Indian-American Student in Desegregation Crossfire

nikita rau.jpg A tipster named Shireen alerted us to the unusual situation of 11 year old Nikita Rau, who had earned entry into a “gifted and talented” school in Brooklyn, called the Mark Twain School, or IS 239. Nikita was denied admission to the school based on the school’s archaic racial quotas, established in 1974, which require that exactly 60% of the school be white, and 40% be composed of minorities. At the time, the quota reflected the demographics of the area; today, minorities comprise more than 40% of the local population — and have little trouble getting the test scores to earn admission to the school. The 40% minimum has, over time, become a maximum quota.

The New York Post covered the story yesterday in sensationalistic terms: “NOT WHITE ENOUGH: Brilliant Girl Cheated By School Quota.” And today they follow up with a story on the Chancellor of Schools, Joel Klein, who has indicated that he supports Nikita Rau’s right to study at IS 239. (They also have a colorfully written editorial on the subject, entitled, “Cockamamie Quota”.)

Despite his opposition to the quota, Chancellor Klein has thus far declined to act, mainly because the Supreme Court is about to rule on two major desegregation cases elsewhere in the country, which could potentially vitiate federal programs aimed at achieving racial balance or diversity in primary and secondary schools. If government-enforced racial diversity is thrown out (and many commentators think it will be, given the current conservative leaning of the Supreme Court), it will be relatively straightforward to throw out the old quota in Coney Island.

Of course, one could argue that the quota at this school should just be thrown out irrespective of what the Supreme Court decides in the cases in Seattle and Louisville — simply because excluding Nikita Rau was never the intention of the judge who made the 1974 ruling that set up the quota in the first place.

Finally, it does strike me as an interesting irony that at the college level, East and South Asians are not considered “underrepresented minorities,” while in this case, Nikita Rau is clearly being defined as a “minority” student.

I’m curious to hear where readers are on this issue of quotas, desegregation, and diversity, specifically with regard to how it affects South Asian students in primary and secondary schools (K-12).

[I should also link to a couple of earlier SM posts on Affirmative Action, here and here]

126 thoughts on “Indian-American Student in Desegregation Crossfire

  1. The whole concept of Affirmative Action is unfair at the individual level. What I really can’t understand is how people think that it ‘rectifies’ the discrimination of the past!! Isn’t it true that it was one set of people who were discriminated against, and a whole different set of people who are claiming it’s benefits?? Also how do you acertain that a set B are the descendants of set A who were discriminated against, and set D descended from set C who did the discrimination? It’s appaling how even educated people (even Desis, who’re actually hurt by it) make these pathetic claims of ‘rectification’ to justify such a socialist concept.

    Well, they say that the present generations suffer from the discimination of their foremother/fathers, because their discrimination caused them to be constantly set-back, which resulted in a lack of being able to properly provide oppurtunities to their offspring, and their offspring’s offspring, etc. A cycle. So affirmative action is meant to break that cycle.

  2. It’s also a way to control for the ‘affirmative action’ that’s always been given to rich white men– legacy scholarships, old boys’ networks, etc. How else would George W. Bush ever have gotten into Yale?

  3. It’s also a way to control for the ‘affirmative action’ that’s always been given to rich white men– legacy scholarships, old boys’ networks, etc. How else would George W. Bush ever have gotten into Yale?

    Yale is private, isn’t it?

    If public/taxpayer-funded schools have racial preferences, then it is a bad thing. In private clubs, people should be allowed to dig whatever graves they want to put themselves in…

  4. Well, they say that the present generations suffer from the discimination of their foremother/fathers, because their discrimination caused them to be constantly set-back, which resulted in a lack of being able to properly provide oppurtunities to their offspring, and their offspring’s offspring, etc. A cycle. So affirmative action is meant to break that cycle.

    We’ve seen how the cycle is broken, in India…

    The richest of the ‘underpriveleged’ have an accelerated rate of reform, in the name of the poorest ones. And a whole group of middle-class taxpayers end up paying the government to DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THEMSELVES. Nice justice.

    I doubt if this stupid quota system helps even 20% of those discriminated against in the past. And surely the richest 20% in any case.

  5. I personally believe that quotas in the United States of America MUST be race based, and not income based. Americans of African descent faced hardship solely> because of their race for a few hundred years in North America, therefore to reverse the disgusting effect this has had on black Americans we must give them quotas solely> because of their race. If white people are poor, they can’t blame the government. The government doesn’t owe them any quotas. If Americans of African descent are poor, then they can blame 200 years of slavery, 100 years of blatant discrimination and 50 years of obvious but better hidden discrimination by the majority of America.

    However I do believe that if we are ever able to bring black Americans up to the level of other Americans, the quota system must end. I also believe that Africans who arrived later (in the 80s and 90s) deserve no quotas because they did not historically face hardship from the US government. The US government doesn’t owe them quotas.

    It’s a bad idea to make the comparison between India’s quotas and America’s quotas. The Republic of India never mistreated it’s SC&STs, but the United States of America did mistreat its blacks. The Indian government has no real obligation to have quotas as it has always stood for equality, and many high ranking government guys have been low castes. But the US historically stood for racism and anti-blackism, so they must impliment quotas if they wish to be fair.

  6. What I really can’t understand is how people think that it ‘rectifies’ the discrimination of the past!!
    Isn’t it true that it was one set of people who were discriminated against, and a whole different set of people who are claiming it’s benefits??

    Abhinay, Affirmative Action is meant to counter the current and ongoing prejudice against people of color that is endemic in the US. It was sold as a way of “rectifying” the discrimination of the past, when it was started in the late 1960s, but really, that was because the majority otherwise may not have supported it (even though the US economy at the time was booming like it never has since. The unemployment rate among white adult males in 1969, around the time AA was introduced, for example, was 1.9%. In the period since, it has been as high as four times that, but rarely been less than twice that. The level of passive support for AA is usually a strong function of current economic indicators.)

    The majority population is usually in severe denial about the existence of color prejudice, but it is easier to get them to acknowledge that there were severe injustices “in the past”. This is why the past is brought up, and it does serve as a way of tugging at their collective conscience.

    But AA is really a way of acknowledging that humans are imperfect, that visible minorities exist, and that they suffer discrimination in the labor market. Also, while it was initially seen as a ‘civil rights’ issue, I think it ought to be seen as a market intervention instead. Like all regulatory mechanisms, AA needs to be continually fine-tuned, to avoid creating vested interests, and to see that it is really doing the job it was intended to do. But really, it is something that should be there as long as there are racial minorities, and as long as human beings, in acting on their human instincts, practice discrimination in the workplace.

  7. Abhinay, Affirmative Action is meant to counter the current and ongoing prejudice against people of color that is endemic in the US. It *was* sold as a way of “rectifying” the discrimination of the past, when it was started in the late 1960s, but really, that was because the majority otherwise may not have supported it

    chachaji:

    i don’t think this is historically correct. AA was originally sold as a way of rectifying past discrimination because it was aimed solely at blacks. since they experienced state sponsored discrimination they needed additional protection above and beyond the ’64 civil rights act (that would presumably be enough for those of us of color whose ancestors freely came here on airplanes or snuck in and not on slave ships), the argument goes. it’s called the shackled runner metaphor as championed by mlk and it was meant to be temporary. namrata’s view (55), while more crudely put, more or less mimics mlk’s and the civil rights movement at the time.

    the watershed moment that changed this was bakke, which found AA unconstitutional unless race was taken into account as one of many factors and as long as it is done for the purpose of diversity. in order to pass constitutional scrutiny, AA had to embrace other minorities and since then, the descendants of slave owners (white women) and relatively privileged browns like you and i have tried to get our slice of the American pie on the backs of black Americans.

  8. actually chachaji, rereading your comment i don’t think we are too far apart on how AA originated and i think it is true that some sold it that way. I would just not play down the role of slavery and government-sponsered discrimination as the justification for a policy that, at least on the surface, is profoundly un-american in so much that it violates the 13th ammendment and (less importantly) the ’64 civil rights act.

  9. If you are upset by this decision write polite letters to Carol Moore, the principal of the school, and Chancellor Klein at the Department of Education and let them know why you think this is wrong. If they hear from enough people they might let her in the school:

    Carol Moore, Principal Mark Twain Intermediate School #239 for the Gifted & Talented 2401 Neptune Avenue — Brooklyn, NY 11224 Ph. 718-266-0814 — Fax. 718-266-0814 Email: cmoore@schools.nyc.gov

    Noblekinsman writes, “[C]oney island is mostly black and puerto rican. I don’t think it was 60% white in 1974.”

    I’m not sure whether this is an observation or based on statistical data. All the data I am familiar with places whites far and away the majority. A recent study found Coney Island to be almost 75% white. Check it out.

    Afro American asks, “Have you heard of a poor Indian in America? Indians are NOT a disadvantaged minority.” Yes, I have. Not only heard but seen with my own eyes all over NYC, dude.

    Dave writes:

    “It’s a great mystery to me how people, white-identified or non-white identified can actually be constrained by racial quotas in America, because with the exception of racial profiling by police officers, race is based on momentary self-identification in America.”

    Racial identification is voluntary information (or in your words “momentary self-identification”) on college applications. But you know as well as I that if a white person filled out an application for college admission and they checked off African-American, for example, and they subsequently secured a slot in a program or received a scholarship based on that misidentification, they would not only be disqualified once they were found out, they would most likely be refused admission becaused they lied on their application. In other words, there are penalties for this sort of thing.

    Here is an experiment. Try changing your ethnic/racial identity willy-nilly on federal grants, loans, and other government paperwork and you’ll see how “momentary” this racial identity stuff is. If you claim to be Latino and are not, for example, and get a small-business grant or some other form of government funding based on that misidentification you will be looking at serious time for defrauding the government.

  10. Hi Manju, thanks for your clarifying comment, and for mentioning Bakke and explaining how that affected the meaning and implementation of AA.

  11. Affirmative action helped out white women more than it did Black people. I love how people say we don’t need it but they would not have gotten their job without it.

  12. Yale is private, isn’t it? If public/taxpayer-funded schools have racial preferences, then it is a bad thing. In private clubs, people should be allowed to dig whatever graves they want to put themselves in…

    Yale receives over $200 million in federal R&D funding every year. Every institution receiving such funds is required to engage in Affirmative Action to ensure equal employment opportunities, and in addition, educational institutions probably also have obligations to ensure a diverse student body.

  13. Yale receives over $200 million in federal R&D funding every year. Every institution receiving such funds is required to engage in Affirmative Action to ensure equal employment opportunities, and in addition, educational institutions probably also have obligations to ensure a diverse student body.

    is this true chachaji? finding AA constitutionally legal is a far cry form it being governmentally mandated? what type of AA are you talking about?

    I was going to suggest that we withhold federal R&D funds to colleges that engage in legacy preferences, just as the bush admin withholds funds from universities that refuse to allow the military on campus. probably we should include those schools that do not adhere to the free speech principle, as documented by the film Indoctrinate U. This would ensure a fairer, more diverse campus without having to resort to unconstitutional means.

  14. Abhinay, Affirmative Action is meant to counter the current and ongoing prejudice against people of color that is endemic in the US

    Well, again here’s why I think that is unfair.

    a. There is prejudice, but can you measure it? If not, why have a quantitative legislation on such a subjective concept? b. Same point again, who are the people that discriminate and who are the ones suffering from it? It always ends up that the people who did wrong in the first place are still free to discriminate, whereas people who don’t have an interest in discriminating end up taking the brunt

    If Yale has government funding, then it’s a pity. Maybe if the government takes out its funding, Yale would have the incentive to get the best and brightest, irrespective of color/race.

  15. You (people from India) don’t deal with racism. You (people from India) own stores in our communities (black and brown). If you were to go onto most all white campuses they would fully accept you. And you don’t get followed around in stores by security ever.

    If you want to disprove me just give the proof that you deal with racism in America.

  16. Abhinay, I think you’re making an argument for fine-tuning AA – and I readily concede that it can be implemented in ways that leave the beneficiaries of past discrimination, and present discriminators – intact, while harming those who had nothing to do with past discrimination and are against it today. The big question is whether the impact on society as a whole is more beneficial than the individual unfairness that can occasionally result in even the very best designed programs. That’s why there is legal redress, and in the most egregious cases, people go to the Courts. So a little ‘unfairness’, occassionally, to some people, will probably always happen. Courts will/can decide when it is going too far in the other direction.

    As far as measuring prejudice – there are any number of difficulties in doing so directly – since it apppears subjective, and is something that people do not readily own up to. I mentioned this earlier too. So you measure not prejudice itself, but its impact on labor market achievement of different groups (‘races’), and normalize that for the pool of qualified candidates from different races. Then you work towards ensuring that the pool of qualified candidates from all races matches the demographic indices. So, for example, you ask how many people of a particular race are lawyers, physicists, doctors, etc, employed as such. Then you ask how many of each race were educated or have degrees in those fields, in the local area. Then you first try to get those ratios to come out roughly the same, while trying to improve the availability of candidates of under-represented races through educational opportunities.

  17. why is racial equality the goal. i should think getting the best scoring people into school regardless of race should be the goal.

  18. i should think getting the best scoring people into school regardless of race should be the goal.

    I’m really confused on my stance on affirmative action, and reading everyone’s comments, I still find myself arguing to myself what I just believed in yesterday.

    One thing about “best scoring people” – is this really what we want?— won’t the best scoring people not exactly mean that someone is more intelligent but more likely it means that someone has access to resources (money to take test-prep scores, tutors in hs, etc) that would make them more likely to score higher on tests? Couldn’t it be that a score that is average made by someone who has overcome economic disadvantages and racial discrimination, be just as or more intelligent, than I child who took the Kaplan SAT course and didn’t have to struggle through life?

    Or perhaps test scores are the most unbiased means of equating someone’s capabilities?

    But does that make sense? – I mean tests are obviously biased toward the wealthy; and perhaps have racial biases as well.

    But does wealth really make up for a strong family unit. Couldn’t a poor child who grew up in a nurturing environment have had better resources than a child from wealthy parents, but who was neglected and abused.?

    I’m so confused.

  19. You (people from India) don’t deal with racism. You (people from India) own stores in our communities (black and brown). If you were to go onto most all white campuses they would fully accept you. And you don’t get followed around in stores by security ever.

    If you want to disprove me just give the proof that you deal with racism in America.

    Ever heard of FWB– Flying While Brown? I have Indian friends who’ve been strip-searched, detained and humiliated with racial slurs in airports with some regularity. I have a friend who got pulled over weekly during his commute in North Jersey– during one stop, while they searched his trunk, they told him that he should shave his beard because it looked too Muslim. That friend is a Sikh who shaved and stopped wearing his turban after 9/11 because he was receiving death threats on the street. He also had a cousin who was beaten, dropped off by the side of the road (he is blind) and called a raghead by white racists. Two other friends were accosted in a movie theater parking lot (after a screening of ‘Borat’), spat at and called n–gers.

    Oh, and then there were the racist anti-immigrant rallies in Hazleton, PA and Riverside, NJ. And that whole ‘macaca’ business…

  20. But does wealth really make up for a strong family unit. Couldn’t a poor child who grew up in a nurturing environment have had better resources than a child from wealthy parents, but who was neglected and abused?

    That’s a reasonable question, but I think the answer lies in the public school system. Most public schools in the US have de facto segregation, and a quick visit to different schools will make it clear that they are not ‘separate but equal.’ School funding comes largely from the tax base of each individual school district, so kids from rich districts go to beautiful schools with great resources, while kids in the ghetto have to share their outdated textbooks, use filthy bathrooms and crowd 40 kids into a classroom. (A great book to check out is Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol.)

    Can we really expect test scores to be equal when primary and secondary educations are very much unequal?

  21. If public/taxpayer-funded schools have racial preferences, then it is a bad thing. In private clubs, people should be allowed to dig whatever graves they want to put themselves in…

    So you’d be totally OK with the best and most prestigious schools in the country going whites-only?

  22. “why is racial equality the goal. i should think getting the best scoring people into school regardless of race should be the goal.”

    Because you can’t have a civil society AND racial/ethnic inequality. Eventually, you won’t have a society at all. And who says we can’t have both? If test scores are the sole measurement: then those who are against AA should want everybody to start the race from (more or less) the same place. My experience has been that the anti AA types are more than willing to write off entire groups of people. Can you really have equal competition without (rough) equality of education?

    And maybe it’s just me: but I’ve worked with people from elite colleges who bragged about their test scores and were completely useless.

  23. So you’d be totally OK with the best and most prestigious schools in the country going whites-only?

    Absolutley! I’d be very interested to see what happens after that.

    But I’ll be more interested to see why at all would tbe best colleges want to become all white, and reject non-whites with good grades or good potential. I bet you, that if that happens, the lower ranked colleges will pick up the best of non-whites and their rankings would go up sooner or later. I personally think that would be a GOOD thing (more competition) :)

    Trust me, you’re only afraid of something you haven’t seen yet. The outcome of less intervention is ALWAYS good in the long run.

  24. Trust me, you’re only afraid of something you haven’t seen yet. The outcome of less intervention is ALWAYS good in the long run.

    The concept of whites-only education isn’t exactly new in the US, and it didn’t really go all that well. Or maybe, instead of a civil rights movement, we should have just waited until the white Southern ruling class decided they cared more about equality than having a vast source of cheap, oppressed labor? I have a feeling we’d still be waiting.

    I think the problem with the whole libertarian/smith-ian concept of ‘less intervention’ is that the only entity it acknowledges as ‘intervening’ is the government. We won civil rights in this country because people stood up and fought for them, and forced a hostile government to put these protections into place. That’s also how we won things like child labor laws– would you also roll those back in the name of limiting intervention? And what about corporate intervention? I’d really like to have a health care system where penny-pinching insurance reps weren’t ‘intervening’ and telling me I don’t really need lifesaving medicines, for example– or for that matter, that 45 million people in this country don’t need health care at all.

    I’m not a libertarian, but I just don’t think that rampant, unchecked greed is compatible with democracy. I do, however, think racism is something worth fighting against, whether it’s coming from institutions, governments or individuals.

  25. Trust me, you’re only afraid of something you haven’t seen yet.

    Trust me, the experiment you’re talking about has already been run, and its consequences are all around us. In fact, to some extent, it is still running right now. AA is only a small ripple against the overall tide. As long as one group in society is substantially more numerous and richer than others, it will have more power to dominate and define the terms – including which other groups are ‘ok’, which are ‘bad’, which colleges are ‘good’, who ‘deserves’ better grades, how test scores should be ‘normed’ and how ‘composite indicators’ should be created that ‘go beyond grades and scores’. The whole concept of ‘merit’ is inevitably, shall I say it, ‘colored’ by our biases. This does not mean we don’t try harder to be objective, only, that even the best systems we could possibly come up with will still have biases. AA is a way of correcting for those biases, and the effects they have had in society over time.

  26. Or maybe, instead of a civil rights movement, we should have just waited until the white Southern ruling class decided they cared more about equality than having a vast source of cheap, oppressed labor? I have a feeling we’d still be waiting.

    Here again, the government didn’t do anything special. It had to come from people’s will, and that’s how it happened. Do you think that if EVERY white person in the US was against the civil rights movement, would the movement have happened mysteriously? The government doesn’t have a bunch of angels in it to have come up with equal rights. The people (you) did it, and I don’t beleive in praising the government for what the people did.

    We won civil rights in this country because people stood up and fought for them, and forced a hostile government to put these protections into place

    Exactly the point! The government is always a lethargic, entitled institution holding up the works. Any real movement has come from the poeple.

    That’s also how we won things like child labor laws– would you also roll those back in the name of limiting intervention?

    Why are you connecting these 2 things? Child labor laws protect the rights of children (i.e. from being forced into labor), on the other hand Affirmative Action takes your taxes and tells you where you can go or not based on your race. One liberates, the other restricts.

    Now health care… that’s a completely different situation. Thankfully, socialists haven’t had the chance to run the healthcare system here to the ground, yet. Just remember that every country with universal health care, is reverting to some form or private relief. But that’s deviating from the topic here.

    I’m not a libertarian, but I just don’t think that rampant, unchecked greed is compatible with democracy.

    It is quite obvious you haven’t experienced the brunt of socialism. If you had felt it, you’d know what bliss liberty is. What you call ‘unchecked greed’, do you know the alternative to that? It is ‘disguised greed’. Greed is inherent in humans, it won’t go anywhere. Better blatant than hidden.

  27. Trust me, the experiment you’re talking about has already been run, and its consequences are all around us. In fact, to some extent, it is still running right now.

    Where has the experiment been run? Please elaborate. I haven’t seen any

    As long as one group in society is substantially more numerous and richer than others, it will have more power to dominate and define the terms – including which other groups are ‘ok’, which are ‘bad’, which colleges are ‘good’, who ‘deserves’ better grades, how test scores should be ‘normed’ and how ‘composite indicators’ should be created that ‘go beyond grades and scores’.

    And that is if and only if the one group thinks as a group. My point is that, the people within the group do not necessarily think like one huge lump. Every individual has his/her own interests, and it is in each individual’s best interest to recognize talent beyond race.

    The whole concept of ‘merit’ is inevitably, shall I say it, ‘colored’ by our biases.

    Well aren’t standardized test scores objective enough? I mean if there is a test for a school that’s focused on the sciences, what could be more objective than a test score in math and science? Is that biased too? How would you have me un-bias the test?

    If you had merited enough, and had been turned away from something you’re paying with your own tax money, you’d know.

    I don’t think you can fight bias with more bias, take away the discretionary power and the system will correct itself.

  28. Ever heard of FWB– Flying While Brown? I have Indian friends who’ve been strip-searched, detained and humiliated with racial slurs in airports with some regularity. I have a friend who got pulled over weekly during his commute in North Jersey– during one stop, while they searched his trunk, they told him that he should shave his beard because it looked too Muslim. That friend is a Sikh who shaved and stopped wearing his turban after 9/11 because he was receiving death threats on the street. He also had a cousin who was beaten, dropped off by the side of the road (he is blind) and called a raghead by white racists. Two other friends were accosted in a movie theater parking lot (after a screening of ‘Borat’), spat at and called n–gers.

    Oh, and then there were the racist anti-immigrant rallies in Hazleton, PA and Riverside, NJ. And that whole ‘macaca’ business…

    How come I’ve never seen it then. And when did this things happen if they really happen. Please so me something on youtube to prove your point. Maybe I might’ve been too mad.

  29. How come I’ve never seen it then. And when did this things happen if they really happen. Please so me something on youtube to prove your point. Maybe I might’ve been too mad.

    There are none so blind as those who will not see… seriously, are you paying attention? I’m sorry, I didn’t hang around with a webcam to tape these things happening to the people I love. I can only assure you that I’m not making it up.

    But I guess it’s only real if you see it on YouTube, right? You can google the Hazleton and Riverside cases, and the George Allen ‘macaca’ incident, if you really, honestly don’t think that brown folks in this country face racism.

  30. Where has the experiment been run? Please elaborate. I haven’t seen any

    Well, if you’re looking for an example of laissez-faire economics in action, here’s one from an era in which free-market economics were relied upon to an unprecedented decree: Viceroy Lytton during the Madras Famine of 1877. Here’s an excerpt from Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts:

    Smith’s injunction against state attempts to regulate the price of grain during famile had been taught for years in the East India Company’s famous college at Haileybury. Thus the viceroy was only repeating orthodox curriculum when he lectured Buckingham that high prices, by stimulating imports and limiting consumption, were the “natural saviours of the situation.” He issued strict, “semi-theological” orders that “there is to be no interference of any kind of the part of the Government with the object of reducing the price of food,” and “in his letters home to the India Office and to politicians of both parties, he denounced ‘humanitarian hysterics’.”…By official dictate, India like Ireland before it had become a Utilitarian laboratory where millions of lives were wagered against dogmatic faith in omnipotent markets overcoming the “inconvenience of dearth.” Grain merchants, in fact, preferred to export a record 6.4 million cwt. of wheat to Europe rather than relieve starvation in India.

    Several million people died. Is that the liberty you’re talking about?

    Well aren’t standardized test scores objective enough? I mean if there is a test for a school that’s focused on the sciences, what could be more objective than a test score in math and science? Is that biased too? How would you have me un-bias the test?

    You still haven’t accounted for the inequality of public schools.

  31. I apologize in advance because I haven’t finished reading the court’s decision, nor did I read the last 15 comments; my own reactions were getting too disorganized/long.

    Rahul, while I think chancellors have a degree of autonomy (cannot speak for NYC specifically), I’m pretty sure they’re still constrained by the courts, both legal and of public opinion.

    Most are are pro-affirmative action despite the fact that it does not benefit the desi community.
    Finally, it does strike me as an interesting irony that at the college level, East and South Asians are not considered “underrepresented minorities,” while in this case, Nikita Rau is clearly being defined as a “minority” student.

    I am so tired of this myth being trumped out over and over again! Affirmative action does benefit desis, both indirectly and directly. If you are going to analyze AA, you have to look at both its historical application and how it is used in job and contract awards.

    Also, I really think it’s important to distinguish between AA and integration – they are related, but not the same. Amardeep, it was not so long ago that South and East Asians were considered “underrepresented” in higher education as well — this trend has only changed in the last 10 years (in admissions), despite the popular rhetoric around the “model minority.” As I mentioned, it wasn’t until around 2002 that Asian Americans began to reach parity in higher education (that is, the number of APIAs enrolled — across 4 year institutions — reached a number close to their % in the national population). Additionally, I think it’s important to qualify the argument about “overrepresentation” of APIAs in elite higher ed institutions. When you break down the demographics of the huge “Asian” category, we find that many subcommunities are left out and ARE truly underrepresented in the sense of race, and even more are underrepresented when taking into account socioeconomics. I personally think that for AA to truly be useful in education it is going to have to start looking at the intersection of race and socioeconomics. So far it is not doing enough vis-a-vis its stated goal of ensuring equality of access to higher ed. Many of the POC who benefit from AA still come from relatively (economically) privileged families. While that’s well and good, I think many people had hoped AA would help communities who are kept out of these institutions have children who were able to receive a high quality education and ideally bring that education back, thus fueling the local economy and increasing diversity in local and nationwide policymaking, leadership, etc.

    And while AA was sold as a means of correcting past discrimination – really, given that prejudice and discrimination are continuing facts of life, it should be here to stay, with continual refinement of the socio-economic criteria for obtaining preferences or qualifying for quotas.

    chachaji’s point is so crucial, and it also draws an important distinction between how AA was SOLD versus how it is legally defined/upheld. Contrary to many of the comments on this thread, AA is not legally defined as a means of rectifying past discrimination. In fact, when Bakke went up the Regents of UCB had decided to take on this case because it was less restrictive than a case that would argue for past discrimination. Instead they took the “diversity is important to the national interest” line, which has a weaker historical base, especially when applied through the 14th Amendment and civil rights law.

    Listen! African-Americans have been the most disadvantaged. Have you heard of a poor Indian in America? Indians are NOT a disadvantaged minority.

    This comment is profoundly ignorant. While it is certainly true that many of the children of (most) of the immigrants who came in the 1960s/70s came from socioeconomically privileged families, there is a large and growing population of low-income S/E. Asian Americans in the U.S. I don’t deny that African Americans have been uniquely f** over (only rivaled by American Indians, as HMF mentioned a la Chris Rock), but it is stupid to think that all desis are doing better. I would argue that this assumption has had awful consequences for those who are continually left behind because other elitist, privileged desis spend their time trying to dismantle civil rights advances because they selfishly argue that it “doesn’t benefit them.”

    My class of 420 had about 8 black people, and 20 hispanic people, most of which weren’t quite the underpriviledged types. The rest were your standard intelligent asian or white suburban kid (everyone at the school was intelligent).

    What are you trying to say? That the Black/Latino kids were not intelligent?

    Also, Manju, I have to disagree (of course). The court decision does not uphold a race-neutral vision; “racial neutrality” in the law in the context of the U.S. is inherently economically and racially biased.

    I know I get up in arms about diversity, especially around education, but I am really shocked by the outpouring of racism on this thread. The way folks are defining merit, quality, and entitlement around racial expectations just furthers the point that race in this country is still a pivotal issue and that we still haven’t reached a place where America’s communities, rural and urban, black brown and white, have access to the basic freedoms and opportunities we expect of our democracy.

  32. And more, I just couldn’t leave things alone…

    a. There is prejudice, but can you measure it? If not, why have a quantitative legislation on such a subjective concept? If Yale has government funding, then it’s a pity. Maybe if the government takes out its funding, Yale would have the incentive to get the best and brightest, irrespective of color/race.

    Abhinay, there are studies (I would encourage you to hop online and just google for them — of course paying attention to methodology since a lot of diversity research is opinion wrapped in very skewed stats), and further, how you define the “best and brightest” depends on your priorities, metrics, and goals. As has been mentioned, AT LENGTH, most of the metrics currently used as “objective” measures are anything but, and wealth can buy you a better standardized test score and a better education. INCLUDING in the maths/sciences. A laissez-faire approach to resource access has not worked in the past, nor will it work in the future because it is defined by elites and benefits elites. It does not distribute goods (or services, or in this case, education) in a manner that is necessarily socially desirable, no less socially equitable. It is even always efficient in the true definition of the economic term.

    Further, there is a reason why it is important for traditionally restricted groups to have access to organizations like Yale — because these are centers of social, political, and economic power. AA would not have passed SCOTUS — not the first time, and not the second time — had it not been for the advocacy of the U.S. military, historically perceived to be one of the most conservative institutions in our country. We have to start asking ourselves WHY people believe diversity is important, and it is not just because such a belief is PC or sounds good. Maybe I’m too jaded, but nothing in this country moves forward unless there is a political or economic rationale for letting it move forward.

    Democracy, in my opinion, is about participation and the idea that no one person is any more or less important than any other one. By systematically excluding POC, women, and poor people from educational opportunities and jobs we are undermining our economic health, our civil society, and the foundations of American democracy itself. Furthermore, we have seen that communities who are thus excluded are also excluded from policy decisions that effect their lives in addition to being excluded from appropriately designed social and health services. I believe that if we care about the health of the country from a social and economic perspective, then we have to be committed to finding ways to include those who are marginalized (and indeed, who form the majority of this country). I know that American history has always benefited elites and has overwhelmingly been defined by elites, but our past mistakes are not a reason to continue on a path that does nothing but hurt ourselves. Coincidentally, I think we need a huge overhauling of the K-12 system, which allows for such awful de facto segregation, racism in pedagogy, and “separate but (un)equal” funding that it all but ensures a continuation of the disparities we have seen for the last 100+ years.

    As for Yale receiving federal funding, almost all institutions of higher learning receive federal funding, just as all states receive federal funding. Yale is welcome to adopt a racist policy of admission (which it will not, even without the federal requirement) if it simply returns or stops applying for money from the federal government, including student financial aid. Indeed, this is what Bob Jones University contemplated doing in order to retain their hyper-racist whites-only admissions and housing policies. Also, to be clear, federal funding does not require that a group have AA, it requires the group to be in compliance with federal regulations (i.e. Title IX and Title VI when it comes to 14th amendment considerations).

    Puliogre, I understand where you’re coming from, but I think it would be naive to think that a nurturing family will even allow someone to get into the door compared to someone whose family can afford to put them into test preparation and pay for their application fees. That said, a child brought up in nurturing environment may perform better in college and may offer more to his/her classmates. In fact, it is exactly this rationale that is used when schools decide to examine the “whole package” as opposed to a solo GPA/SAT (*public school weight/rigor) model.

  33. It is even always efficient in the true definition of the economic term.

    This was meant to read: “it is not even always efficient in the true sense of the economic term.”

    Also, I meant Bakke v. UC Regents… I’m so used to adding the B to UC that I got carried away.

  34. I also believe that Africans who arrived later (in the 80s and 90s) deserve no quotas because they did not historically face hardship from the US government. The US government doesn’t owe them quotas.

    It’s not that simple, Africans & West Indian black folks will still be “psychologically classified” as black, even though they aren’t necessarily subjected to the same financial/generational barriers as native US black folks. That is to say: even though they have better educational credentials, and more amassed money, they still get the NYPD plungers up their ass. As for the gov not owing them quotas, well, it’s tricky. Perhaps not in an educational setting, because scores lead for the most part, and native black folks wouldn’t have the same access to test prep, suitable upbringings conducive for study, etc… But I’d say beyond that, job, housing, etc.. there’s really no difference.

  35. Maybe I’m too jaded, but nothing in this country moves forward unless there is a political or economic rationale for letting it move forward.

    No Camille, you are completely on point. This happens in an entirely different space as well, technology. Every technological enhancement you can think of, Telephones, Radios, GPS, Cellular phones, Internet were all military products before they were declassified and turned into ‘civilian’ products.

  36. I am so tired of this myth being trumped out over and over again! Affirmative action does benefit desis, both indirectly and directly. If you are going to analyze AA, you have to look at both its historical application and how it is used in job and contract awards.

    Camille,

    Can you explain to me how it benefits desis? Desis are a minority and yet we are not considered underrepresented minority as far as higher education.

    Are you saying AA benefits desis in the workforce? – but again, it seems it can benefit desis in certain jobs but it doesn’t seem like it would benefit desis in medical profession?

    I’d love to get some clarification on your above statement.

    Thanks

  37. Are you saying AA benefits desis in the workforce? – but again, it seems it can benefit desis in certain jobs but it doesn’t seem like it would benefit desis in medical profession?

    It would benefit us in administration positions, hospital admin, medical board positions, things like that. Many whites don’t have the experience of responding to “nonwhite” authority.

  38. As in so many discussions on this board- more to be learned just by “listening”. The often discussed,but not on this particular topic, “elephant” in the room- is of course ‘ White Privilege’. Largely embedded in the American psyche is still the idea that ‘black’ and ‘white’ are social classes. Class and race did not just intersect they were (are?)symmetrically, congruent.

    #56 chachaji Affirmative Action is meant to counter the current and ongoing prejudice against people of color that is endemic in the US.

    I would add that “black” is a shorthand way of saying poor, criminal, not college material etc. And the false opposite of ‘white’ being seen as just that;A [ false ]opposite. That is why some commenter’s on this board, and surprisingly enough,on some AfAm blogs I visit- will write things like I grew up in “white” neighborhood when in that particular instance the race of their neighbors really didn’t add anything to the topic at hand,but ‘white’ is used as a proxy for a ‘preferred’ or better SES.

    #77 Abhinay: Greed is inherent in humans, it won’t go anywhere. Better blatant than hidden.
    #78 Abhinay: Every individual has his/her own interests, and it is in each individuals best interest to recognize talent beyond race.

    Greed is inherent as well as trust/affinity for those most like ourselves, or most like what is considered to be the ideal. At no point in American history up to today, is that ideal ‘black’. I’m all for ‘the market’ and smaller government , competition and all the other “good stuff” we have in the US and in other liberal democracies that have embraced a market system- but we all know there is human as well as market failure. Because of our b-w American history everything is racilized. That is why supposed ‘scholars’ still use terms from 40 yrs ago (?) such as “acting white” to describe any nonwhite [a black person] who does not fit the stereotype of what supposedly ‘black’ culture is. My contention is whites are complicit and more powerful in maintaining this ‘idea’ than blacks are.

    A study release last week in the UK showed a worrying trend for white males to be underachievers in school. Some headlines said ‘white boys’ were let down by the education system,some said that low attainers were [poor] white boys.

    However, trust me, in all the discussion etc about the ‘problem’ and the solutions I have heard since the headlines:No one has said, Anglo Saxon,or any other ‘white’ culture is the problem. Its definitely not been mentioned by the mainstream, perhaps some minorities have pointed a finger at it. Point being the issue has not been racialized by the media etc as it would be in the US or non whites involved. Gordon Brown is not going to say white culture is destroying the lives of young British men.

  39. Having said all of that- I’m conflicted in where I stand on AA– I have met too many people in my professional life that I’m quite certain would have never received the benefit of the doubt, had their skin been a bit darker; eg their education, work experience etc did not on paper ‘qualify’ them for the position they actually had. And I know from ‘observed truth’ especially in America- that some people have to be nudged outside of their ‘white’ comfort zone to realize that talent comes in all shades—I just don’t buy that blind profit motive that supposedly tears down all the walls of every capitalist preconceived /culture mores etc.

    I do believe some concession /inclusion of the individuals economic background has to be taken into account. So no I don’t think O’Bama’s kids should benefit across the board from a ‘set a side’ program—if nothing else to shut up all those shift managers at “fill in the blank” or wherever who believe they could have ran for president etc if it hadn’t been for “the quota system”. I’m also soo tired of that- I know a [black]guy who puts up his grades/ GPA so people know he didn’t get over on AA line. ’cause I thought that was the point of the cum laude and other “furring” words on degrees- if it mattered that much. Or does it mean that a 4.0 from DeVry is equlivalent to the same from MIT? No the point of that story is just to slam any black person who has a “better” degree than the person making the complaint.

  40. PS,

    Can you explain to me how it benefits desis? Desis are a minority and yet we are not considered underrepresented minority as far as higher education. Are you saying AA benefits desis in the workforce? – but again, it seems it can benefit desis in certain jobs but it doesn’t seem like it would benefit desis in medical profession?

    I’ll break it down into two sections — education and employment.

    Desis are AA beneficiaries predominantly in state contract awards, which vary from state to state but often total millions of dollars in state business. This is especially true for local grants/works projects. AA also benefits desis when it comes to having a more level playing field in promotion, (public) research grants, and positions of authority. In my opinion, one of the major problems is that desis think that because they’re doing ok in (elite) higher ed institutions and making $$ (in aggregate) that they have somehow reached racial or economic parity with white folks. I would have to go back to the census, but I’m pretty confident that if you compared desis to all other racial groups, controlling for all else, you would find the race factor still plays out in hiring decisions, etc. This is a factor both in the begrudgingly “positive” stereotyping (i.e. the model minority) and in negative stereotyping (xenophobia, nativist arguments about job stealing, cleanliness, etc.) that allow race to hold desis back from equal opportunity.

    I think desis are too lax and allow themselves to be written out of higher education AA as well. As I mentioned earlier, APIAs were underrepresented in higher ed all the way up until the early 2000s. They may even be underrepresented now; it’s hard to tell because non-citizens (who immigrate for college only) and citizens are often lumped together in the racial analysis of admissions data. Throughout the 1960s-80s APIAs, including desis, were substantially underrepresented and were being kept out of institutions because of the model minority myth; I think razib mentioned this, but they were being compared to students within their own racial group and were judged on what was the “norm” without consideration for differing migratory or class experiences. In some areas of the country, desis are still underrepresented (racially), and consequently benefit from state-level AA in higher ed. To be more clear, while “elite” (i.e. the top 20 U.S. News ranked schools) schools have large APIA enrollment, this is not the case at other institutions, particularly state colleges/universities. The hard part is it’s hard to track for desis specifically because we are folded into that huge “Asian” category. Coming from CA, I think a breakdown by nationality/ethnicity within that is going to become more and more necessary in order to talk with any real authority about trends for desis and other APIA groups.

    In many urban areas they are underrepresented in terms of socioeconomics, race, and immigrant status, and they are beginning to constitute a new “subgroup” of APIAs who are considered to be appropriate targets for nuanced AA programs in higher ed. I spent most of my childhood growing up in a diverse and poor urban city, and desis in this area were a mix. Some of our parents were the standard 1960s immigrants, but many of our parents were refugees or had come through family reunification. There were stark class differences, and these class differences fundamentally altered what kind of opportunities folks had access to. Those with fewer class resources (including cultural capital) were in a situation that was almost exactly comparable to the situation facing Latinos and Blacks in the same city. This is part of the reason why I think it’s important to look at the crossroads of race and class, and for immigrant communities — language, when invoking or analyzing AA (which many more higher ed institutions are beginning to do in admissions, now).

    Lastly, while desis may not be, in aggregate, underrepresented in medicine, they are underrepresented in “nontraditional” fields (the arts, humanities, planning, policy, and until recently, the law). These are all places where AA operates. When we say we are not the beneficiaries, we need to really broaden our analysis of both the “types” of desis we think about re: AA as well as the industries/jobs/fields we think about. I’m not sure if that was clear? Forgive me, lots of ideas clamoring in my head, and I can’t type as quickly as I think.

    dilettente, thanks so much for your break down, especially the last point re: the UK.

    I grew up in “white” neighborhood when in that particular instance the race of their neighbors really didn’t add anything to the topic at hand,but ‘white’ is used as a proxy for a ‘preferred’ or better SES.

    This is so much the truth, although I use it to mean “completely removed from reality” :)

  41. Camille: Indians are underepresented in the humanities/arts of their own volition. We chase the money, and the money is not in a B.A. English unless it is a stepping stone to an MBA or a law degree. Show us proof that Indians pursuing the humanities are rejected at the undergrad, grad or tenure track level due to race. You have an uphill battle trying to convince us that this is to our benefit whem UC gets rid of affirmative action and desi enrollment goes up

  42. Slate had two interesting articles following the Supreme Court decision.

    One of them talks about how the guaranteed admission program in some states (Florida, California, and Texas) is actually a kind of affirmative action that takes advantage of the segregation that exists in high schools today. I’m not sure I really agree with the article because first off, it implicitly assumes that the numbers of seats in these segregated schools is at least roughly in sync with the populations of different ethnicities (at an extreme, assume there is one all-black school and all other schools are all-white, in which case the argument basically falls apart). I don’t know if this assumption is justified. Secondly, it does not take Hispanics or Asians into account in its analysis, and I certainly don’t think of Asians going to “segregated” schools in the same sense that blacks do. But it is certainly worth thinking about.

    The second article proposes using income as a segregator, and claims that it is almost as good a proxy for race. One paragraph in that article confused me though: In the higher-education arena, some poorly crafted income-based affirmative action plans have failed to produce sufficient racial diversity. That’s in part because low-income whites tend to achieve at higher levels than low-income blacks. But at the K-12 level, the achievement gap between racial groups can actually be used to increase the racial dividend of income-based programs. Wake County’s plan to avoid concentrations of low-income students and low achieving students has yielded almost as much racial diversity in schools as its old race-based integration plan. One study found that under Wake County’s old policy, 64.6 percent of schools were racially desegregated in 1999-2000. Two years later, under the new socioeconomic integration policy, 63.3 percent of schools remained racially desegregated.

    Why is it that controlling for performance makes such a big difference in K-12 vs. higher education? The article does not elaborate on this topic further, and I don’t know what to make of this fact. Moreover, I certainly don’t see where it justifies the claim of increasing the racial dividend of income-based programs?

    Finally, as an aside, I understand that as a South Asian blog, people care about the implications of AA on desis. And I realize I’m being naive when I say this, but I don’t understand why people make these claims about not understanding why desis support AA even if it doesn’t benefit them? Shouldn’t we support a policy if we genuinely believe it supports the most deprived in our society? (claiming that it doesn’t is a different argument). If whites made the same argument about not supporting AA because it goes against them (as they have in various garbs for many years), we surely wouldn’t be so sympathetic to it, would we? We might even consider it racist.

  43. Or does it mean that a 4.0 from DeVry is equlivalent to the same from MIT? No

    What? No outcry? Is there nobody from DeVry on this board? Bueller? Bueller?

  44. Shouldn’t we support a policy if we genuinely believe it supports the most deprived in our society? (claiming that it doesn’t is a different argument). If whites made the same argument about not supporting AA because it goes against them (as they have in various garbs for many years), we surely wouldn’t be so sympathetic to it, would we? We might even consider it racist.

    This is really a good point – we should support policies that support the most deprived in our society regardless of who it is.

    But it is different if a white American would have a problem with AA b/c whites in this country have had AA for generations – they have only had to compete against themselves- everything was for them – a minority didn’t have a chance. That different than new immigrants who didn’t have a part in that history.

    Another thing about supporting the most deprived – so many social policies support this, right? medicaid, welfare, etc…but the thing about AA is that on an individual level it seems to deprive people who’ve worked hard all their lives (I’m thinking Asians) from being able to compete on the same playing field as everyone else.

    Thanks Camille your perspective; I’m still wrestling with what AA means to this country.

  45. Rahul, thanks for your comments. I’m in the “AA is an important tool for social equality” school, but it is often hard to convince desis that there ought to be a self-interested investment as well.

    With respect to the Texas 10 and the California 4% (eligibility in the local context), many admissions/higher ed wonks agree that this helps reconcile part of the problem, but is not as effective as AA in achieving a “critical mass” of diversity, depending on which groups you’re looking for as diversity indicators. When I was at UC our “diversity indicator” populations were Blacks, Latinos, Filipinos, and SEAsians (in that order of priority). With ELC we had two challenges: 1. That many of the top 4% do not come through for our yield (that is, they apply, they get in, and then they go to Stanford).

    1. Some communities are so densely populated that even if you took the top 4% it wouldn’t get you to a comparable % in relation to the state population. For the Black community in California, populations are overwhelmingly concentrated in LA, Oakland, and Richmond. Even if a high school were nearly all black (which is not uncommon), even if you took 4% of say 98% of the subpopulation, you’d only get an accepted applicant pool of 3.92% (CA’s “black only” population was 6.1% in 2005 — I’m sure if it included mixed folks it would be higher). Also, these programs don’t guarantee an even spread across UCs — it guarantees admission at UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Merced. I have nothing but love for those campuses, but in many fields there is more “bang” for your degree at UCLA/UCB/UCSD given the way graduate admissions, etc., work.

    2. It has no bearing on gender, which is a substantial factor after the undergraduate level.

    3. In Texas, some have said that the 10% plan has led to over-enrollment without funding for expanding campuses, and that it has also led to “white flight.” Effectively you see campuses becoming either all white or all Latino (e.g. UT Dallas may have a large Latino population, but UT Austin’s diversity shifts more slowly). I think this is the challenge in almost any state system where admissions are measured at the system-level but decisions happen at the campus-level.

    And lastly, in many areas socioeconomics has been described as a substitute. In California, this would lead to an increase in enrollment (in order) of Asians, whites, and then Latinos. Blacks would see little to no increase in enrollment.

    louciecypher, I’ll get back at you with admissions data. My point was not that undergrad enrollment decreased in UC, but it is definitely not on par at the graduate and tenure-track level, depending on your field. The breakdown is not presently available through UCOP for faculty/grad admissions, and their ethnic breakdown data is a little harder to find since it’s not as readily online. That said, I can follow up with you, if you like, with the statistical background behind my comments. I know that it sounds like I come up with this stuff, but it comes from working on UC admissions for 5 years — a lot of my data is in hardcopy in a box in storage in California.

    Also, I understand that desis are not highly represented in the humanities, but I’m pretty sure that if you look among applicants in the “nontraditional” fields, things are not working out to a “natural balance” anyway. At any rate, my argument about the benefits of AA for desis hinges around contracts and job grants, not around higher ed admissions. The reason I brought up the latter was to point out that higher ed admissions (sans AA) do not benefit rural desis or low-income desis, so I think we should try to be a bit more aware of who we’re talking about when we make sweeping comments about the ineffectiveness of the policy itself.

    Oh, and in general I think California is an exception in the national conversation re: AA because of our super high population of APIAs and Latinos. I think it would be more interesting to take a state that is more reflective of national populations and then compare, personally.

    PS, my pleasure. =)

  46. Oh, I forgot to say, even if you have ELC you have to meet UC’s a-g requirements for admission (these are basically course requirements — X years of history, X years of English, X years of math, etc). I think something like 50% of California public high schools offer the coursework needed to become eligible. Surprise surprise, this varies by income and ethnicity of the local population. Late Assemblyman Firebaugh tried introducing a piece of legislation that would make it required for public high schools to offer a-g coursework for graduation just so that folks could be college eligible. Guess who the largest lobby against the bill was? The UC Office of the President. They argued that if they actually had to take the top 4% there would be “too many qualified” students to choose from.

  47. Camille: That’s crappy the UC president would be against mandating UC prep curricula in all Califonia high schools…canm I find and articulation of their position on this online? I would pay higher property & state taxes to make this possible. I think some pro-AA white politicians offer AA up as a way to throw a bone to minority constituencies without addressing the root cause (i.e. poor K-12 education) as that would raise taxes and piss of their core constituency.

  48. The UC Office of the President. They argued that if they actually had to take the top 4% there would be “too many qualified” students to choose from.

    Hi Camille, thanks for your contributions to this thread. So, does this mean that California has special public high schools which have their own admission criteria – and do they have to make good faith efforts to admit students on a competitive but ethnically representative basis?