
1.7.2006 8:58am
Owen Hutchins (mail):

Twenty years ago, there were only two industrial nations that kept official government statisitics on the race of each of their citizens.

Blatently false statement. On my first check, the UK collects such data on their census forms. I also found forms from colleges in the UK asking for the ethnic background of students.
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001
http://www.wadham.ox.ac.uk/staff/vacancies/equalopp.pdf
1.7.2006 8:59am
CJ:
I've graduated from college only recently. I usually put Other... if asked, I'm "human" or "American" or "Texan." Only racists ask about race. Ahhh, the idiocy of those in power...
1.7.2006 9:02am
PersonFromPorlock:
Since we're all descended from African ancestors who were presumably dark-complected, and from them only, aren't we all, technically, Black? (grin)
1.7.2006 9:12am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I always check "Native American" if its an option, because it is technically accurate if you are an American citizen and born in the United States. Back in the 80's Auburn University had a stable of white south african female tennis players, the rumor being that the school got to count them as minorities.
1.7.2006 9:46am
SJ:
My young daughter is mixed race. She's unique, having access to the best of two cultures, and we don't want her to get into the practice of racial identity, nor do we want others to pigeonhole her. Now, to be consistent after telling her not to go along with racial categorization, we mark ourselves in the other category. I doubt this is a large part of the increase in other catagorization, but it is likely to increase as mixed race couples continue to increase.
1.7.2006 9:59am
dk35 (mail):
Just curious....how many of you commenters have children who checked off that their mother/father was an alumnus/a of the school(s) they were applying to. Were you equally offended at the notion that your children might be preferred candidates because of this?
1.7.2006 10:07am
David Hecht (mail):
Owen Hutchins:

Please read carefully before posting: I said *individual*, not statistical.

All countries collect demographic data which is aggregated. Few collect individual data which is tied to each specific person's data record.
1.7.2006 10:29am
Taeyoung J. (mail):

Just curious....how many of you commenters have children who checked off that their mother/father was an alumnus/a of the school(s) they were applying to. Were you equally offended at the notion that your children might be preferred candidates because of this?

I don't have children in that boat, but I did fill out the box, for the one school where I had alumni connections, listing all my kinsmen who had attended (I got in, but chose to go elsewhere). So I can view it from the other side, at least. And from the other side, my take is that I feel far less dirty filling out alumni statistics than racial statistics. This is actually much more pronounced at work than it was at school, since I actually count as a "minority" in my chosen profession for these racial balancing purposes (Asians are only overrepresented at twice their rate in the population, rather than ~10x or whatever it is in California).

I think the reason it feels so dirty, and listing one's parents does not, is that in US society, racial classifications have a uniquely noxious history -- one-drop rules, racialised slavery, lynchings, those repeated anti-Asian riots in SF and Berkeley, racial classification to restrict immigration, Jim Crow, segregation, what we did to the Native Americans, and so on and so forth. The relative social meanings might be different in societies where who your parents were was a major limiting factor in where you could go and what you could do -- in societies, that is, where who your parents were was a kind of segregation criterion. But while we've had that to a limited extent, we haven't had much of it. Perhaps more in some regions than others (I hear New Orleans society and some Southern cultures were somewhat like that), but by and large, we have not judged you by your actual lineage, just the colour of your skin, or the content of your blood.

And for me personally, stepping away from these generalities, I think a major part of it is that I have a sense of family identity. I think that who my parents were does tell you something about me (less so, who my grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. are, though). I'm comfortable with, or maybe just used to being judged, in part, on who my parents are, and how they interact with society.

I'm not similarly comfortable with being judged on what my race is. In all honesty, yes, it does tell something about me -- my family have not been here in the US very long (~4 generations on one side, ~1.5 on the other) and we have preserved some measure of our cultural distinctiveness. But my racial group, for the race-counters, tells nothing of the sort, certainly not with a meeaningless group like "Asians", including Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Vietnamese, Indonesians, Philipinos, and in all likelihood Australian Aborigines. And it feels wrong to submit to these overbroad classifications, like (back to the generalities) reinforcing a racialised power structure implicating all those loathsome practices listed above, a power structure that groups all people with yellowish skin into one racial group, considers Irishmen as the same as Czechs, and thinks every South American people to be effectively Mexican. It feels retrograde; it feels primitive; and it feels, when I dutifully colour in my race-identification bubble, like I have become complicit in that racialised power structure. It feels dirty.
1.7.2006 11:05am
Taeyoung J. (mail):
I got the proportions wrong -- Asians are actually underrepresented in my chosen field (law). Asians are just overrepresented in law schools. Got them confused.
1.7.2006 11:14am
Defending the Indefensible:
Apparently in some fields like mathematics, engineering and statistics, postgraduate enrollment is so heavily skewed towards candidates of Asian ancestry that it is generally an advantage in being considered for admissions to be "white".

Why is it that Jews are supposed to put down "white"? Since we've been discriminated against in the past for not being "white enough," it doesn't seem to make sense.
1.7.2006 11:37am
Challenge:
"Apparently in some fields like mathematics, engineering and statistics, postgraduate enrollment is so heavily skewed towards candidates of Asian ancestry that it is generally an advantage in being considered for admissions to be "white".

Why is it that Jews are supposed to put down "white"? Since we've been discriminated against in the past for not being "white enough," it doesn't seem to make sense."

Asians are discriminated against more than whites in some programs, so if you mean there is a relative advantage between those two races, sure.

Your second statement suggests to me you think Jews should not be discriminated against by AA, is that correct? Using the proportionality scheme of AA, Jews should be classified as a distinct race, as they are many times overrepresented in the academy, especially in the best schools.

Of course I would personally prefer we get rid of this whole business, but it's interesting that the proponents of AA only selectively invoke the proportionality-discrimination principle against whites (and Asians).
1.7.2006 12:12pm
pedro (mail):
I have mixed emotions about affirmative action, loosely defined as the practice of attempting to build a diverse scholarly environment. On one hand, I am not an American citizen (yet), and this has made me quite aware of how citizenship is used--in my visceral opinion, unfairly--to give an extraordinary advantage when it comes to fellowships and jobs. Though now that I am a legal permanent resident my opportunities to find jobs has expanded considerably, I am still not eligible for a variety of jobs, and when I was simply here on a student visa, my opportunities were substantially slimmer, to the point that a few significantly less qualified and less deserving American students in my class were rewarded with fellowships that were out of range for me. This sort of nationalistic protectionism--which is much more prevalent than one might think in this land of opportunities, not to imply that it isn't far worse in other societies--has made me acutely aware of the serious shortcomings of aggressive affirmative action programs.

On the other hand, I think it is useful to keep track of information pertaining to admissions and hiring practices in academia (and elsewhere, too). I am on the job market right now (and it is providential that I am by now a legal permanent resident), and I have kept receiving (and answering) affirmative action forms. In principle, I have nothing against this. One thing I've noticed is that the affirmative action forms go directly to Human Resources, and not to the hiring department. Another: the forms are voluntary (which I think is a pity, if only for statistical reasons). And perhaps most significantly: most AA forms come with the disclaimer that the information provided will *not* be used in making a hiring decision. Therefore, it seems clear that the only way hiring committees might divine my ethnicity is from my first name (my last name is not Spanish nor of native American [America, the continent] origin, mind you). But trust me, my first name gives me more apprehension than relief.

Like David Velleman, over at Left2Right (now apparently defunct, sadly), I happen to think that a diverse student body is an asset that a college can legitimately aspire to, and it also seems to me that slightly more aggressive affirmative action practices are justifiable at lower educational levels than at higher ones. But like thoughtful, minority-friendly critics of affirmative action, I am genuinely concerned with the consequences of affirmative action. At any level, affirmative action does indeed provide both an incentive to apply (which is rather good, especially considering how discouraged minority students are about their prospects) and disincentives to compete, and this latter effect is tragic.

And then, on top of all that, there's the issue of race. I happen to think that race is the wrong category altogether to be fixated on, when it comes to attempting to reverse insidious deviations from fairness in admitting students to school. Classifying people according to race has very unpleasant consequences. I, for one, found it utterly disgusting when I learned that Hispanic is a racial classification in this country. Funnily enough, a Spaniard is White, but I am a Hispanic (some sort of "derivative", I suppose, not the "real" thing). And if you dispassionately observe what affirmative action is doing to American public discourse right now (not a couple of decades ago; I don't know much about what was going on then), it seems perfectly clear that racial tension is increased by the existence of AA as it is implemented in the US. Besides, it is unfair if poor White rural students tend to be regarded as privileged people from the perspective of AA offices. So I guess what I'm saying is that I fall on the camp of those who favor some sort of AA-like program to be implemented on the basis of class, not race. And such a program would have to be very careful in not providing strong disincentives to compete.
1.7.2006 12:13pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
I would like the authors of this study to come up with official definitions of racial identity, if they want them so much. I want to know who is officially black, who officially white, who officially Asian-American, who officially Latino/a. I want to know whether Hispanics and Arabs are white or not. I want to know whether it's sensible to class all "Asians" as a single group, and whether Russians and Indians and Chinese and Japanese and Thai and Indonesians really belong all in the same bag. (For that matter, given that the Caucasus is in Asia, I wonder whether Caucasians and Asians are in fact the same folks.) I want to know whether Portuguese and Brazilians, not speaking Spanish, are "Hispanics."

But most of all, I want to know why anyone would bother with this pathetic racial classification, which makes no sense and does no one any good at all, apart from the few that find joy in racial engineering. There isn't any way to assign races to individuals — at least, there's no way that's even vaguely scientific. To take a very hackneyed example, Tiger Woods had a Thai mother and a mixed-race black/white/Native American father. The chances that a University admissions panel would therefore call him "Asian-American"? Well, "zero" is a nice round number.
1.7.2006 12:14pm
Challenge:
"I got the proportions wrong -- Asians are actually underrepresented in my chosen field (law). Asians are just overrepresented in law schools. Got them confused."

Taking the percent of population is not a useful measure of "representativeness." Hispanics, for example, are on average considerably younger, so we would expect this population to be underrepresented in law and medicine because a significant percent of the classification hasn't had a chance to even attend law or medical school (compared to whites). The opposite might be true of the Asian population, if they are older as a group.

I know that the income statistics for Jews is skewed upwards because the average age of Jews is higher (each generation had fewer and fewer children).

This was a randomn aside, but I couldn't resist.
1.7.2006 12:16pm
Challenge:
"I have mixed emotions about affirmative action, loosely defined as the practice of attempting to build a diverse scholarly environment."

I think you have confused the legal sophistry used to justify AA and the real reason for it.
1.7.2006 12:19pm
Cornellian (mail):
Why is it that Jews are supposed to put down "white"? Since we've been discriminated against in the past for not being "white enough," it doesn't seem to make sense.

Nothing about the racial classification industry in America makes any sense. What, exactly, is a "Hispanic." Is Cameron Diaz a Hispanic? If someone who's 1/2 Black elects "Black" on his college admission form is he being honest? How about 1/4? 1/8? 1/16? 1/32? Assuming the 1/32 case, can the college dispute his classification? How will they go about doing so? Does a white person from Africa count as African? Should a black immigrant enjoy the benefit of a US affirmative action preference from the day he sets foot in this country?

I still remember the dissenting opinion from the Grutter case (the case upholding a Michigan law school's racial preferences). The argument in that case (and the current argument in favor of racial preferences) is that the school needs a "critical mass" of various racial groups in order to ensure a full education for the student body through exposure to a range of backgrounds and viewpoints. How much is a "critical mass?" The dissent pointed out that it just happened to coincide exactly, year after year after year, with the percentage of that minority in the applicant pool. If the applicant pool was composed of 4% of a particular group, then "critical mass" that year was 4%. If it was 8% the next year, the "critical mass" magically was transformed to 8%. Consider how the majority goes on at great length about the critical need for deference to the expertise of educators and their decisions about the kind of environment necessary for a proper education. Then read the VMI decision where the educators in question felt that an all male environment provided a unique brand of education, the brand they wanted to provide. Lo and behold, all that rhetoric about deference is nowhere to be found. I look forward to the day (apparently 25 years from the Grutter decision, according to O'Connor) when the 14th Amendment means what it says, and the Constitution is held to ban racial (among other) classifications by government. Can we all plan a party now for that date? Maybe we'll call it "14th Amendment day" or some such thing.

Now having said all that, I should add that I don't believe society should simply put its head in the sand and pretend that racial inequalities don't exist in this country, but racial preferences at the college level is not a substitute for a system that ensures an opportunity for a quality education from kindergarten forwards for all Americans.
1.7.2006 12:19pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Challenge:

I dislike your attack-mode knee-jerk partisanship. I am not making a point in favor of adding "Jewish" to the racial classification system, and any suggestion that it be done would almost necessarily be ironic. We ought not to be classifying people on application forms.

If the college wants to engage in affirmative action, let them interview prospective students. They can then ascertain more than just the color of an applicant's skin, they can get a sense of her character and intelligence so that the decision is not a quota-filling exercise.
1.7.2006 12:30pm
Challenge:
"But like thoughtful, minority-friendly critics of affirmative action, I am genuinely concerned with the consequences of affirmative action. At any level, affirmative action does indeed provide both an incentive to apply (which is rather good, especially considering how discouraged minority students are about their prospects) and disincentives to compete, and this latter effect is tragic."

Comparably qualified minorities are not concerned about their prospects. What you're really saying is that under-qualified minorities should be given a chance where underqualified whites and Asians should not.

It's possible that AA in a given circumstance could either increase or decrease scholastic effort. Its net effect, however, is probably a decrease (not increase) in the actual competitiveness of minoritity students, as they know they don't have to be as competitive, so why try? If a 1400 SAT is an auto-admit at Harvard, why try for a 1550? It's also possible that it encourages some students to increase their score, as they feel they are within reach of their dream school because of AA, and put in the additional effort they otherwise would not.

"So I guess what I'm saying is that I fall on the camp of those who favor some sort of AA-like program to be implemented on the basis of class, not race. And such a program would have to be very careful in not providing strong disincentives to compete."

Your previous statement makes more sense with this in mind. At least a socioeconomic AA would not violate the Constitution, nor would it create the same kind of tensions and animosities.
1.7.2006 12:32pm
Challenge:
"I dislike your attack-mode knee-jerk partisanship. I am not making a point in favor of adding "Jewish" to the racial classification system, and any suggestion that it be done would almost necessarily be ironic."

Good, but in all fairness I did ask if that is what you intended, hardly an example of "knee-jerk partisanship."
1.7.2006 12:34pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):
Taking the percent of population is not a useful measure of "representativeness." Hispanics, for example, are on average considerably younger, so we would expect this population to be underrepresented in law and medicine because a significant percent of the classification hasn't had a chance to even attend law or medical school (compared to whites). The opposite might be true of the Asian population, if they are older as a group.

A fair point, though. I don't have numbers on that handy. Asian participation in the legal field also skews much younger than the population of lawyers generally, and I think that should affect the relevant comparisons too.
1.7.2006 12:50pm
pedro (mail):
Challenge: "What you're really saying is that under-qualified minorities should be given a chance where underqualified whites and Asians should not."

I don't believe I was referring to racial categories in my comment. And in fact, I think I was perfectly clear in expressing my strong reservations about using race as a means to make admissions and hiring decisions. But I do believe that it may incidentally be the case that similarly "qualified" individuals from different economic backgrounds may indeed have different degree of talent. After all, if poor student X, from underprivileged Appalachia, say, with all sorts of obstacles in her way to academic stardom, is deemed equally qualified as wealthy student Y, from Connecticut, and the recipient of all sorts of incentives to grow academically, it is only reasonable to guess that it is intrinsic talent that has helped X reach the level of achievement of Y.
1.7.2006 1:41pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
pedro,

Classifying people according to race has very unpleasant consequences. I, for one, found it utterly disgusting when I learned that Hispanic is a racial classification in this country. Funnily enough, a Spaniard is White, but I am a Hispanic (some sort of "derivative", I suppose, not the "real" thing).

Actually, I think you and the Spaniard are both "Hispanic," and whether either of you is also "White" is probably decided by the "eyeball test." "Hispanic" is an "ethnicity" rather than a "race," and I think it's defined by whether your parents or more remote ancestors came from a Spanish-speaking nation. There are, in other words, Black Hispanics, White Hispanics, &c. Certainly there are people whom the US would call "Hispanic" who are darker than most African-Americans. Cf. a good fraction of our pro baseball players.

OTOH, Brazilians aren't technically "Hispanic," because they grew up on the wrong language. Make what sense you can of that.
1.7.2006 2:15pm
Challenge:
Pedro, I noted in my comment that your later statements about socioeconomic factors shed more light on what you were getting at. Sorry for the confusion. You did use the term "minorities" and not "socio-economic status," so I think my reading was a fair one, even if your later statements augmented your point (for the better).

I agree with your point about intrinsic talent or aptitude with respect to socioeconomic status, though I am unsure if college admissions can make the system more fair or just by compensating for socioeconomic disadvantage. Certainly it would be constitutional, and at least to me preferrable to the use of race.
1.7.2006 2:25pm
Bobbie:
Poor white people in the United States . . . They have it so difficult.

For generations, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, among others, were discriminated against based on their race. Now that white people might take a slight hit, all of a sudden we want to throw our hands up and claim there’s no such thing as race. I wonder what would have happened in the South in 1940 if a black kid told a white cop that he could drink from whatever water fountain he wanted because there’s no such thing as race? It was easy enough to identify race back then.

Just because a concept might be unclear at its edges -- are people who have 1/16th American-Indian blood really American-Indian? -- doesn’t mean that concept cannot be coherently used. That isn’t exactly a ground-breaking proposition; we all classify things into categories that are, at some level, arbitrary. (To take one example: we send people to jail based on categorizations that are at its edges, unclear!)
1.7.2006 2:35pm
Challenge:
"For generations, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, among others, were discriminated against based on their race."

Most Mexicans weren't even in the US for the period you think justifies current discrimination.

Most black Harvard Alumni are the children of immigrants or foreign nationals.

Asians were discriminated against at least as severely as Mexicans, yet they have succeeded (and are now subject to the same discrimination as whites).

It'd be nice if your (lousy) argument coincided with reality.
1.7.2006 2:43pm
Brutus:
Now that white people might take a slight hit, all of a sudden we want to throw our hands up and claim there’s no such thing as race

Two wrongs make a right?

My prediction is that after a sufficient number of white students check "other" or "none", schools will go back to the system that prevailed in my day of requiring each applicant to enclose a picture. Then the admissions committee will eyeball you and decide for themselves what race you are regardless of what box you check.
1.7.2006 2:47pm
TRC:
dk35 says:


“Just curious....how many of you commenters have children who checked off that their mother/father was an alumnus/a of the school(s) they were applying to. Were you equally offended at the notion that your children might be preferred candidates because of this?”.



Legacy admits donate at higher rates, donate more money on average, and do better academically, compared to “non-legacy” admits. Moreover, all students – black, white, or other – can receive legacy preferences if their parents have the drive and ambition to secure it for them. All students – black, white, or other – cannot be the direct beneficiaries of racial preferences.

A meritocracy – based solely on achievement factors with known relations to academic performance – would be preferable in my view, but your comparison between race and legacy admissions seems inapt.

If you want to argue that legacy and racial admits are parallel – you can do that. However, most people recognize that the two types of admissions have different bases. Your implication that commenters on this blog should be equally offended by both, therefore, should be defended.

cite
1.7.2006 3:44pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Speaking of racial statistics, I wonder what the ratio of (Whites killed by Black assailants): (Blacks killed by White assailants) is in the US? I'm betting on the order of over 100 to 1. Of course it depends on how you define your victims, do you include Nicole Simpson or Tookie Williams since we don't really know the race of their killers.
1.7.2006 3:56pm
Bobbie:
Challenge, did you even read my post?

Brutus, you wrote, “Two wrongs make a right?” I wasn’t make a normative argument for affirmative action. I was addressing the argument that we can’t sufficiently identify who is a “true” minority. As I stated above, people in this country have had no problem identifying people by race for generations. It’s a little late in the game to be complaining. Moreover, as I noted above, it’s irrelevant that the definition of who is or isn’t African-American isn’t precise. We categorize people all the time when there’s no precise definition.
1.7.2006 4:13pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
(To take one example: we send people to jail based on categorizations that are at its edges, unclear!)
But actually, we send people to jail based on individualized assessments of their 'merit,' which enables us to clarify those edges. Which makes it completely non-analogous to affirmative action, which is based on generalizations about group characteristics.
1.7.2006 4:32pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Frank Drackmann,

I doubt that very much. Most murder victims IIRC are black, and most people who are murdered are murdered by acquaintances. Those two factoids by themselves make it rather unlikely that 100 whites are murdered by blacks for every black murdered by a white.

You are possibly thinking of the slightly more plausible argument that "black-on-white" murder is much more common than is "white-on-black" murder. Leaving aside for the moment the undisputed fact that violent crime is much more common among blacks than among whites, it's obvious that if black and white criminals target victims randomly, there's going to be much more black-on-white than white-on-black crime, simply because there are many more white than black potential victims. This particular canard has been exploded so many times that I'm rather astonished to see it still alive and well. Evidently it has more lives than a cat.
1.7.2006 4:38pm
Seamus (mail):

Since we're all descended from African ancestors who were presumably dark-complected, and from them only, aren't we all, technically, Black?



Not unless our skin is dark. We can, however, claim to be African-American (though perhaps our claim to that term isn't quite as strong as that of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who was actually *born* in Africa).
1.7.2006 4:40pm
Bobbie:
No, we do often send people to jail based on categorizations that are at its edges unclear.

I’m sure every lawyer reading this would agree that the law is *gasp* unclear at times. Whether someone has committed a crime often can turn on applying a clear statute to a novel circumstance. For example, lets say state X makes it a crime to be a prior felon in possession of a firearm. We’re all going to agree that there are certain core instances of who is a “prior felony”, what it means to be in “possession” of something, and what constitutes a “firearm.” But, at the margins, those words can be ambiguous.

I know this all seems obvious, but it’s at the heart of what at least some people are complaining about in this thread: words can be ambiguous. It’s no shock that, at the margins, categorizing people as “African-American” or “European” break down. Just like its no shock that what constitutes “possession” can be unclear when what constitutes possession merges into non-possession. That doesn’t mean we can then say that no prior felon possesses a firearm. But that’s what many people in this thread are arguing.

You’re confusing when we make generalizations about a group -- “group x suffers discrimination” -- from generalizing that group x exists to begin with.

You can believe that affirmative action is a poor policy choice or is unconstitutional, but you can’t argue it’s incoherent because “race” is meaningless. It’s not. We all know, generally, what it means to be “African-American” and “Native-American.” It doesn’t have to be a tight scientific definition.
1.7.2006 4:49pm
Bobbie:
My last comment was in response to David's comment. Sorry for any confusion.
1.7.2006 4:50pm
pedro (mail):
Michelle Dulak Thomson:

I don't think your definition is quite popular, actually. My Spanish friends--I have quite a few of them--have all been instructed to identify themselves as White/Caucasian/European, whereas I am a Hispanic. Different academic institutions have different ways of defining the term Hispanic, by the way. In some of the forms I've been sent, the question explicitly states to select one of the "following races" (in others the key word is ethnicity). True enough, the rubric Hispanic tends to be accompanied by an explanation along geographic lines (and this explanation invariably refers to Latin America, not to Spain, incidentally), but it is still quite unsettling to be classified as derivative from Spain, while Spaniards are classified as something else entirely.

In any case, I just remembered a wonderful little anecdote from an Anthropology Professor who taught a course in Nationalism and Ethnicity which I attended a few years ago. His youngest child is going to Kindergarten, and apparently one of the rubrics in which he is graded is "shows appropriate pride in his ethnic heritage" (don't ask me what *I* think of that question or its equivalent with respect to nationality). Since the kid is the son of a Dutch mother and a Jewish father, the grade he was given was N/A. I wonder if someone like me--born in North Europe, raised in Central America, bearing a decidedly Western European last name, and incidentally the nephew of a Jewish Dutch translator--is somehow similar. And yet, when I fill out those forms (and I do, out of a personal sense of duty to collaborate with statisticians), I have to choose a category I did not even acknowledge as meaningful (either ethnically or racially) until I came to the US.
1.7.2006 4:54pm
pedro (mail):
Michelle: and thanks for your response to Drackmann.
1.7.2006 4:58pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I stand surprised, the actual ratio of (Whites murdered by Blacks):(Blacks murdered by whites) from the FBI crime statistics is 2.4 and has been remarkably constant since the record keeping began in the 1930's.
1.7.2006 5:01pm
Brutus:
As I stated above, people in this country have had no problem identifying people by race for generations. It’s a little late in the game to be complaining.

In 1860, the Southerners could say, "people have been enslaving other people for centuries, it's a little late in the game to be complaining."

In the 1950s, the Southerners could also say, "we've been discriminating against blacks for generations, it's a little late in the game to be complaining."

If something is wrong, it's wrong, doesn't matter how long it's been going on.
1.7.2006 5:23pm
nn (mail):
I am visibly Oriental but part Spanish. When I mentioned this to my employer, He thought I was joking. But when I convinced him it was true and pointed out that I learned Spanish from my mother years before I spoke any Asian language he said. Huh. Too bad we didn't know that earlier, it would have made your case (getting me the job) so much easier.

I grinned and opined as to how pleased I was not to have let them know that.

I shall encourage my children not to answer any questions about race. Ever.
1.7.2006 5:36pm
Bobbie:
Geezus. I don’t know how to say this in any other way. Brutus said, “If something is wrong, it's wrong, doesn't matter how long it's been going on.” I’m not making a moral argument. Please, let this fact sink in before you respond. If you’re responding assuming I’m making a moral claim, please re-read my post.

It’s a fact that people have referred to people by race for generations. This is not a moral claim. This is a factual claim. I assume we all agree with it. Therefore, given that people have had no problem distinguishing between races for generations, it makes no sense to now all of a sudden claim it can’t be done because to call someone “African American” is nonsensical or that we’re all “technically” African-American. In other words, you can’t claim that categorizing is nonsensical if people have been doing it for years; the very fact that people have had no problem using a certain label is direct evidence that the label does have substantive content even if, as noted above, at its edges, the categorizing breaks down.

If you think that we ought not characterize people by race -- a moral claim -- then you are making a different claim from those who claim we cannot sensibly categorize people by race -- a factual claim.

For example, there's a difference between arguing that African-Americans should not be called the "n-word" by police (a moral claim), and saying that as a matter of fact, if a cop tells the (n-word) to get out a car, everyone understands that he means the black guy driving and not the white guy in the back seat (a factual claim).
1.7.2006 5:45pm
Dustin (mail):
okay bobbie, it is usually possible to identify with a race.

Now we can move on to what we should do: abololish racism in government.=, and provide equal opportunity even if that reflects unequal unbringing.
1.7.2006 8:13pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):

In other words, you can’t claim that categorizing is nonsensical if people have been doing it for years; the very fact that people have had no problem using a certain label is direct evidence that the label does have substantive content even if, as noted above, at its edges, the categorizing breaks down.

I don't think the problem is really that the categorizing breaks down at the edges. There is, as you say, "substantive" content to racial classifications. Genetically speaking, in fact, we can do remarkably fine-grained distinctions between different racial groups, broadly speaking. And on the layman's level -- where most racial classification operates -- we just look at skin colour and other racial markers, like nose shapes and epicanthal folds.

The problem, though, is that these broad "race" categories are used as proxies for something else, an assumption of a shared racial identity, derived from a body of shared cultural characteristics and shared experience. To the extent that our society classifies people by race, sure, there will be a commonality between the experiences of a Mongolian and a Malay, but culturally, they're . . . not really the same. At all, really. And grouping them together as though they were the same (both part of that "Asian" group), leads to a categorization that does not map back towards a useful pattern of similarity . . apart from the shared experiences resulting from the imposition of the classification itself.

In that sense, I would say that the racial categories we use are nonsensical. The fact that we can classify people as Asian/White/Black/Hispanic/Native American doesn't tell us whether that's a meaningful or sensible classification. After all, for about a thousand years from Galen to the birth of modern medicine, doctors used to analyse human illnesses as imbalances in the four humours, but that doesn't mean that was a particularly useful or sensible way of classifying human diseases. Last I heard, it wasn't.
1.7.2006 8:18pm
Jack John (mail):
Any geneticist worth his salt could tell you that the racial categories society relies upon do not correspond to the scientific evidence. Even taking them on theor own terms, divorced from correspondence to the human genomne, what they mean is incoherent and their social use in classifying individuals is inconsistent (as various posters above have pointed out in myriad ways). However, because the college admissions boards using race as one plus-factor among other plus-factors in admissions are trying to counteract pre-existing irrational structural or rationally invidious discrimination -- as opposed to positing a system of racial categorization that is coherent, consistent and corresponds to scientific evidence, it makes little sense to hold them to the standard we would hold a geneticist or a philosopher of science to. The standard is, are their categories roughly the same as the categories that society is using to unfairly discriminate? If they are not, because of the "unknown" box, then the "unknown" box should be removed. The question applicants then would have to answer would be very simple: how do others in society tend to classify your race? And applications could very easily (most do) provide an applicant the opportunity to talk about discrimination (or adversity) he or she has faced, and describe how it influenced his or her development as an individual. In the case of someone who is often thought of by others as white, but who is a race-conscious Native-American, the combination of the question and the essay informs the admission board of what kind of individual has applied; the same is true of someone who happens to be 1/16 Native American, doesn't care enough about it to write the essay, and who correctly checks off that most people classify him as white. However, in the case of a white person who lies in reply to the question (i.e., claims that other people believe he or she is black, or Asian, or Arab, when that is not true), that person will be denied admission -- for making a false statement on his or her application, which is unacceptable. The proper recourse of an aggreived white person is to check off that most people classify him as white, and then write an essay about the horrific adversity of being a white male in contemporary society.
1.7.2006 8:31pm
Jack John (mail):

if a cop tells the (n-word) to get out a car, everyone understands that he means the black guy driving and not the white guy in the back seat (a factual claim).



That isn't true at all. Maybe the black guy has no idea who the police officer is talking to, because THE BLACK GUY DOES NOT THINK OF HIMSELF AS A NIGGER. What's more, if a cop is acting irrationally, who knows whether he's using loaded terms in a precise fashion? A panicked white guy would probably get out of the car, so would a foreigner who is a bit swarthy, or one who had never heard the word nigger before. If a crazy-foaming-at-the-mouth cop told "the nigger" to get out a car, and the car was filled with a Hispanic guy, an Arab, a Southeast Asian, and a WASP, everybody would get out of the car. If such a cop told "all you faggots" to get out of the car, do you really think only homosexuals would exit the vehicle? Would a car full of straight guys just sit there as a crazy cop calling them faggots waved a gun in their face and commanded "all you faggots" to exit the vehicle? No, sir, I'll stay right here; I only do women.

Give me a break.
1.7.2006 8:40pm
Jack John (mail):

Most Mexicans weren't even in the US for the period you think justifies current discrimination.

Most black Harvard Alumni are the children of immigrants or foreign nationals.




This sounds like Richard Posner's argument coupled with black nationalists' arguments: limit affirmative action to the descendants of slaves in the American plantation system (i.e., people whose ancestors lived in the continental United States and directly benefited from the 13th Amendment). I can't say I disagree with it; there is no reason for a Mexican immigrant who just got here or a Trinidadian whose family got here 30 years ago to receive a benefit presumably designed as a remedy for the continually compounding wrongs of racial slavery, segregation, and discrimination.
1.7.2006 8:58pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):

However, because the college admissions boards using race as one plus-factor among other plus-factors in admissions are trying to counteract pre-existing irrational structural or rationally invidious discrimination -- as opposed to positing a system of racial categorization that is coherent, consistent and corresponds to scientific evidence, it makes little sense to hold them to the standard we would hold a geneticist or a philosopher of science to.

First, and this is more a side note than anything else, my recollection is that it's unconstitutional for state-funded colleges to use the "correction of past discrimination" rationale in admissions -- that's why they go on with that rubbish about diversity in their legal arguments instead.

Second, even the correction of past discrimination rationale runs into problems. For one thing, Asians have been discriminated against in the past. More in California than in other states, I think -- at least, the anti-Asian sentiment was strongest by far in California, and I am pretty sure California was the only state where the whites attempted to segregate out Asians in education -- but there was anti-Asian prejudice. But do Asians get a compensatory boost nowadays? Uh, no. No one is trying to correct for past discrimination against them. There was a brief effort in the 70s -- one of the first affirmative action cases involves a policy that included Asians in the to-be-benefited rather than the to-be-burdened category -- but it fizzled pretty quickly.

The situation is even more marked with the Jews. There was that New Yorker article from perhaps a month ago, you may recall, in which it ran through the history of comprehensive/wholistic review in admissions standards, revealing (ooh, shocking!) that it was originally introduced to keep Jews out of the Ivy league. And that it worked. There is no affirmative action for Jews.

These affirmative action programs are clearly not designed to "counteract pre-existing irrational structural or rationally invidious discrimination" any more than they are designed to further diversity. Rather, they are designed to do exactly what it looks like they are designed to to. They are designed to produce a racial mix in entering classes that approximates the admissions teams' view of what the racial mix of the population at large is -- and that means collapsing WASPs and Jews together, and Malays and Mongols together, and Mexicans and Colombians together, reducing everything into those empty little racial categories. It means they look at the world through a racial lens. It means they recapitulate the old racist vision of the world (except that Jews are white now). And that's what so many of us find repugnant about the practice.
1.7.2006 9:18pm
Rickersam (mail):
When I was applying for academic jobs I noticed that many schools assign specific definitions to each race (they provide a guide that correlates where one's ancestors were from to which racial box to check). On the other hand the US census bureau does not use such definitions. In 2000 a reporter (it was a Washington Post feautre writer/ columnsit in the Metro(?) section) asked the census bureau about their categories. They replied that self-identification is their policy.

That led me to wonder whether disparate impact suits compare apples and oranges. The number of a group listed on the census and that employed at a given school ought not to be the same. I'm an historian not a lawyer, but a lawyer I was in touch with suggested that there might be a problem in evidence here.

Non-reporting furthers the problem.

Rickersm
1.7.2006 10:17pm
Cynicus Prime (mail) (www):
I would just like to state how much I adore the term "bean-counter." It appears so innocently descriptive, yet it says so much about the nature of those to whom it applies. It is also very simply converted to "beaner-counter," which unfortunately is not quite so innocent.
1.7.2006 11:20pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
When asked for a race I always reply: "Kentucky Derby."
1.8.2006 12:03am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Therefore, given that people have had no problem distinguishing between races for generations, it makes no sense to now all of a sudden claim it can’t be done because to call someone “African American” is nonsensical or that we’re all “technically” African-American. In other words, you can’t claim that categorizing is nonsensical if people have been doing it for years;
The problem is, back then it was very clear: whoever had more power was going to decide your race, regardless of what you thought or wanted. If the government decided that anybody more than 1/8th black was black, that's the way it was. If a college decided it only wanted whites, it decided whether you were black or white, and if you didn't like it, tough.

But now we do things by self-identification. If a college decides you're white and you say that you're black, who prevails?
1.8.2006 1:05am
Brutus:
Bobbie, when you said, "Poor white people in the United States . . . They have it so difficult" that didn't sound to me like a simple statement of fact. Sounded to me like a sarcastic moral claim - you obviously think no wrong is being perpetrated on white people today, whatever they may claim to the contrary.

"For generations, African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, among others, were discriminated against based on their race. Now that white people might take a slight hit,"

You are clearly contrasting what you think is the great wrong of past discrimination against African-Americans and Mexican-Americans with what you think is the minor wrong of current discrimination against whites.

Stop trying to pretend you don't think there are any questions of right and wrong here.
1.8.2006 3:41am
Bobbie:
Brutus, if you'd like to try to pull two sarcastic quips out of everything I've written in this thread to try to salvage your counter response, then go ahead. Preach away. You're still missing my point.
1.8.2006 5:19am
Skid:
A man kills another man, and is convicted of first degree murder. He is sentenced to death, and executed. In both cases, one man kills another (the executioner, for example). But they are different taken in context right? If you believe in the death penalty, then you believe that an execution is qualitatively different from murder. Perhaps that difference is based on a theory of retribution and attempting to compensate the victims for their loss (the second one might be dubious, but examining prosecutors' statements during sentencing hearings, it is clear that this at least plays into the equation).

So, this could be a case of two wrongs being transformed into a "right," or one wrong, and sanction based on it which is substantitively the same, but "right" based on circumstances. To respond with a similar cliche (two wrongs don't make a right, etc), isn't this basically "an eye for an eye?"

Applying this to the current discussion--it is obvious that race based classifications were used to oppress some minority populations (for an interesting example of this, see U.S. v. Thind), to horrific results. Now, in response to the government misconduct in perpetuating those classifications, it is employing a similar method (racial classifications) to remedy the situation. We can question the efficacy of the methodology, but I don't see how we can dismiss it as simply "two wrongs don't make a right."

Of course, I recognize that there are others who suffer for this who are blameless. White students applying now didn't own slaves, didn't participate in attacks on freedom riders, etc. However, the death penalty analogy seems to make sense again--assume our death row inmate has young children, who will clearly suffer in the absence of their father (as studies tell us, etc). Aren't those third parties who suffer for the misconduct of someone else---in other words, are the children being punished for the sins of the father...?
1.8.2006 12:08pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Skid, if you can tell me why immigrant speakers of languages other than English should get preference in university admissions if and only if the language in question is Spanish, I'd be most curious to hear the answer. There has been great oppression of Mexican-Americans, of course; but there has also been great oppression of Chinese-Americans. (Read Mark Twain's accounts of San Francisco in the late 19th century if you don't believe me.) Obviously, since we're talking about recent immigrants, neither current group has suffered the worst; but still, one group is preferred in admissions; the other, in certain situations, has actually been discriminated against vis-a-vis white Americans. (Cf. the consent decree under which the San Francisco USD long operated, under which Chinese-American children had to outscore white children to be admitted to the city's best schools.)

Do we really want to be in this business?
1.8.2006 12:26pm
Jack John (mail):

First, and this is more a side note than anything else, my recollection is that it's unconstitutional for state-funded colleges to use the "correction of past discrimination" rationale in admissions



1. I wrote "the college admissions boards using race as one plus-factor among other plus-factors in admissions are trying to counteract pre-existing irrational structural or rationally invidious discrimination". Note that here "pre-existing" means started in the past and ongoing in the present, as other statements I have made make absolutely clear. A continuing violation is not "past discrimination". But, to confront your straw-man, anyway, is rather easy. Diversity, or inclusion, or egalitarianism, is the flip-side of discriminatory elitism. They may call it diversity, but what they are doing is taking into account in their decisional process discrimination that existed before the applicants applied to the university and continues to exist as the university is deciding whom to admit. Recent supreme court juriprudence certainly does not ban that.


Second, even the correction of past discrimination rationale runs into problems. For one thing, Asians have been discriminated against in the past.



2. Here is another problem with your straw-man; it is not my argument. I never said "past discrimination," i.e., discrimination that occurred some time ago and then ended. While Asians have been discriminated against in "the past," that has nothing to do with present discrimination that is a residual effect or vestige of plantation slavery in the contintential United States, which falls within the scope of the 13th Amendment as a badge or incident of slavery. If you can show me some evidence of Chinese slaves picking cotton beside African slaves prior to the Civil War, I would be happy to review it. Also, if you could show me some evidence that present day inequalities that Asians presently endure has a causal connection to plantation slavery banned by the 13th Amendment, I would review that also.
1.8.2006 3:41pm
Jack John (mail):

It means they look at the world through a racial lens.



If you sincerely and authentically had such a problem with that, Taeyoung, then you would change your name. I can conclude only that you are a hypocrite.
1.8.2006 3:46pm
Jack John (mail):

David: But now we do things by self-identification. If a college decides you're white and you say that you're black, who prevails?



I actually dealt with this above. Simply ask how others tend to classify you (not how you identify yourself). Then offer the opportunity to write an essay about adversity or discrimination that permits one to elaborate on his self-conception of race or whatever, if they believe it is important. There is no reason someone who is disabled, or an expert lute player, or a white nationalist, shouldn't be able to discourse on why the adversity associated with being in that discrete class of persons increases their value to a diverse college community.
1.8.2006 3:58pm
Jack John (mail):

White students applying now didn't own slaves, didn't participate in attacks on freedom riders, etc.



This ignores that white persons have a present-day advantage that they shouldn't have because of wrongs that started with slavery and have yet to terminate completely (though in some cases they have diminished with time and concerted social action). If someone cracks my safe and then distibutes the cash to ten people who didn't participate in the robbery, it's still my cash. And if those ten people and their descendants use that cash to start up businesses and amass wealth over time and prohibit my descendants from participating in those businesses or having access to that wealth, or having access to political power to regulate the amassing of wealth, then the original theft isn't just a "past act". There is a continuing violation to which the descendants of the original accessories after the fact to the safe-cracking are accessories after the fact as well. (You simply can't make a coherent argument if you pretend that helping a murderer flee the police is not a crime because you didn't commit the murder...uh, yeah, but you aided and abetted a fugitive and obstructed justice...and can be charged with the original crime.)
1.8.2006 4:11pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Jack John,

Diversity, or inclusion, or egalitarianism, is the flip-side of discriminatory elitism. They may call it diversity, but what they are doing is taking into account in their decisional process discrimination that existed before the applicants applied to the university and continues to exist as the university is deciding whom to admit. Recent supreme court juriprudence certainly does not ban that.

Except that this isn't what they say they are doing, nor is it what's actually happening. If you really believe, for example, that there exists no anti-Asian prejudice or discrimination today, you're wilfully ignoring it. And I repeat to you the question I put to Skid: Why should only Spanish-speaking immigrant children be singled out for preference?

I agree with you insofar as it's obvious that no one takes "diversity" seriously, least of all those supposedly implementing it. It is an arrangement whose purpose is getting Black and Latino populations in universities to mirror those groups' fraction of the US population. There is no attempt to make other ethnic groups' university representation mirror their fraction of the US population, with the predictable result that one ethnic group is severely underrepresented at elite private universities. Any guesses?

Please tell me, by the way, how recent Asian immigrants can be held in any way responsible for the sufferings of American slaves a century-plus ago. And then explain why they should be disadvantaged in favor of the descendents of people who did not suffer by their hands, from whom they stole nothing, and who in fact had nothing to do with them at all? If you can rationalize that, you can rationalize damn near anything.
1.8.2006 5:36pm
Jack John (mail):

If you really believe, for example, that there exists no anti-Asian prejudice or discrimination today, you're wilfully ignoring it.



I am not certain why you cannot read. I addressed this point above when I stated: "While Asians have been discriminated against in "the past," that has nothing to do with present discrimination that is a residual effect or vestige of plantation slavery in the contintential United States, which falls within the scope of the 13th Amendment as a badge or incident of slavery. If you can show me some evidence of Chinese slaves picking cotton beside African slaves prior to the Civil War, I would be happy to review it. Also, if you could show me some evidence that present day inequalities that Asians presently endure has a causal connection to plantation slavery banned by the 13th Amendment, I would review that also." Chinese immigrants or Mexican immigrants, whether discriminated against today or not, are completely irrelevant to my argument unless they were slaves, are slaves, or descended from slaves.
1.8.2006 5:45pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):

Taeyoung, then you would change your name.

What on earth are you talking about?

Now, I do actually have a white name I go by, for business purposes, precisely to mislead people into think I'm white (well, at least until they see me, at which point I suppose they think I'm Latino or Turkish or something), but in my private matters (e.g. posting on an internet board), I don't see any reason to adopt such a ploy.

But this is a bit odd -- am I to blame for admissions people seeing things through the lens of race, because they can divine that I'm some kind of Asian from my name? Are people named Gonzalez and Rodriguez now to go about by George and Rodgers (or something similarly Anglo), so that we can have a public culture that is completely Anglicised? I don't think that's the kind of "colourblind" world I want. The purpose of colourblindness is not to conceal diversity by papering it all over with Anglo culture. It's to ignore those arbitrary racial categories for the purpose of decisionmaking, to recognise them as irrelevant.

Now, I know that's not how people actually function, which is why I go by a white name professionally. And of course, as a member of the public culture, I do try to mute the behaviours that mark me as coming from a different culture, at least when I am working in a professional capacity. But the colour-blindness ideal -- equal treatment of all races -- is an ideal, and one I happen to hold. Do I feel as though I've compromised myself, surrendered to public racism in some small way by adopting a white name?

Well, sure.

And?

I suppose there is a certain hypocrisy in submitting to the racism of admissions committees and the public culture, but I've already admitted that, by expressing how it makes me feel dirty, no?

You seem to be accusing me of hypocrisy running the other way, and for the life of me, I cannot see where that comes in.
1.8.2006 5:46pm
Jack John (mail):

Please tell me, by the way, how recent Asian immigrants can be held in any way responsible for the sufferings of American slaves a century-plus ago.



I am guessing from your post that you do not put money into the bank, because compounding interest does not exist, therefore, putting money under your mattress is the same as putting it into the bank.
1.8.2006 5:47pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):

Of course, I recognize that there are others who suffer for this who are blameless. White students applying now didn't own slaves, didn't participate in attacks on freedom riders, etc. However, the death penalty analogy seems to make sense again--assume our death row inmate has young children, who will clearly suffer in the absence of their father (as studies tell us, etc). Aren't those third parties who suffer for the misconduct of someone else---in other words, are the children being punished for the sins of the father...?

That's one way of looking at it. But so? Does the wrong in the one case counterbalance the wrong in the other? I'm not seeing the relevance here (other than to establish that there are all kinds of unfair aspects to our society).
1.8.2006 5:51pm
Jack John (mail):

I do actually have a white name I go by, for business purposes, precisely to mislead people into think I'm white (well, at least until they see me, at which point I suppose they think I'm Latino or Turkish or something),

Now, I know that's not how people actually function, which is why I go by a white name professionally. And of course, as a member of the public culture, I do try to mute the behaviours that mark me as coming from a different culture, at least when I am working in a professional capacity.




Wow. This sounds like a great essay you could write to a college admissions board. It would certainly inform them as to your views on controversial matters, and help them decide if you would bring added value to the classroom setting over other applicants who were less introspective.


It's to ignore those arbitrary racial categories for the purpose of decisionmaking, to recognise them as irrelevant.


But you yourself just pointed out how significant they are, and how you must live a double-life in a way that others need not because they aren't faced with such discrimination. Why shouldn't you be able to check a box that says, yes, I am one of those people who is discriminated against in such ways, and then confirm that it has shaped your identity as an individual in an essay? Why can't colleges say, hey, we want people who have such views to promote debate in the classroom? It seems that your existence refutes your own argument.
1.8.2006 5:51pm
Jack John (mail):

it's obvious that no one takes "diversity" seriously



I disagree. Both Taeyoung and I seem to.
1.8.2006 5:54pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):

Wow. This sounds like a great essay you could write to a college admissions board. It would certainly inform them as to your views on controversial matters, and help them decide if you would bring added value to the classroom setting over other applicants who were less introspective.

I'm sure it would. Oh, to be 15 again. Alas, most of what I said there was not true of my when I was applying to colleges. I went by the name of Taeyoung, and my public behaviours made me seem terribly foreign. It's only now that I have a career to worry about that I take care about this stuff.


But you yourself just pointed out how significant they are, and how you must live a double-life in a way that others need not because they aren't faced with such discrimination. Why shouldn't you be able to check a box that says, yes, I am one of those people who is discriminated against in such ways, and then confirm that it has shaped your identity as an individual in an essay? Why can't colleges say, hey, we want people who have such views to promote debate in the classroom? It seems that your existence refutes your own argument.

They're significant only because people keep attaching significance to them -- my point rests on the assumption that your race is not relevant to your ability to think, or your ability to do your job (to the extent it is, e.g. to spy for us in, say, China, you'd probably want to be Han Chinese, I don't have a problem with selecting for it). If we perpetuate a system of racial classification because there is a system of racial classification that penalises us, how do we ever escape? The chain has to be broken at some point, if it's ever to be broken at all. Might as well start with the point we can control from the top down.
1.8.2006 6:08pm
Jack John (mail):

They're significant only because people keep attaching significance to them -- my point rests on the assumption that your race is not relevant to your ability to think, or your ability to do your job (to the extent it is, e.g. to spy for us in, say, China, you'd probably want to be Han Chinese, I don't have a problem with selecting for it).



Oh, I certainly agree with you there. That was the point of my original post. The classifications are only relevant to the extent that they map perfectly with societal discrimination. But there's nothing wrong with universities seeking to counteract that through the diversity rationale (i.e., putting you in a classroom to air your views to people who could not otherwise imagine that you could formulate them).
1.8.2006 6:15pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Jack John,

My point about Asian-Americans and Latino-Americans was merely that recent immigrants with the same difficulties of learning a second language, adapting to a new environment and a new culture, &c., are treated very differently by our universities. If they come from a Spanish-speaking nation, they are preferred; if they come from any other nation, they are more likely to be disfavored outright, and certainly are disfavored with respect to Spanish-speaking immigrants. This seems illogical to me.

If you (as it seems from your last posts) favor preferences only for the descendents of American slaves, then I can see your point, though you might have some difficulty distinguishing them from descendents of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans who arrived in this country subsequently.

[me:] Please tell me, by the way, how recent Asian immigrants can be held in any way responsible for the sufferings of American slaves a century-plus ago.

[you:] I am guessing from your post that you do not put money into the bank, because compounding interest does not exist, therefore, putting money under your mattress is the same as putting it into the bank.

Welllll . . . I am not sure what to make of that, JJ. Your point would seem to be that a Vietnamese immigrant arriving in this country yesterday comes equipped with a compounded-interest debt a century and a half old, and she'd better start paying it off pronto. Why the Mexican immigrant entering the same country on the same day doesn't bear the same debt I don't quite understand. But then, as you've already pointed out, I can't read.
1.8.2006 6:15pm
Jack John (mail):

The chain has to be broken at some point, if it's ever to be broken at all. Might as well start with the point we can control from the top down.



But we can control who is in the classroom with you at the peak of your intellectual development, can't we?
1.8.2006 6:18pm
Jack John (mail):

If you (as it seems from your last posts) favor preferences only for the descendents of American slaves, then I can see your point, though you might have some difficulty distinguishing them from descendents of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans who arrived in this country subsequently.


No, the posts in which I said that pre-date your comment about my posts. Hence, I noted that you cannot read. You, apparently, did not read all of my posts before commenting on one of them. I have not changed my position at any point during this debate.

Moreover, you are misquoting my quotation of myself, where I boldface and italicize portions that you clearly did not read, or understand, before writing your "critique". Worse, you also misquote my quotation of you, in which I boldfaced the portion of your comment to which I was replying. I'm simply not responding to irrelevant comments, no matter how much you try to bait me (and imply to readers of these posts that I am less intelligent than you).

In reply to the one point you made that actually intertfaces with my argument (i.e., isn't fallacious), I don't think there is any trouble distinguishing between direct beneficiaries of the 13th Amendment and their descendants on the one hand and other people, wherever they came from and whatever time, on the other. It's called the National Archives.
1.8.2006 6:26pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Jack John,

Sorry about not restoring the boldface in the quoted text, which was an oversight on my part. If you cut and paste text, the boldface does disappear; I forgot to put it back. Not that I can see why recent Asian immigrants owe any more debt to Black Americans that their ancestors didn't victimize a century-plus ago than they do to Black Americans that they didn't victimize twenty years ago.

I have not found any case in which I quoted you and removed either italics or boldface. If I've overlooked one, I am, again, sorry. So far as I can tell, I quoted only two grafs of yours, and the originals didn't have italics or boldface. I added italics to differentiate the quotes from my text, that's all.

In reply to the one point you made that actually intertfaces with my argument (i.e., isn't fallacious), I don't think there is any trouble distinguishing between direct beneficiaries of the 13th Amendment and their descendants on the one hand and other people, wherever they came from and whatever time, on the other. It's called the National Archives.

I doubt that very much. There are enough descendents of slaves and slaveowners both to make apportionment of blame and gain exceedingly difficult, especially when you throw in all the people who arrived in this country post-1865 and intermarried with everyone else. I think I could prove reasonably well that there were no slaveholders in my own ancestry if I had to (my grandparents were immigrants who arrived long after abolition, and lived in a state that moreover had never permitted slavery), but many people's ancestry is a good deal more confused. What's the position of, say, a woman with a Chinese father and a mother of mixed black and white ancestry?
1.8.2006 7:07pm
Jack John (mail):
While it is nice to attempt to throw a sabot in the gears, the fact remains that tracing ancestry is not as haphazard and arbitrary as you suggest. You simply don't find as much miscegenation as you suggest. If you doubt that, I would suggest you head to the National Archives, do some research, and come back with something other than counterfactual hypotheticals.

I'm also not sure what pitting Asians and African-Americans against each other has to do with anything. As I made very clear in my debate with Taeyoung, there is no reason why a committee using a diversity rationale wouldn't take into account his experiences with discrimination in an essay that he wrote. It is quite obvious he has great introspection on such matters. I mean that seriously.

It seems you are conflating two questions that I did not conflate in responding to Taeyoung's critique of my first post. Perhaps you misunderstood my position because you did not closely read my dialogue with Taeyoung. He made one point which was constitutional and another which was policy-based.

My point with regard to the 13th Amendment is that one can always use that as a baseline for what is constitutional, whether the policy is good or not. Since you are headed to the National Archives in any event, you could also walk over to the Supreme Court and ask someone there how broadly the court has interpreted Congress' power to lesgislate under that amendment.
1.8.2006 7:27pm
tioedong (mail) (www):
In 1970 my medical school scholarship was cut because I was "white" and they needed to use the limited funding to fund minority scholarships...the fact that I was a woman at a time when only 5% of doctors were females didn't matter, nor the fact that my family's income was too small to pay the tuition ...it was my skin colour that mattered...
So since then I refuse to put down my race on applications...
And yes, I am "white", but my husband is Asian, and my adopted sons are from South America...
1.8.2006 7:27pm
Challenge:
"This sounds like Richard Posner's argument coupled with black nationalists' arguments: limit affirmative action to the descendants of slaves in the American plantation system (i.e., people whose ancestors lived in the continental United States and directly benefited from the 13th Amendment). I can't say I disagree with it; there is no reason for a Mexican immigrant who just got here or a Trinidadian whose family got here 30 years ago to receive a benefit presumably designed as a remedy for the continually compounding wrongs of racial slavery, segregation, and discrimination."

Exactly. It's not so much that I think diversity is an empty concept. Other things being equal, diversity is a good thing, it's just that diversity can not be a "compelling interest" in the sense that the Fourteenth Amendment requires. To me, the only rationale for race based affirmative action that even comes close to meeting the bar the Constitution demands is the argument you outlined above.
1.8.2006 7:30pm
Jack John (mail):

Exactly. It's not so much that I think diversity is an empty concept. Other things being equal, diversity is a good thing, it's just that diversity can not be a "compelling interest" in the sense that the Fourteenth Amendment requires. To me, the only rationale for race based affirmative action that even comes close to meeting the bar the Constitution demands is the argument you outlined above.



Oh, I don't disagree with you there. But the fact remains that Congress simply hasn't used its 13th Amendment powers as it could and should have. Instead, you get the courts leaping in under the pretense of regulating commerce and equal citizenship. But since Congress has been rather laggard, it doesn't seem to me that Congress has pre-empted the field, so there shouldn't be any reason why states cannot fill-in-the-blanks with their own legislation seeking to implement the 13th Amendment. In that case, that colleges argue under the 14th Amendment because the courts have styled it as a 14th Amendment argument rather than a 13th Amendment argument seems little more than a matter of formalism. As much as I prefer formalism to whatever-the-heck they tried to teach me in law school, this ain't the 18th century anymore.
1.8.2006 7:36pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Jack John,

While it is nice to attempt to throw a sabot in the gears, the fact remains that tracing ancestry is not as haphazard and arbitrary as you suggest. You simply don't find as much miscegenation as you suggest. If you doubt that, I would suggest you head to the National Archives, do some research, and come back with something other than counterfactual hypotheticals.

We need to be careful with terms here. I wasn't talking about "miscegenation" exactly; I was talking about who is purely a descendant of slaves, who purely a descendant of slaveholders. My own guess is that there are rather few in either category. I imagine there are some holdout D.A.R. types who wouldn't countenance their kids marrying into anything but an "old" (read antebellum at least) family, but what fraction of the public are we talking about here? And what difference is there between an Irish immigrant in 1900, a Danish immigrant in 1920, a Hungarian immigrant in 1950, a Vietnamese immigrant in 2005? They have in common that they have absolutely nothing to do with American slavery. Therefore they ought not to be punished for having profited from it.

I have to decline the invitation to visit the National Archives; I'm on the wrong coast, and my budget doesn't run to casual junkets.

I'm also not sure what pitting Asians and African-Americans against each other has to do with anything. As I made very clear in my debate with Taeyoung, there is no reason why a committee using a diversity rationale wouldn't take into account his experiences with discrimination in an essay that he wrote. It is quite obvious he has great introspection on such matters. I mean that seriously.

Your point being, evidently, that Asian-Americans can get into the "diversity" game so long as they present themselves as oppressed. "Diversity" as you present it, if I may say so, has very little to do with its ostensible rationale. No one so much as pretends that the point is edifying all the other students with the differing viewpoints of those of other backgrounds.

For what it's worth, it is not going to matter much whether Asian-American students cast themselves as oppressed or not, because there are simply too many of them, and they're too doggone good, and the fact that they're still despised and discriminated against is not going to make them an affirmative-action category, because schools need their African-American and Latino baselines, and the last thing they want is an obligation to give preferences to Asian-American students, which will shrink the white fraction of the student body (already "underrepresented" at almost every elite school) even more.
1.8.2006 8:23pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
As much as slavery sucked for the slaves, isn't it a fact that their ancestors are much better off today than if they had stayed behind in Africa? Female Circumcision, the worlds highest AIDS rate, worst poverty, cruelest dictators etc etc.
1.8.2006 10:09pm
Jeroen Wenting (mail):
Not just that, but it was black Africans who sold them into slavery in the first place.
Had Europeans not bought those slaves and transported them to the Americas they'd have been tortured to death or sold into slavery to Africans or Arabs.

None of the original slaves are left alive, their children are dead or retired, their grandchildren often as well.

The entire idea of AA only perpetuates the idea that blacks (and other minorities) can't succeed on their own and need to be given preferred treatment and reduced standards to have any chance at all.
That causes people to look at them with suspicion. Did that black guy/gal really deserve his/her position on merits or did (s)he get it only because of the colour of their skin?

If they're good enough they can succeed on their own, if they're not they'll flunk out anyway at some point (unless of course the system is such that companies are required to hire blacks over others in order to give the failing blacks a guaranteed job).
As it is schoolteachers are even being told to apply lower standards when grading the work of black students to make sure they pass...
If that doesn't make people feel blacks are too stupid to pass on the same standards as others I don't know what does, yet it's stated as a means to reduce discrimination?
1.9.2006 4:50am
Brutus:
It's not so much that I think diversity is an empty concept. Other things being equal, diversity is a good thing,

What are its benefits, exactly? Have they ever been quantified? Can one prove that students from "more diverse" schools somehow "do better" than students from "less diverse" schools?
1.9.2006 7:47am
Taeyoung J. (mail):

What are its benefits, exactly? Have they ever been quantified? Can one prove that students from "more diverse" schools somehow "do better" than students from "less diverse" schools?

He said "other things being equal." And diversity is an independent good, in its own way. Aesthetically. "The spice of life," as they say.

But mostly the presence diversity is good as a kind of negative indicator that alternative cultural preferences are not actively being suppressed. For me, at least. This doesn't really apply in cases where the establishment is actively trying to manufacture a Potemkin village of diversity (e.g. by racial bean-counting), but the value whose realisation they ape is real.
1.9.2006 8:33am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that the answer for why Jews are now considered White is that now, for the most part, it is in their benefit. Back when I was applying for college, there were still Jewish quotas at many of the top schools in this country.

Think of it this way. Eugene has pointed out that somewhere around a half of the faculty at the law school where he teaches are of Jewish descent. If that were counted separately from "white", it would stick out, and everyone would ask why UCLA hired so many Jewish law profs. But, instead, it is hidden in the White statistics.
1.9.2006 10:24am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Taeyoung, well said.

Bruce Hayden, I don't think that's how it works. Not all Jews are "White," and Asian-Americans have been subject to informal caps and not yet redefined entirely as "White" (though discussions of "minorities" in higher education do have a disconcerting tendency to omit them).

Here's a question, though. EV was born in the Soviet Union and is now a US citizen. Is he an Asian-American? If not, why not?
1.9.2006 10:58am
Houston Lawyer:
I would like to second Bruce Hayden's idea that it is in Jews' benefit to be lumped in with whites, since it hides the level of their accomplishment. If they were separately categorized, they would suffer disproportionate discrmination just like Asians do today. On the other hand, since there are both religious and racial issues tied up in Jewish identity, I would love to see whether the Supreme Court could sort out whether religious discrimination may be employed by public institutions in the name of "diversity".

On the census forms, I check "other" and then fill in "teutonic". I leave it up to the competence of the individual flunky looking at my form to determine what race I am based on that.
1.9.2006 11:32am
Mucus Maximus:
He said "other things being equal."

And thus given two schools that are otherwise equal, the more diverse school should in some way be "better" than the less diverse school. Yet if this "benefit" cannot be defined or explained, other than with arm-waving arguments about "aesthetics", then does it truly exist?

And diversity is an independent good, in its own way. Aesthetically. "The spice of life," as they say.

Bah, I disagree that it is an "aesthetic". In fact it is a political ideology. In any event, if the only benefit is aesthetics, is this a valid and compelling reason to apply the full force of the government? Why are some schools not allowed to deviate from the "diverse" aesthetic except in the politically approved directions (i.e. all-black is "good" but all-white is "bad")? Can such a nebulous advantage really justify the social and economic costs of enforcing it?

Show me the compelling state interest. Show me the positive cost/benefit equation. Diversity just does not deliver on its large promises, intellectually, morally, or economically.
1.9.2006 12:00pm
Taeyoung (mail):

Show me the compelling state interest. Show me the positive cost/benefit equation. Diversity just does not deliver on its large promises, intellectually, morally, or economically.

You're shifting the grounds of the argument here. The original statement was "It's not so much that I think diversity is an empty concept. Other things being equal, diversity is a good thing." And there was discussion on that point. You're translating "Diversity is a good thing" into "Diversity is a compelling state interest," which is something quite different, and a much higher bar to reach. Not all good things are compelling state interests.

Regarding another point you have folded in:

Yet if this "benefit" cannot be defined or explained, other than with arm-waving arguments about "aesthetics", then does it truly exist?

note the other part of my response -- the presence of diversity (cultural, ethnic, etc.) functions as an indicator of the absence of suppression of alternative cultures. It's a highly imperfect indicator, because people go to extraordinary lengths to fake it (e.g. through affirmative action), but it relates back to an ideal. And the ideal underlying diversity itself -- or the ideology, if you prefer -- is that the academy and the workplace and the public square be equally open to everyone, regardless of his or her cultural or ethnic origin. For you, perhaps, that is not much of a good, but for those of us who do not come from the majority culture, it is a real good, and for fairly obvious reasons.
1.9.2006 12:14pm
Jack John (mail):

If that doesn't make people feel blacks are too stupid to pass on the same standards as others I don't know what does, yet it's stated as a means to reduce discrimination?



Why would anything other than direct proof convince you that all blacks are stupid?
1.9.2006 4:09pm
Jack John (mail):

As much as slavery sucked for the slaves, isn't it a fact that their ancestors are much better off today than if they had stayed behind in Africa?



The slaves' ancestors did reside in Africa, and it wouldn't matter in any event, as the slaves' ancestors are dead.
1.9.2006 4:11pm
Jack John (mail):

No one so much as pretends that the point is edifying all the other students with the differing viewpoints of those of other backgrounds.



Whether you accept it or not, that is the purpose and function of the diversity-rationale. And I didn't say anything about presenting oneself as a victim; that is a straw-man you concocted. Whether he styles himself as a victim or not, Taeyoung's experiences are real, and he has deep insight on a societal phenomenon as a result.
1.9.2006 4:16pm
Jack John (mail):

My own guess is that there are rather few in either category. I imagine



I will no longer respond to your argument if it is based on nothing but your guesses and imaginings.
1.9.2006 4:19pm
Jack John (mail):

it is not going to matter much whether Asian-American students cast themselves as oppressed



Then it is irrelevant to this debate.
1.9.2006 4:21pm
Jack John (mail):
I was talking about who is purely a descendant of slaves, who purely a descendant of slaveholders.

The idea that only the descendants of slaveholders benefitted is ridiculous on its face. It is also not a part of my argument.
1.9.2006 4:26pm
Jack John (mail):
Just to be clear:


I was talking about who is purely a descendant of slaves, who purely a descendant of slaveholders.



The idea that only the descendants of slaveholders benefitted is ridiculous on its face. It is also not a part of my argument.
1.9.2006 4:26pm
Brutus:
the presence of diversity (cultural, ethnic, etc.) functions as an indicator of the absence of suppression of alternative cultures.

Are you kidding me? The presence of "diversity" REQUIRES the suppression of "alternative cultures" and the imposition of a rigid, intolerance monoculture.
1.9.2006 8:59pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):

Are you kidding me? The presence of "diversity" REQUIRES the suppression of "alternative cultures" and the imposition of a rigid, intolerance monoculture.

What are you talking about? In most parts of the United States, there are multiple cultures at work, subordinate to a dominant culture (often considered "white," but mostly Anglo). Now, in a given setting, you can have many of those cultures at work. You can have me bowing over the telephone and eating smelly kimchi and whatnot, and you can have other people engaging in the quirks of their respective cultures whatever they may be, and this is diversity. A multiplicity of cultures (and presumeably ethnicities) coexisting at once.

You say this can't be achieved except by the suppression of alternative cultures? Even taken in the limited skin-colour-diversity sense that so many people seem to take it today, you think we can't get a pack of people with different ethnicities or different coloured skin working together without absolutist suppression!??

Uh . . .

Okay. I . . um. I guess can see how that . . could potentially be true, to the extent these alternative cultures demand total subservience as with certain extreme forms of Islam. We can't have everyone killing each other, after all.

But no, no I can't actually. Are you mad? Where do you come from? Most cultures do just fine without universal submission. I don't see how how what you're saying is true in most circumstances.

What are you talking about?
1.9.2006 11:33pm
Taeyoung J. (mail):

Are you kidding me? The presence of "diversity" REQUIRES the suppression of "alternative cultures" and the imposition of a rigid, intolerance monoculture.

Or wait, are you telling me something much more constrained — that American culture is so utterly incapable of accepting deviation from the majority culture that there is no way I can live in the United States, and not find that my cultural practices and my ethnic appearance are discriminated against without an overbearing "imposition of a rigid, intolerance monoculture?"

Wow. Thanks very much for telling. If I wanted that, I'd move to Japan. At least their cities are safe. いや、 日本の方に日越しましょう! イェイー!

Fortunately, I think you're completely wrong.
1.9.2006 11:45pm