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A [Fundamentally Wrong] Question of Race

As Morgan Freeman, who is a man as close as any in memory to being a wise old tree, recently said: “The only way to defeat racism is to stop talking about it. I am going to stop calling you a white man and I ‘m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”

When I was a young boy, I didn’t know there was racism. Then I learned that there was racism, and it occured to me rather speedily that the best way to end racism would be to stop practicing racism. Unfortunately, the more misguided elements in our society have decided to take a different tack. Specifically, instead of trying to remove the rusty racist nail from the fibrous timber of our society, they have endeavored to turn the wooden board over and nail in another piece of racism from the other side, hoping against hope to be so dead-on as to drive the original nail out. They forgot that the hammer of humanity (Shush, the metaphor will end soon.) has a simple tool for removing nails. It is called education, and it is a tool made expressly for the purpose.

Various powers that be, however, believe wrongly that some people just cannot be educated. So they shoulder the load of deciding who gets special treatment, who gets put down, who propped up, who gets the extra admission points or the government contract or the job. A moment of thought connects this current situation to the one that birthed the race problem centuries ago.

What always amuses me is the smooth and facile way liberals execute their racism today. When I applied to Dartmouth and ten or so other colleges, I was asked my race. To be precise, I was asked ‘With which race do you most closely identify?’ With the attendant assumption, I guess, that it would be itself racist to ask an applicant for a discreet race without listing all possible worldly sects on the application. Better to ask for the best approximation and list only twenty or so, down to Eskimo. That’s quite a spoonful of compassion and care. But when one realizes the purpose of that race-identification question, one wonders just how much the colleges really care about ending racism.

Because, as every living, breathing, hearing, seeing person who has gone through the college admissions process in the past half-century knows, possessing a certain skin tint is a de facto help or hindrance in being accepted, though the process purportedly seeks only merit. That little question on the application is an awfully insidious one.

It happens elsewhere, too, of course. I work for a law firm which is helping to bring suit against a Large Public Firm upon whose services millions of people rely every day, and which it has been proven uses (un-Constitutionally and illegally) race and sex in determining which companies it awards contracts. As I sift through the docuflood they unleashed upon us in discovery, I see the special contracts that ‘disadvantaged businesses’ must sign in order to affirm that they are indeed disadvantaged. By disadvantaged, of course, we mean ‘advantaged.’ This Large Public Firm wouldn’t want to accidently give bonus points in the contract awarding process to white or man-owned companies, so it indemnifies itself by making the supposedly disadvantaged business partner affirm that they are disadvantaged. Only the contract doesn’t actually say “the undersigned hereby affirm that this company’s leadership is either female or of non-european descent.”

To say that would be, well, racist.

Instead, it asks the signer to affirm that the company falls within the parameters of a disadvantaged business as laid out in an ancillary and unattached document describing what it takes to be disadvantaged. (By which we mean advantaged.) That document, when it was sniffed out, does indeed contain the list of special races, the list of special creeds, and the list of special sexes. (There was only one special sex, it turned out.) But the seperation of documents forced one to wonder just what this Large Public Firm was afraid of. Why not include the lists on the contract itself?

In all venues where this sort of racism takes place, the practice is the same. The proposed new constitution for Dartmouth affords gays, blacks, Asians, and people with a Latino background the chance to elect a representative in addition to their class representative. But the constitution itself doesn’t say that, oh no. Instead, Article V, Section II, Paragraph I, Provision IX, states: “Two representatives of each Affiliated Alumni Group that has been officially recognized by the College ‘s Office of Alumni Relations, such representatives to be selected for staggered three-year terms by each such Affiliated Alumni Group.”

Racism-by-proxy, we are learning, is just fine. Jim Crow laws, after all, never forbade blacks from voting. Just illiterates. Delve into the depths of Dartmouth and we will find, in a seperate document, what is required to become an “Affiliated Alumni Group.” It turns out that it requires a “common bond” between “historically marginalized alumni.” That language, like that espoused by our Large Public Firm, specifically and forever excludes certain people on factors uncontrollable by them.

News came today from the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscriber-only; e-mail me for a PDF of the article) of a brand-new study. The study was conducted by the James Irvine Foundation, a nonprofit group in San Francisco. It is called “Unknown’ Students on College Campuses: An Exploratory Analysis,” and its main result as reported in the Chronicle was the finding that “many students whose racial or ethnic classification was characterized as unknown… were either white or multiracial.”

Going further, it is reported that: “Over the decade ending in 2001, the proportion of students identified as being of unknown race grew from 3.2 percent to 5.9 percent. At one of the three colleges included in the study, the share of students classifying themselves as white rose to 70 percent after they were admitted, compared with 42 percent beforehand. The proportion of students of unknown race dropped to 4 percent from 32 percent.”

In other words, students are refusing to answer the ‘race’ question, and are only admitting to being white once accepted to the college. The reaction within the upper crust is not encouraging. The real problem is that the question is being asked at all. Educational elites think the problem is that applicants have caught on to the trick: “The study’s main conclusion is that colleges need to collect more-precise data on the racial and ethnic backgrounds of their students.”

Class of 2011: Take your SATs, write your essay, send your transcript, and swab your cheeks. You cannot hide your race from the Office of Admission.

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