Tim Wise on NPR’s “All Things Considered” 8/15/10, discussing affirmative action

Tim Wise discusses affirmative action on NPR’s All Things Considered, 8/15/10. Lots of important things I said got edited out, but nonetheless, I got in some good shots here. One thing I didn’t get to say: Jennifer Gratz is a shameless, boldfaced liar. The reason she was rejected from the University of Michigan is NOT because of affirmative action. Indeed, even her own attorneys never argued that, because they knew that argument was untenable. Fact is, the year she was rejected from U of M (1995) there were about 85 students of color admitted with lower test scores and grades than hers. But there were roughly 1400 other whites admitted with lower scores and grades. So even without affirmative action, her sorry ass wasn’t getting in…but of course, she felt entitled like a lot of white folks do, so she sued…nice.

Here’s the NPR text article to go along with the audio.


25 Responses to “Tim Wise on NPR’s “All Things Considered” 8/15/10, discussing affirmative action”

  1. Tim, the salient point isn’t whether or not any particular individual definitely should have been admitted on the basis of their individual accomplishments. The issue is whether or not different groups are held to different standards. Even you seem to tacitly admit as much, judging from your comments about how blacks and Hispanics who score much lower on tests should be admitted on the basis of the obstacles they’ve had to overcome in order to attain those scores. What’s dishonest is how supporters of affirmative action always seem to want to deny the fact that different groups are basically held to different standards. At least if they admitted that that was the case, we could then have a legitimate conversation about the pros and cons of affirmative action policies. I think your comment about there not being quotas for blacks and Hispanics is a bit naive. While there may not be precise numbers allotted to blacks and Hispanics in each incoming class, most elite colleges generally tend to a maintain a consistent percentage of both demographics throughout the years.

    Your claims about how impressive it is that blacks and Hispanics even manage to attain the scores that they do, in spite of all of the obstacles they’ve had to overcome, is simply laughable. Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that external factors are what depress the black and Hispanic scores, that in no way suggests that blacks and Hispanics are as qualified as their white or Asian counterparts. You use the analogy of a runner starting three laps behind another person, but eventually catching up to him. This is a highly flawed comparison, in my opinion. A far better analogy, if we indeed assume that black and Hispanic scores are being depressed by external factors, would be that of a malnourished child who has failed to develop into as strong a runner as his better nourished counterparts. While he may have had the potential to become as good a runner as anyone else, the simple fact of the matter is that he didn’t, due to external circumstances beyond his control. Of course, the remedy for this is to make sure that the malnourished children of tomorrow get fed better diets, rather than simply to declare malnourished racers to be winners, even when they finish behind their faster counterparts in the race of life.

    And of course, how can we ignore the anti-Asian bigotry you espouse in your article? You seem to imply that Asian Americans have nothing that stands out apart from good grades and high test scores. This clearly feeds right into all of the most perniciously racist stereotypes that whites harbor about Asians, and I seriously urge you to contemplate the negative impact your words may have on Asian Americans. After all, we’re human too. I would argue that contra your baseless implications, Asian Americans are no less well rounded than other ethnic groups. If nothing else, your argument basically calls for different groups to be treated differently. Since blacks and Hispanic cohorts have lower test scores than Asian cohorts, the things which make a black or Hispanic student stand out will be different than those which make an Asian student stand out. Therefore, since you argue that college admissions officers should take into account whether or not a student stands out in relation to his racial peers, it’s perfectly acceptable for colleges to judge people from different races based on different sets of criteria. After all, why should individuals be compared to only people from their own racial group, as opposed to people from the entire applicant pool? This seems to be a virtual concession that you yourself believe that affirmative action policies indeed treat people differently based on the color of their skin.

    Your only real justification seems to be that this is okay because blacks and Hispanics endure more obstacles in life. Quite frankly, that kind of reasoning is juvenile at best. At worst, it runs counter to many of the relevant facts at hand.

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  2. Actually, that is not my argument, either in my book or articles on the subject. As for this interview, keep in mind, we did 40 minutes, of which you only heard the edited portion. In the rest I made the point that indeed expecting blacks and latinos to score the same as whites and asians, when the latter come from families, on average with 2-3 times the annual income, far more net worth, far less likely to attend resource poor schools, is the real double standard. To say “well they could have been as good but they aren’t” is to capitulate to permanent injustice until that day when resources are equalized (which of course no AA critic actually wants to do anyway). Fact is, blacks and Latinos do worse in college than whites and asians even when they had the same test scores and grades, so there is something happening other than lack of merit, which explains that outcome. And the scholarly research is quite clear that those things are economic obstacles and experiences with racial isolation/racism.

    As for essentializing Asians, I am not. Based on the actual data, it is simply true that elite schools are seeing Asian applications that are extraordinarily similar in terms of achievements and focus. Its not me saying that, it’s the research. So as a result, even though Asian applicants may have higher scores, they are not necessarily more qualified, even academically, let alone when one looks at a wide range of factors that all schools look at (and should) in putting together a first year class. I’m not saying that applicants should only be compared with their in-group peers. I’m saying that is likely what IS happening, rather than some blatant and deliberate racial preference being extended. Right or wrong, the “standout” factor is real, and when you know that the black averages are far lower, to then have a black app with really good scores and a great transcript (even if it’s lower than the Asian or white average) is probably going to signal to you (going along with the proxy effect argument) that this person is likely to be highly qualified, given what they’re used to seeing. And likewise, an Asian app with a great test score might not stand out as much. I think there is no way to avoid this effect frankly, unless we were to say that the rule is, we admit on strict test scores and grades, which no on in their right mind really thinks is the way for schools to pick classes, since they tell us so little about a student’s potential (especially test scores which are pitifully correlated with future success, at least, independent of other factors).

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  3. Tim, there are so many things to address here. I’ll try to be as coherent as I can in my response. It’s not clear to me that blacks and Hispanics at elite schools are necessarily significantly worse off than their white or Asian counterparts in terms of socioeconomic background. In fact, one of the most persistent criticisms levied against affirmative action has been the fact that most of its beneficiaries have been middle and upper class blacks and Hispanics, rather than lower class blacks and Hispanics.

    Of course, the problem isn’t merely one of socioeconomic status alone. It’s long been a known fact that even when matched for socioeconomic status, blacks and Hispanics score worse than their white or Asian counterparts. In fact, the problem is magnified when one compares the gap between upper class whites and upper class blacks to the gap between lower class whites and lower class blacks. That is, the gap between rich whites and rich blacks is in fact larger than the gap between poor whites and poor blacks, when it comes to important indicators of academic achievement. This was a startling revelation that surprised even California superintendent Jack O’Connell. See here.
    http://articles.sfgate.com/2007-11-12/news/17268291_1_achievement-gap-summit-test-scores-latino

    I’ve read of studies which argued that standardized test scores were fairly well correlated with academic success. Of course, caveats do apply here. If you’re using college GPA alone as a proxy for academic success, then you’re likely to find a weaker correlation between SAT scores and so called academic success. After all, we know that not all colleges and majors are equal in terms of academic rigor. It’s fairly likely that a person who scored a 1250 out of 1600 on his SAT and later on went to major in history at a mediocre state school would have a higher GPA than a person who scored a 1450 on his SAT and went on to major in physics at MIT. I suspect that a lot of the studies which have concluded that SAT scores are weakly correlated with college GPA have failed to take into account the crucial issue of adjusting for both the school that one attends and the major that one pursues.

    I won’t comment on the accuracy of your assertion that even when matched for test scores, blacks and Hispanics do worse than whites in terms of GPA. However, this finding alone doesn’t suggest that racism is at play here. For instance, I’ve also read of studies showing that Asians do worse than whites grade wise, when matched for SAT scores and the likes. Of course, there’s a clear explanation for this. Asians are more likely than whites to take difficult and rigorous math, science, and engineering courses while in college. Thus, this seems to be the reason behind the lower Asian GPAs, as opposed to the bogeyman of white racism.

    Tim, it’s true that Asian Americans have extraordinarily high test scores. I’m not disputing that claim. But clearly in your original article, you seemed to insinuate that Asians lacked the more well rounded background that other applicants possessed. This is why I called you out for espousing anti-Asian bigotry. You’re clearly pandering to old, white racist stereotypes about the workaholic Asian student who has no outside interests, but merely studies all of the time. While such a stereotype might be tolerable if it were in fact true, the fact of the matter is, this stereotype is far from being accurate at all. Asian Americans are no less well rounded than their ethnic counterparts, and I suspect that much of the reason behind the perpetuation of this stereotype has to do with the fact that people are looking for ways to discredit Asian American success.

    I must confess that I have trouble understanding the logic behind your notion of cohort dissimilarity. Why is an Asian American with high test scores less qualified than an African American with high test scores, merely because the Asian American cohort is much stronger academically than the African American cohort? Remember, people are first and foremost individuals. It seems shockingly racist to suggest that because my ethnic peers are academically strong, somehow my individual accomplishments are diminished in absolute terms. Not only is that kind of thinking racist, I can’t even comprehend the logic or rationale behind it. Why reward an African American or Hispanic student because his peers are doing worse than their white or Asian counterparts?

    You state that you’re merely pointing out that college admissions officers in fact do take into account the relative strength of an applicant’s racial cohort, and that you aren’t in fact supporting such a practice in principle. However, you don’t seem to be particularly alarmed by the fact that this kind of thing is taking place, and you seem fairly apologetic in your explanation of why it occurs.

    The fact of the matter is, test scores and grades do matter. And they matter more than holistic extracurricular activities, especially when it comes to intellectual pursuits. If blacks and Hispanics aren’t performing up to par, then they don’t deserve to attend elite institutions. Attending an elite university isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. If external factors are depressing the black and Hispanic scores, then the correct course of action should be address the issues which lead to those scores being depressed in the first place. The proper course of action shouldn’t be to reward less accomplished individuals by enacting essentially a band-aid solution to the issue at hand. Remember, we need to cure the disease, not just treat the symptoms.

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  4. Ms. Gratz acts as if she were the only person to be rejected to a college, unlike millions of other college applicants, so she seems somewhat spoiled. In fact, just because a college wants top credentials in terms of grades and other activities, the admissions people want students with good character as well. I read a book by Don Dunbar that outlined how the best grades and SAT scores don’t speak for the student while an essay or interview can. With that in mind, she somewhat defamed the 80 blacks without considering possible reasons as to why she didn’t get in.

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  5. Nell, this is a terrible argument to make. You seem to suggest that people with high test scores lack good character. This is remarkably similar to Tim’s misguided insinuation that Asian Americans lacked well rounded extracurricular activities. Both comments are remarkably bigoted. The fact of the matter is, people with high test scores are of no less personal character than people with lower test scores. Your comments are emblematic of the typical liberal desire to denigrate or discredit the accomplishments of successful people by suggesting that they’re unworthy of their accomplishments or somehow lacking in other areas.

    Once again, the claim isn’t that any particular individual definitely should have been accepted on the basis of his or her personal credentials. The claim is that different racial groups are being held to different standards, and that clearly is the case here.

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  6. “Nell, this is a terrible argument to make. You seem to suggest that people with high test scores lack good character. This is remarkably similar to Tim’s misguided insinuation that Asian Americans lacked well rounded extracurricular activities. Both comments are remarkably bigoted. The fact of the matter is, people with high test scores are of no less personal character than people with lower test scores. Your comments are emblematic of the typical liberal desire to denigrate or discredit the accomplishments of successful people by suggesting that they’re unworthy of their accomplishments or somehow lacking in other areas.

    Once again, the claim isn’t that any particular individual definitely should have been accepted on the basis of his or her personal credentials. The claim is that different racial groups are being held to different standards, and that clearly is the case here.”

    First of all, Yan, to equate thinking that high test scores are not a sign of character with bigotry is insane.

    Second, it’s not that high test scores are a sign of LOW character, but rather that they aren’t a sign of character in ANY DIRECTION up or down. And so, if we want colleges to be letting people in based on character, merit, talent, hard work, etc., rather than numbers (which everyone actually DOES agree with, just forgetting it when it comes to race and gender), then we need to be looking beyond test scores. Notice how no one here is saying to ABANDON test scores, just to add more elements into our judgment.

    In fact, most test scores have a very tenuous connection with SCHOLASTIC ACHIEVEMENT, let alone character…

    Third: We’re ALREADY being held to different standards, Yan. Black folks have been held to a higher standard since birth. Affirmative action is just a way of making that standard fair.

    “Of course, the problem isn’t merely one of socioeconomic status alone. It’s long been a known fact that even when matched for socioeconomic status, blacks and Hispanics score worse than their white or Asian counterparts. In fact, the problem is magnified when one compares the gap between upper class whites and upper class blacks to the gap between lower class whites and lower class blacks. That is, the gap between rich whites and rich blacks is in fact larger than the gap between poor whites and poor blacks, when it comes to important indicators of academic achievement. This was a startling revelation that surprised even California superintendent Jack O’Connell. See here.
    http://articles.sfgate.com/2007-11-12/news/17268291_1_achievement-gap-summit-test-scores-latino

    Which is OUR argument, Yan, NOT yours.

    If socioeconomic status is not the only culprit, then CLEARLY just having socioeconomic affirmative action, as many on the right suggest (dishonestly since they never actually PUSH for such initiatives, unlike the Left) is insufficient. Racial affirmative action is still necessary.

    Now, you MIGHT be trying to claim that these differences once controlling for racial status are a sign of black students just being worse students, but that’d be racist and also incorrect. I hope that wasn’t what you were going for.

    What CAUSES those differences between black and white students to emerge, even after controlling for SES and income? Well, lower rates of net worth among black families even when income is held equal, black families being disproportionately ghettoized and thus having their kids deal with worse neighborhoods and worse schools, “tracking” into remedial and regular classes even when black students’ test scores suggest other treatment, cultural insensitivity by overwhelmingly white teachers, the worst teachers going to the blackest schools, etc. etc. etc.

    So, taking into account these race-specific barriers to equal opportunity (let alone equal outcomes), affirmative action is a JUST solution. Pretending that the playing field is equal is discrimination when it isn’t, Yan. There’s no getting around that.

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  7. Frederic, let me address your main points. You state that no one is claiming that high test scorers have worse character than low test scorers. However, if character is equally distributed between high and low test scorers, and if both scores and character matter, then wouldn’t it be expected that people with higher test scorers are accepted at higher rates than people with lower test scores? I don’t see what the issue is here. Clearly Nell insinuated that the distribution of character wasn’t equitable between the two groups and that that somehow justified people with lower scores being accepted at rates above and beyond their level of academic accomplishment. This is bigotry at its worst, and I’m glad that I could educate you about it.

    You suggest that blacks grow up in a different environment than do whites, on average. This just leads to the question of who’s to blame for that fact? We know that there a host of problems afflicting African Americans, such as for instance the fact that 2/3 of all children in the black community are born out of wedlock. There are many other such salient facts I could cite here. The key question is, do these factors depress black scores? And if so, do these circumstances come about as a result of white racism, or is this something that the black community itself needs to take responsibility to resolve?

    What’s even more galling is how many of the beneficiaries of affirmative action at elite universities are the children of well off African immigrants(people from the continent of Africa) rather than African Americans. How is that fair, and how does that help out African Americans? Clearly affirmative action hasn’t worked in terms of closing the racial achievement gap, so why persist with it? I would be willingly to shelve my libertarian sentiments in favor of free-market meritocracy, if it could be proven empirically that affirmative action policies could have a trickle down benefit to the black and Hispanic communities at large. However, I’ve seen no evidence that that’s actually the case. What’s happening is that some members of the black and Hispanic middle/upper classes are afforded opportunities in life that aren’t commensurate with their academic credentials. Furthermore, conferring upon these selective group of individuals such a privilege has done nothing to raise the overall quality of life for the black and Hispanic communities as a whole. Which just brings me back to my point. Why persist with such a travesty?

    You basically regurgitate all of the typical liberal talking about about affirmative action, including how meaningless tests are. I’m sorry, but the fact of the matter is, standardized testing is useful and measures a certain set of cognitive abilities. Don’t lash out against the test because some people do better on it than others. What’s appalling is how liberals seem to no concept of the importance of having cognitive skills. Most of the advances made in contemporary society are the result of the hard work of the cognoscenti. Don’t bash smart people because they are smart. Instead, show some appreciation for the fact that they create virtually all of the infrastructure in society which you seem to take for granted.

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  8. Yan, until you actually read the book that started this discussion (In my article and Douthat’s and the NPR piece) we have little to talk about. The data completely proves that blacks and Latinos at elite schools are FAR worse off economically than whites and Asians, and that this plays a huge role in their respective academic success or lack thereof.

    The correlations between SAT and future success are minimal. First off, they were only ever intended to predict first year college grades. That’s it. So to pick freshmen based on what a test says about likely first year grades (when there is almost no correlation with four year grades independent of other factors, or future professional success) is silly. That’s the point.

    And you miss the point on the character debate. If character is indeed spread evenly among high and low scorers (and this is arguable, because many studies have found widespread cheating on the tests by affluent whites who score highly), then if we had a character-based admission policy (which I think would be great!) we’d have roughly equivalent admission of high and low scorers. Get it. So, to favor high scorers is either to say that test scores (which are not an indication of higher character) are more important than character (which seems pretty fucked up) or that we think having had more opportunity and thus scoring better IS indicative of character, which is, of course, silly.

    Anyway, I appreciate your input here, even though we have profound disagreements. I must say, having written an entire book on this subject, in which I address every single point you have made thusfar, I have no intention of re-writing it here, in the subject thread of an NPR appearance. My rebuttal to your position was written five years ago, pre-emptively. So please know that when I stop commenting here, it is neither because I disrespect your opinion (such that I don’t find it worthy of consideration) nor because I am incapable of rebutting your arguments. It is simply a matter of time management and the fact that I’ve already laid out the case elsewhere, thoroughly. I would love to discuss it with you sometime if you have the occasion to read the book and then have specific things to challenge me on, etc.

    Take care, and if Frederic or others wish to carry on the dialogue, that’s cool. As long as everyone remains respectful and kind to one another, I’ll let it go on as long as folks are interested. Thanks again.

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  9. @Yan Shen: There were several points you made in your last comment that is misguided.

    I’m Asian Australian and here we don’t have affirmative action per se, and as a result having been born here, I have yet to see an Indigenous Australian (Aboriginal) anywhere outside of the ‘ghettos’ and even those ‘ghettos’ are a rarity. Other ‘ghettos’ are full of Asians who didn’t migrate here as rich folks. (Those rich Asians live amongst the white Australians and even then it’s rare) And now these ‘ghettos’ are full of people of colour.

    They do have ‘preference’ for Indigenous Australians at universities, but the problem is many Indigenous Australians don’t even have access to the kind of education the rest have in order to even apply for university. Their families are so broken (teen pregnancy, alcoholism) as a result of white government intervention and past slavery, let me tell you, if I EVER meet one in my socioeconomical bubble, I’d have immense respect for them.

    I see many Asians at universities, but I’m a minority in the ‘cognitariat’ workforce.

    You should see how segregated our suburbs are according to race, and our history of ‘multiculturalism’ is so much more younger than yours in the U.S. You should see the school systems here and how private institutions get MORE government funding than public schools. That’s AA for white Australians.

    A study at ANU found that people, on average, with an Anglo sounding name need only to send out 10 CVs to get an interview but a person who has a Chinese sounding name has to send out 17 of the exact CV! – more than Indigenous Australians who are at 14! I’m sure in the U.S. you have had the similar tests with similar results – hello?! Doesn’t that say something to you about white privilege?

    Your comments:
    1. “You suggest that blacks grow up in a different environment than do whites, on average. This just leads to the question of who’s to blame for that fact?”
    If you knew anything about history you’ll realise that yes it is the circumstance of white racism. I’m not going to go into history here. So do the study yourself, and take Australia as a living study subject about racial inequity in present times (re: private school funding) if you can’t separate yourself from the U.S.

    2. “I’m sorry, but the fact of the matter is, standardized testing is useful and measures a certain set of cognitive abilities.”
    Yes it is ‘useful’ for ‘cognitive abilities’, but have you considered that those ‘cognitive tests’ actually favour a racial group? Take IQ tests, did you know that Indigenous Australians score the lowest on those tests? It’s not because they’re ‘dumb’ its because they’re different. In fact, when the tests change to cognitive abilities that have to do more with spacial memory they ace it. So what is deemed ‘intelligent’ is set out by the (economically etc) dominant racial groups – globally.
    We know that men and women have different cognitive styles too – video games use this knowledge to their advantage. It doesn’t mean that women are dumber than men, it just means we’re different and can bring something else to the table.

    The problem is these ‘standardised tests’ aren’t going to change anytime soon, in the meantime we know that having a tertiary education allows people to navigate the socioeconommical system much better, especially in a country where whites have power – that’s why AA makes sense.

    Another interesting thing to note is that our PSYCHOLOGY is affected by social constructs and society, which hinders or boosts our performance.
    They did a study to test a group’s performance in a maths test. Half the group were told that “it is known that Asians do better at maths” and half the group were told nothing. Those that were told – whites and blacks did considerably worst than those that were told nothing. And those Asians that were told did exceptionally well opposed to those that weren’t told who just performed normally.

    Don’t you think that the strong Asian American community is what has helped you succeed. Do you not think that many of those in the community had money/education and migrated there from rich families/countries built shops and businesses, and as a result contributed to a ‘good psychological atmosphere’ for other Asian Americans to prosper?

    In a society such as yours, I can see why AA is so important. And I don’t understand why you as an Asian American who is (pushed) ‘up there’ in some aspects of society, can’t seem to understand and empathise with those who are (pushed) ‘down there’.

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  10. Tim, I think it’s highly likely that the reason you’ve stopped responding or will stop responding is because quite frankly you have no rebuttal to any of my main arguments. For instance, I pointed out the salient fact that even when blacks and Hispanics were matched with whites and Asians in terms of socioeconomic status, they still score significantly worse on basically every standardized test. This would seem to put a dent into your argument about the importance of socioeconomic status in terms of explaining the racial achievement gap, but you conveniently fail to respond to this point. Nor do you really explain how it makes any sense to diminish an Asian American student’s academic accomplishments simply because his racial peers are stronger academically than students in other racial groups. And you also ignore the fact that many of the beneficiaries of affirmative action are relatively affluent African immigrants, a point which has been raised in the past by scholars such as Henry Louis Gates Jr.

    Your paragraph about character and test scores is incoherent and is indicative of your muddled thinking. The key point is that if BOTH test scores and character matter equally and if the distribution of character is equitable between high and low test scorers, then it should be expected that universities accept more high test scorers than low test scorers. This result in no way derives from the assumption that test scores necessarily have to be valued more so than character. That you could make so basic an error in logical reasoning leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, the only way to have high and low scorers be accepted at equal rates is if character was the only thing that mattered, which is a position that you seem to endorse anyway. This is quite frankly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Tell me Tim, how does character get someone through a physics program at Harvard or MIT? Does character allow you to develop the cognitive tools necessary to master difficult material? Repeatedly insisting that tests are meaningless doesn’t make it true. We can sample high performers in the real world in academia or business and obtain their relevant test scores. I’d be willing to bet that the average SAT math score for physics professors is remarkably high. If your hypothesis was true, then we shouldn’t expect to find results such as these. In fact, one of the most remarkable findings has been that IQ tests in general have a remarkable degree of predictive ability, regardless of what they actually end up measuring.

    You make the bold claim that affluent whites engage in widespread cheating on standardized tests in order to score highly. I find this claim hard to swallow. This is the first time I’ve even heard of such a thing. If the cheating is so widespread, why haven’t we heard more about it? Do affluent Asians cheat on tests too? Basically all smart people get ahead in life because they cheat on tests right? Isn’t that what you’re really trying to get at here? That no one’s really smarter than anyone else and if anyone accomplishes more in life, then they must have cheated their way to the top or have been similarly unworthy of the intellectual credentials. This is a remarkably irresponsible claim, and quite frankly I’m shocked you would engage in this kind of juvenile behavior. Having taken both the SAT and the PSAT and recalling the degree to which the exams were proctored, I find it hard to believe that widespread cheating could in fact take place. Certainly episodes of cheating do occur, but I would surmise that those are far from being widespread.

    All of this brings me to my final point. You’re interested in hearing yourself tell a certain story, and you’re not necessarily concerned about intellectual honesty or integrity. That’s fine, and you’ve certainly made a handsome living peddling the rhetoric that you do. You basically denigrate successful individuals, making bigoted insinuations about how people who attain success in life basically lack character and are unworthy of their accomplishments. As I’ve said, the cognitive elite more or less create everything of value in society today. Rather than despise them, you’d do well to show some appreciation for the people who create the infrastructures in society which you take for granted.

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    admin Reply:

    Yan, seriously, you’re being an asshole now. I can respond to everything you have to say, but do you not understand, I write entire BOOKS responding to your silliness. Hundreds of pages, filled with footnotes and references. Why would I go thru it all again for you here? read the damned books Yan…I deal with the absurdity of the standardized tests, their inability to measure true merit, and the same is true with IQ tests, frankly. What kind of society should hand out goodies to people based on test scores and grades, when those are only a small portion of what makes a person successful, capable, or able to collaborate with others (the last of which is every bit as important to academic and professional success as “intelligence” as normally measured)? College admissions is not a reward or prize for being a good high school student. Colleges do not exist for the benefit of 18 year olds. They exist for reasons they delineate, to create certain types of communities with a broad mix of people, with lots of backgrounds, talents, etc. And there are far too many qualified people applying to elite schools to let them all in. All of the persons admitted are qualified (this has been admitted, by the way, even by the anti-AA folks in court) and they fit a broad conception of what schools think will make their schools excellent. No school would, in their right mind, just admit people based on test scores and grades, or a handful of such measures. Oh, and just so you know, the research does say that perseverance (which is a key element of character) IS highly correlated with academic success, and equally so in many cases, as traditional academic measures. And also, the research says that there are a number of reasons why black students in particular underperform on standardized tests even when they are of equal class status as others. Specifically the documented phenomenon of stereotype threat explains it, as documented by Claude Steele (formerly the head of the psych dept at Stanford), who explains the research in his new book, Whistling Vivaldi, another great book you’ll refuse to read. But again, I go into this in my books. If you aren’t willing to read them, does that mean you are afraid, because you don’t have the ability to respond? No, of course not. I would never assume that. I would assume you may be too busy. fair enough…no big deal. But please don’t presume any lack of ability to respond on my part just because I let a thread drop. I have other things to do than spend time responding to one individual on a comment thread. I have a family, among other things. It is not worth it to engage in this debate here, especially when I have made my case over and over again in other venues. YOu’ll either read them or not. But if you keep being an asshole and trying to accuse me of being unwilling to engage or whatever (instead of accepting that two people who are both decent and intelligent and honest can simply disagree) I’ll ban you from this board so quickly it’ll make you head spin, and I’ll delete any post you manage to get thru. I’d rather not, but this is not meant as a pissing contest of debate society. I encourage feedback, questions, and challenges when they come from people who are still willing to acknowledge the integrity of those who disagree with them. I have, on a few occasions now, stipulated that I appreciate your feedback and input, and I clearly respect your views. But you do not respect mine. Cool. Keep it up and you’re gone.

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  11. Tim, I think you misunderstand me. I don’t question your personal integrity at all. Nor do I not respect you as a human being. I do however, question your intellectual honesty on these particular issues. This doesn’t mean that I fundamentally dislike you as a person.

    Just because you write about the issues I’ve brought up here, doesn’t mean what you’ve written is accurate or even correct. For instance, you mention stereotype threat. The problem is, different studies say different things. I’ve heard of the Steele studies, but then again, I’ve also read studies claiming that no stereotype threat exists. Do I just ignore all of the studies which go against my position, while only taking notice of the studies which argue in my favor? On many complex real life issues, studies are often inconclusive. Unlike many people, I don’t merely ignore all of the studies which are unfavorable to me. What’s even more galling is how you utterly misinterpret Steele’s argument to begin with. See the wikipedia link here.

    “Furthermore, while Sackett et al. do not dispute the fact that stereotype threat has a real, measurable effect on test scores, they posit that in the part of the experiment where Steele and Aronson removed the stereotype threat, the achievement gap which did remain correlated closely with the existing African American – White achievement gap on large-scale standardized testing such as the SAT. In their own words:

    Thus, rather than showing that eliminating threat eliminates the large score gap on standardized tests, the research actually shows something very different. Specifically, absent stereotype threat, the African American-White difference is just what one would expect based on the African American-White difference in SAT scores, whereas in the presence of stereotype threat, the difference is larger than would be expected based on the difference in SAT scores.

    In subsequent correspondence between Sackett et al. and Steele and Aronson, Sackett et al. wrote that “They [Steele and Aronson] agree that it is a misinterpretation of the Steele and Aronson (1995) results to conclude that eliminating stereotype threat eliminates the African American-White test-score gap.”[15]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat

    What this means is that the Steele studies showed that African Americans did worse than the typical black-white gap in the presence of stereotype threat, not that the black-white gap could be closed in the absence of stereotype threat.

    Tim, isn’t this a serious error in terms of grasping even the evidence you offer up in defense of your position? How can I expect to take you seriously?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    No Yan, and in large measure because of the more recent research on ST, after the 95 Steele and Aronson research, which Steele discusses in his just released book….(NOTE: edited previous entry version here–about an entire paragraph because I’m tired and what I was trying to explain was badly written and unclear. It happens…) Anyway, all I can say to you here, is that you need to read Steele’s book, in which he goes into great detail on all of this and presents a substantial amount of new research on the importance of ST to explaining huge segments of the existing white/black gap (and other gaps as well among other groups on all kinds of test batteries).

    Listen, much respect for your well-thought out and crafted arguments. I have enjoyed it, really. But I see little point in continuing the debate in this format. It’s self indulgent for both of us, as few people actually even read discussion threads on websites (unless the site is intended as a bulletin board/conversation site). So what’s the purpose? We;ve both thought out our arguments, and for whatever reasons we have come by our positions honestly. We are not going to convince each other of the rightness of our respective arguments, because we seem to define a good and decent society and matters of fairness and merit very differently., Which is fine, and says nothing bad about either one of us. But seriously, let’s end it. There is not much new to go over here.

    I am going to not approve further comments on this issue. If you wish to discuss other articles or positions (in other words, something other than the issue of AA or testing, etc) then that will be fine, so long as it’s new ground.

    [Reply]

  12. one more thing on Sackett’s reexamination of Steele…remember, his piece was not critiquing the proof of ST. What his argument notes (about the research in 95, but not since then) is that ST can’t explain everything. Of course not, and I never claimed it did. But it can explain a significant chunk of the gaps between similarly situated students with similar academic backgrounds and class backgrounds. Obviously those factors (resources, exposure to certain curriculum, family background) will also have a big impact, which is what Sackett wants readers to remember.

    And you need to recognize that you have offered no alternative explanation. You mention out of wedlock birth rates but how is that relevant to the test score differences among the kinds of black who are applying to elite schools, and whom we were discussing to begin with? While they are more likely than white and Asian apps to come from single parent homes, black apps to these schools (even the large numbers from working class families) are not typically kids who were born to single moms. Although they are far worse off economically than white and Asian apps, on average, they are certainly not, typically the “underclass.” Folks from that level of poverty and potential educational dysfunction are not a) likely to even take the SAT in most cases (so their scores cannot have a large impact on the national group average), or b) apply to schools like Harvard, so as to then account for black/white/asian score gaps among those who did.

    So what other explanation is there for the score gaps? If it’s not likely underclass status, since that doesn’t apply to most black SAT takers and apps to elite schools. And if it’s not some inherent biological inferiority (which is an inherently racist belief and hopefully not your position), and it’s not stereotype threat or resource disparity, then what? I will entertain your thoughts on this because I am curious what you might think about it, and this would be a new departure for our conversation, so let me know if you have some ideas.

    [Reply]

  13. Ah, OK Yan, so now I have gone back and re-read the Sackett piece critiquing Steele, and remember what it was I was trying to recall last night, but was too tired to remember. Turns out, this is a really good reason why you should never rely on Wikipedia references to make make your arguments for you, because although your characterization of what the wiki says on this is accurate, the wiki entry itself is highly flawed, which means your argument is flawed thru no fault of your own.

    Turns out, this is the thing:

    There are two separate issues. One is the aggregate score gaps on tests like the SAT, between whites and blacks, for instance, among all test takers.

    The second issue is the score gap, on average, between whites and blacks who are all highly motivated and generally high achievers (which is more similar to, say, the kind of kids who apply to the elite colleges in the first place, and who therefore might be considered the potential beneficiaries of, or “victims” of, affirmative action).

    In the case of the ST research by Steele and others, it is always and only this second group that they were seeking to explain test gaps for. The larger gaps obviously have more to do with resource inequity etc than anything else. No doubt, and this is what Sackett wants us to remember, fair enough.

    But the thing is, since we are having an argument about aff action, the key for our discussion is this second piece also: what explains score gaps even among a generally select group of students (which apps to elite schools tend to be. I mean, average students just don’t waste their time, by and large, applying to Harvard, etc)?

    And in this case, the ST research is clear: removing the stigmatization effect COMPLETELY eliminates the performance gaps among this select group of generally equal students, with high motivations and past high performance. In other words, among the kind of students Steele et al have tested (which is comparable to the kinds of students applying to elite schools with score gaps–albeit gaps that are a bit smaller than the aggregate ones), ST is the explanation for those gaps. The fact that ST can’t explain the overall testing gap, in the aggregate, is what Sackett points out, which is true, but Steele and his colleagues never suggested otherwise. The larger gap does remain, of course, because of other contributors to it. But among the kind of kids applying to the best schools, who are much more alike in terms of past performance ability, interest and motivation, the gaps are entirely eliminated when an experimental setting is constructed that removes the threat of stigma. This means that when we look at black kids, for instance, who went to good schools, took hard classes, are academically focused, etc (the kind of kids who dispro apply to Harvard) and we still see big performance gaps, which we do, on things like the SAT, we need to understand the role of ST in producing that effect for these students. And those are a lot of the students who apply to the best schools, and who get in.

    Which is why Sackett was only trying to make sure we didn’t forget that — that the larger score gaps are caused by other things like material inequity (which is true, but which was never the claim by Steele, or me, I should note) — even as he recognized the value of the research for explaining gaps among high achieving students.

    [Reply]

  14. “Frederic, let me address your main points. You state that no one is claiming that high test scorers have worse character than low test scorers. However, if character is equally distributed between high and low test scorers, and if both scores and character matter, then wouldn’t it be expected that people with higher test scorers are accepted at higher rates than people with lower test scores? I don’t see what the issue is here. Clearly Nell insinuated that the distribution of character wasn’t equitable between the two groups and that that somehow justified people with lower scores being accepted at rates above and beyond their level of academic accomplishment. This is bigotry at its worst, and I’m glad that I could educate you about it.”

    But the problem is that character ISN’T equally distributed. And not because of innate merit, but because the people who get a 1200 on an SAT when they are working a job due to extreme poverty, or studying in schools where the plaster is falling around their heads, or who can’t afford SAT tutors and prep materials, have more merit, more hard work, than those who don’t face those barriers and get the same 1200. You didn’t “educate” me about anything, these arguments are facile.

    Dealing with race and class deprivation and discrimination, and surpassing it, is a sign of character, intelligence, merit and ability. Incorporating that into our analysis is just like looking at students’ extracurricular activities or sports achievements: Letting us get a handle on what makes them them.

    “You suggest that blacks grow up in a different environment than do whites, on average. This just leads to the question of who’s to blame for that fact? We know that there a host of problems afflicting African Americans, such as for instance the fact that 2/3 of all children in the black community are born out of wedlock. There are many other such salient facts I could cite here. The key question is, do these factors depress black scores? And if so, do these circumstances come about as a result of white racism, or is this something that the black community itself needs to take responsibility to resolve?”

    Racism. Racism traps people through processes like redlining. Racism keeps people in those poor communities. Racism causes those schools to be underfunded.

    Not only are your wedlock statistics woefully out of date, wrong in the first place and not comparative, Yan, but yes, those circumstances DO arise from white racism! Educate yourself on this topic for once and read some Steinberg. When you see a potentially pathological cultural development in a community, hacks like you stop there and use it as ammo for their preexisting proposals, but real sociologists explore where it came from. So if we see high rates of wedlock, might it do with the disproportionate jailing of otherwise marriageable black men for drug crimes, a racist and classist war against those the economy can’t provide jobs for? Might it have to do with the unique stress that black families face that might lead to higher rates of divorce? Might it have to do with the difficulty of getting a job, or affording contraception? All those are legitimate concerns, but you just assume it must be because blacks are pathological. Because you, regrettably, have racist views programmed in. Not your fault, but you do need to recognize it.

    Further, you keep missing major parts of the data we throw at you, because you are woefully uninformed. What about those middle-class blacks from two-parent families who STILL face stereotype threat, going to bad schools in poor neighborhoods, being offered drugs more often (and turning the offer down more often), etc.? What about them? The existence of these kids, which is well documented, alone sinks your entire argument. When we see kids with family incomes that are quite high, yet the confluence of factors above in addition to things like lower average family income (making it harder to secure loans and reducing the family’s ability to really pay for college) impede their success, we see that race itself is a salient factor, even for those who have “made it” by the normative standards. Rebut that data or admit that affirmative action is appropriate, that’s about all you can do based on your position…

    “What’s even more galling is how many of the beneficiaries of affirmative action at elite universities are the children of well off African immigrants(people from the continent of Africa) rather than African Americans. How is that fair, and how does that help out African Americans? Clearly affirmative action hasn’t worked in terms of closing the racial achievement gap, so why persist with it? I would be willingly to shelve my libertarian sentiments in favor of free-market meritocracy, if it could be proven empirically that affirmative action policies could have a trickle down benefit to the black and Hispanic communities at large. However, I’ve seen no evidence that that’s actually the case. What’s happening is that some members of the black and Hispanic middle/upper classes are afforded opportunities in life that aren’t commensurate with their academic credentials. Furthermore, conferring upon these selective group of individuals such a privilege has done nothing to raise the overall quality of life for the black and Hispanic communities as a whole. Which just brings me back to my point. Why persist with such a travesty?”

    There’s plenty of evidence that even black immigrants face discrimination, Yan.

    The evidence about affirmative action in hiring and employment is clear: When we had it, representation of black folks went up. That was a major improvement. Now that it’s being beaten back, we’re seeing declines.

    But, yes, you’re right, we still have a huge way to go. Why not join us in closing those gaps instead of opposing one of the solutions? We’d need to see

    a) Reforms to anti-discrimination laws or an increase in the number of investigators able to enforce those laws
    b) Targeted efforts to improve health care for blacks specifically
    c) Better enforcement and expansion of banking and insurance discrimination laws to prevent redlining and predatory banking practices
    d) Reparations in a Marshall Plan-esque fashion
    e) Rollback welfare reform

    Etc. etc.

    [Reply]

  15. Tim, but that doesn’t really contradict the point the wikipedia entry made at all. The wikipedia entry pointed out that the Steele study showed that ST could induce students to perform worse than expected, not that removing it could raise performance to a level higher than expected. If you compare equally smart black and white students, then the expectation should be that they perform equally well in the absence of ST, which is precisely what the study showed.

    If anything, the study seems to suggest that ST isn’t as prevalent as one would think. For the larger aggregate black and white populations, there is a certain gap in terms of academic performance which has been fairly consistent throughout the years. What the wikipedia article says, suggests that if you subjected the aggregate black population to ST, it would actually induce a performance gap that was even larger. Once you removed the ST, you would obtain a gap that was the same as what we’ve been accustomed to seeing. So because we see the performance gap that we do, the study more or less suggests that other factors matter far more in the bigger picture, in terms of explaining the black-white gap.

    And Tim, I think we got off on the wrong foot here. I wasn’t trying to be excessively harsh in criticizing your point of view. I’m generally just an argumentative person. :) As far as I’m concerned, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, in terms of promoting awareness of racism. I just feel like some of your arguments are flawed. In particular, I feel like you blame everything on racism and often see racism where it doesn’t necessarily exist.

    And Frederic, why do you support granting affirmative action to African immigrants? Studies have shown that they’re one of the most well educated groups in American society. I think I’ve heard John McWhorter bring up this point before in one of his debates. He remarked that he noticed a stark difference in terms of cultural values and attitudes between African Americans and African immigrants.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    thanks for the new tone…I:m trying to do better at that too!

    as for ST, again, your interp of the findings is wrong, but the reasons why would take a long time to type out here. For this purpose, let it suffice to say, the Steele studies did not induce ST above and beyond normal testing conditions. They gave tests, normally, and that was sufficient to provoke ST. Then they had an experimental condition that removed the threat. When they did, the gaps between otherwise high achieving students (who were roughly equally “qualified” based on observations of past performance) disappeared entirely, whereas in normal conditions the gaps were big. This is important because the range restricted cohort that applies to the most elite schools tend to be from this highly qualified (and academically highly capable) bunch. So when you are able to eliminate the gaps between otherwise comparable students, that is huge, since the apps to elite schools tend to be very comparable (all with well-above average test scores and grades for the most part, all high motivated, etc). So the larger universe of score gaps is not relevant to elite admissions, since much lower qualified blacks are not really applying to elite schools. So when blacks from comparable backgrounds and with good grades and prior performance still underperform on the SAT (which they do, big time), and when these are the kinds of scores and kids we’re seeing at elite schools relative to white and asian scores, then the fact that among comparable students ST can explain the entire gap, is HUGE. And that is what Steele found. This is mapped out in detail in his book.

    [Reply]

  16. “Tim, but that doesn’t really contradict the point the wikipedia entry made at all. The wikipedia entry pointed out that the Steele study showed that ST could induce students to perform worse than expected, not that removing it could raise performance to a level higher than expected. If you compare equally smart black and white students, then the expectation should be that they perform equally well in the absence of ST, which is precisely what the study showed. ”

    So the hell what? The point is that, in real-life conditions that students actually endure, stereotype threat consistently lowers the performance of black students below what we KNOW that they can achieve. Thus, relying on SAT scores, uncorrected for race, is deceptive. Thus, affirmative action adjusting our understanding of those SAT scores and giving context is appropriate. Please tell me where you think the logic breaks down, because it seems pretty cut and dry to me.

    “And Frederic, why do you support granting affirmative action to African immigrants? Studies have shown that they’re one of the most well educated groups in American society. I think I’ve heard John McWhorter bring up this point before in one of his debates. He remarked that he noticed a stark difference in terms of cultural values and attitudes between African Americans and African immigrants.”

    Because they face other forms of discrimination. I myself am a son of a WHITE immigrant, from a middle-class family. I was put into a remedial language class because I had inherited verbal tics from my mother who has a French accent. Now, I don’t think I deserved any or much special consideration because of that, but even for me my immigrant status has certainly been salient. Let ALONE when you add in the other ways that just having black skin, country of origin, education and merit be damned, impacts you in this country.

    But then let’s say that you’re right, Yan. So what? You could easily either

    a) In a subjective affirmative action system, institute a policy that we’re going to look at the immigrant status of black parents and see their education level

    or

    b) Make it so affirmative action doesn’t extend to black immigrants.

    All of these objections (“What about poor rural whites? What about X racial group?”) are never reasons to deny affirmative action to the people who DO need it, they’re reasons to make the policy more specific. I think by now you’re conceding all those reasons and justifications…

    [Reply]

  17. Tim, I’d like to share with you some of my personal racial experiences, having grown up as an Asian in America. I feel like you leave out some important things in the discussion about race and privilege in American society. Let me be as blunt as I can here. Growing up, Asian Americans were always considered the smartest group, amongst most of the peers I associated with. I never grew up being inundated with notions of white academic superiority, because quite frankly, the stereotypes which existed amongst my peers, usually portrayed Asians as the most academically adept group. And my circle of peers included a diverse group of people from various races.

    There’s an old article from the WSJ that discusses elite high schools in California(a state with a fairly large Asian American population). It talks about how whites were fleeing from certain high schools in the Silicon Valley area because those schools had become dominated by intensely competitive Asian Americans. See here.

    http://wsjclassroom.com/teen/teencenter/05nov_whiteflight.htm

    I found these lines from the article to be particularly telling…

    “”"Many of my Asian friends were convinced that if you were Asian, you had to confirm you were smart. If you were white, you had to prove it,” says Arar Han, a Monta Vista graduate who recently co-edited “Asian American X,” a book of coming-of-age essays by young Asian-Americans.

    Ms. Gatley, the Monta Vista PTA president, is more blunt: “White kids are thought of as the dumb kids,” she says.”"

    This is why I tend to be dismissive of your claims about rampant white privilege or white racism. If anything, when it comes to things like admissions to elite universities, blacks, Hispanics, and whites are all somewhat under-represented relative to their percentages amongst the population at large, whereas Asian Americans are vastly over-represented. Rampant racism used to exist, but there’s been a remarkable shift in racial sentiment in America, ever since the end of the Second World War. I think it’s a bit unfair to most white Americans for you to assert that whites Americans on the whole are so racist that they can cause entire groups of minorities to fail in life.

    White privilege does exist in certain respects, but not in others. I don’t think that white Americans enjoy privileges in the academic arena today, and the success of Asian Americans serves as a testament to that claim. The only real area where whites are privileged is in terms of societal standards of physical beauty. I think that many people, even minorities, have embraced European physical norms, as the universal standard of beauty. As a minority, this was probably the only area where I was inundated by notions of white superiority(in terms of physical appearances). I think that most people of color in America are highly conscious of European physical norms and how they contrast with ethnic physical norms. But this kind of experience in no way impacts one’s ability to succeed academically or in life as a whole. This is why I feel like you should be a bit more discerning in terms of explaining where white privilege does and doesn’t exist. To invoke it as a bogeyman that explains all of society’s maladies is to paint too simplistic a picture here.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Thanks Yan, and I agree with you about some things here. Yes, the stereotype of Asians is as you say. But who do you think started that, and for what purpose? Do you know the history of the model minority myth? You should research it, as it is fascinating. It was created by whites in the early 60s, as a way to say to black people “see how hard these people work? Why can’t you be more like them?” In other words, it was meant as a racist tool for divide and conquer. And that stereotype is a huge burden for Asian folks in many ways, because it sets them up: if you live up to it, you don’t really get credit (since intelligence and success in school are thought of as “natural” and so, not the result of effort, much as blacks who are good at sports are viewed as “natural” athletes, and so, not given the same credit as, say a “hard working” white athlete is), and if you don’t live up to it, you get to be viewed as uniquely flawed: as in, “why are you Asian and not good at math?” So the construction of the stereotype is actually a form of racism that burdens Asian folks and creates intense pressure, which whites dont’ face. We can choose any path we want, excel in any field, or fail, and it’s different. If an Asian American fails or underperforms, the stigma is greater precisely because of the way white supremacy has set Asian folks up.

    As for racism in the status quo. All I can say to you is that the data on this is clear: discrimination is rampant in jobs, contracting, the justice system and schools. I am not claiming whites are vicious racists. In fact, if you would read my book you would see that I argue something very different: that most people are good people who don’t seek to oppress others, but that implicit biases, ingrained over many generations, are embedded in most all of us (the research on this is indisputable frankly) and that these stereotypes and biases are easily triggered in a number of situations, resulting in discrimination. This discrimination, BTW, affects all people of color, including Asian Americans. I document this in my books as well. For instance, even though Chinese American professionals have, on average, more education than white professionals, they make only 56 percent as much as white professionals, on average.Likewise, at the same levels of education, Asian Americans earn anywhere from 14-28 percent less than their white counterparts. And when we control for geography (in other words, look at whites and Asians only in the same community, as opposed to looking at aggregate national data, which skews income upwards for Asians because 60 percent of all Asian Americans live in just five states, and these tend to be higher wage, higher cost of living areas), we find that Asian Americans are about twice as likely as whites to be poor, and are making far less, and doing far less well than whites, even though those Asian Americans, have, on average, more education (in large part due to dispro high skilled, high-education level immigration.

    I appreciate the discussion with you. I would love for you to actually read my latest book so you know where I’m coming from, and what I am claiming (and documenting). Thanks again

    [Reply]

  18. ***Their families are so broken (teen pregnancy, alcoholism) as a result of white government intervention and past slavery, let me tell you, if I EVER meet one in my socioeconomical bubble, I’d have immense respect for them.***

    Ann,

    Have you ever read what their families were like prior to white government intervention? Read some Lloyd deMause.

    http://www.psychohistory.com/originsofwar/07_childAbuse.html

    ***A study at ANU found that people, on average, with an Anglo sounding name need only to send out 10 CVs to get an interview but a person who has a Chinese sounding name has to send out 17 of the exact CV! – more than Indigenous Australians who are at 14! I’m sure in the U.S. you have had the similar tests with similar results – hello?! Doesn’t that say something to you about white privilege?***

    You’re in Australia, a largely white country and people are ethnocentric. That’s to be expected. How would an Australian get on posting out CV’s in Japan?

    [Reply]

  19. “This is why I tend to be dismissive of your claims about rampant white privilege or white racism. If anything, when it comes to things like admissions to elite universities, blacks, Hispanics, and whites are all somewhat under-represented relative to their percentages amongst the population at large, whereas Asian Americans are vastly over-represented. Rampant racism used to exist, but there’s been a remarkable shift in racial sentiment in America, ever since the end of the Second World War. I think it’s a bit unfair to most white Americans for you to assert that whites Americans on the whole are so racist that they can cause entire groups of minorities to fail in life. ”

    Yan, it’s comments like this that reinforce that you just don’t get it.

    No one is suggesting that there is a vast conspiracy of white folks with overt bigotry who are conspiring to keep black folks from getting jobs, or getting into college. I doubt that was ever a wholly accurate picture of the situation and it’s certainly not now.

    Rather, black folks face

    a) Economic challenges that the poor in general face. This is connected to…
    b) Past factors that created poverty. So the combination of past poverty that has yet to be rectified with present policies that slam the poor alone keep blacks disproportionately down, and this would be true EVEN WITHOUT ONE IOTA OF RACIST INTENT on the part of present policymakers.
    c) Color-blind policies that nonetheless have disproportionate racist impact.
    d) Discrimination, which the evidence indicates can be overt but is often quite covert and often subconscious or unaware
    e) Institutional behaviors

    And so on. Some of these factors are more color-blind, others less, but the point is that all of them are INSTITUTIONAL. So your model is wrong, and therefore there’s no need to respond to your points in the first place. When you can understand the model of white privilege per se, then you can make meaningful contributions.

    The idea that Asian-American overrepresentation in college disproves widespread discrimination against blacks is one of the biggest non sequiturs I’ve heard, and it’s startling because I hear it so often. The assumptions behind the argument are manifold and they’re all wrong.

    a) You’re assuming that Asians face the same barriers as blacks and Latina/os. But, in fact, the racial caste system in this country has always had different levels, with Native Americans, blacks and Latina/os overwhelmingly at the bottom. Asians tend to occupy a middle rung, below “whites” and soon-to-be-whites.
    b) You’re assuming that Asian success in education means that Asians have “made it”, so to speak. But as Tim points out, that assumption is flawed too.

    The idea that the success of one ethnic group automatically dispels the shared problems and experiences of another ethnic group is not only a colossally ridiculous argument, Yan, but it’s also somewhat racist. When you say that Asian success means black difficulties can’t be real, that’s dismissing their lived experiences, which is a problem…

    [Reply]

  20. Love your work Tim keep it up (Kia Kaha) stand strong

    Arohanui (much love)

    [Reply]

  21. This NPR All Things Considered segment is interesting beyond the white-privileged perspective of Gratz. I don’t know whether Brandeis University is an “elite” school, but after he graduated from that university, Mr. Raz went to Cambridge for his Masters in history. While he may have received a premium education and may actually be able to perform at elite academic levels, the quality of such qualifications does not emerge in this segment of a “liberal elite” program. Consider the following weaving of conscientiously marked voices four and a half minutes into the segment:

    Mr. Raz asks the question, attributed more to the social fact of a US Supreme Court decision than to his own inquiring mind, whether affirmative action policies should end sooner (now?) than 25 years from now. He then specifies that such policies encourage or mandate “preferential treatment based on race” and asks “how does affirmative action work today?”. Next, he summarizes a comment made by Tim Wise as saying that admissions staff will “evaluate a whole series of factors when looking at an applicant”, followed by a direct quote of Mr. Wise:

    “. . . They’re going to look at the context within which that student obtained that particular score. So, if you have, in this case, a black applicant or a latino applicant who they know overcame substantial obstacles in order to obtain that score, that’s going to be a plus in their favor”. The entire segment now comes to rest on a balancing point, framed by Mr. Raz’ implied question about the value of providing preferential treatment. But, given Mr. Wise’s statement, we should be thinking in terms of preferential treatment based not on race per se, but on an applicant’s ability, as a racial minority, to overcome substantial obstacles to obtain a particular (presumably a minimally competent or high) score. According to the way Mr. Raz continues to frame the issue, it is as if he didn’t include Mr. Wise’s statement of the admissions evaluation schema that is specifically relevant to affirmative action.

    Mr. Raz, in the writing process, has forgotten about the details because the story, being newsworthy, is about broad issues of great social significance. He follows the quote from Mr. Wise’s statement of how affirmative action actually works today, which he summarized himself as looking at a series of factors, with the following:

    “That’s the simple part. Where the case becomes more complicated is whether that plus is a good thing.”

    How on earth is the evaluation of applicants by admissions officers on the basis of personal narratives and balancing such narratives against standardized tests and grades “simple”? If that is what affirmative action is, and Mr. Raz never claims that Wise (whom Mr. Raz chose or was required to use in this story) described AA inaccurately, then there should be nothing simple about it. That simple part is the crux of the whole issue.

    Mr. Raz has produced or at least been involved in production of this segment precisely because the subject of affirmative action is controversial. What is controversial about it? Is it controversial because it is being done or because of how it is being done (i.e., because of the evaluation process)? People have instituted such policies because they think the policies are a good thing. It would seem that people would not enact such policies if they (i.e., those with the power to enact the policy) did not think affirmative action was a good thing. If one thinks affirmative action is good, then it might be seen as a simple issue to decide in favor of it. So, what is Mr. Raz doing at this point of the segment beyond rhetorically creating a space in which there can be a pro- side and a con- side? Essentially, he is locating the controversy not in the way affirmative action is carried out (i.e., broadening the factors considered for racial minorities), but in the very idea of considering members of racial minorities differently than whites.

    Not only is the devil in the details that face admissions officers, but why would a supposedly neutral news person decide 1) that there is more controversy in this case than his sources can provide and 2) that the interest of the story really lies in the social debate and not in the “simple” evaluation process that admissions officers perform?

    Clearly, even some of the best news reporting in this country is more interested sometimes in filling programming space (the “news hole”, from the perspective of the sales division), then in carefully examining the issue being highlighted. Unfortunately, this contributes to the phenomenon of white privilege as it reflects a lack of any sense of duty among the fourth estate to examine the issues of race.

    Indeed, by pointing to a controversy that is not even represented in the sources used in the story, Mr. Raz perpetuates the very debate he is supposedly examining. Also, notice that his summaries of what his sources say are simply more general, and not more concise, statements. His “summary” of John McWhorter’s concern about the possibility that AA will never end is that AA does more harm than good. What McWhorter really claims is that black Ivy League graduates and other black parents will not be able to prepare their children for Ivy League universities, and black students will not be motivated to get good grades, because they can get in with “B”-grades. Sure, that is to claim that AA does more harm than good, but that is to confuse a summary statement with a substitution of a cliche. John McWhorter doesn’t even respond to Mr. Wise’s claim that admissions officers should consider other factors besides academic performance as conventionally measured. From what I can tell, however, Mr. McWhorter actually agreed with Mr. Wise on the issue the NPR segment addresses (as framed by Mr. Wise).

    This segment demonstrates that an elite education does not mean that you will be able to provide quality results, such as quality reporting if your field is news production. On a positive note, the segment does present to those of its listeners who catch the very end, the claim of Mr. Wise that the quota system myth of affirmative action is merely a myth. Unfortunately, the general segment as produced and aired counteracts that positive contribution. If the actual evaluation process is simple, as employed at places like University of Michigan, it seems to me that this dangling thread–the reproduction of the quota system myth–is really the complicated part of the affirmative action debate that this news segment should have addressed. Isn’t it the core of the issue debated in the public and isn’t it, therefore, newsworthy? Although this last quote from Mr. Wise is included, because Mr. Raz failed to examine carefully the evaluation process, many casual listeners are likely to be left with the impression that the quota system myth is not actually a myth. After all, if evaluation according to affirmative action policy is simple, the controversy that makes such a segment newsworthy must be about enacting affirmative action policy in general, rather than being about a “simple” evaluation procedure. The implication is that the devil must be in the idea of affirmative action, not in the details.

    Clearly, the title of the program, _All Things Considered_ is overly ambitious.

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