A new book highlights just how fuzzy government-sanctioned racial categories are in the United States
I was against affirmative action until Jesse hired Yassine to guest post
Great post. Your comment on Affirmative Action raises a serious issue. If beneficiaries tend to be recent immigrants from Africa or the West Indies: why should a Nigerian immigrant get a leg up on college admission over an immigrant from Korea or Russia?
The vagueness of "Hispanic" is likewise problematic: does having grandparents from Galicia (Spain) make you more deserving than someone with grandparents from Galicia (Poland)?
The bigger picture, beyond the specificities of racial check-boxes, is that whatever system is imposed to "redress" or "adjust" things, will be immediately gamed by those already in an advantageous social position.
The educated, the tuned-in, the strategic, will figure out how to shake that family tree, or get a convenient diagnosis (extra time on the SAT?), or adjust their financial situation (I know people whose parents tactically "disowned" them so they'd qualify for scholarships and grants).
If it can be scammed, it will be scammed, which is why I don't like these programs (much as like Bernstein I agree with the principle of redress for Native Americans and victims of slavery/Jim Crow)
The perils of skimming. I read the whole thing astonished by the revelation that Jesse is from Morocco. Even stripped of that it was still quite a read. Than you!
Thing that gets me is how perception impacts the reality. Knew a girl whose father was Hungarian and whose mother was Chinese. Her features were a blend, obviously. Her whole life people would try to speak to her in Spanish. Her friend groups through her life self sorted to be Hispanic. Eventually she learned to speak enough Spanish to get by just to make things easier. And now unless she’s known someone a very long time she just says she’s Mexican. Changed her race due to social pressure.
Shaun King is the most famous example, I think. Only in America can a poor white boy grow up to be a rich black man through sheer determination and belief.
"Non-resident alien" is its own category within the NCES. Nigerian students wouldn't count as Black/African American unless they are citizens or permanent residents, i.e. immigrants rather than international students. I do think this is a somewhat important distinction, though your overall point is well taken. Still, some African American students whose parents are medical doctors are also able to take advantage of scholarship programs based solely on race, which is why I prefer an income-based approach to awarding scholarships with (possibly) recruitment efforts focused on students with intersecting identities (e.g. low-income and also belonging to a underrepresented racial or ethnic group).
Much of the topic concerns yet /another/ among the seemingly unending set of examples of Campbell's Law, according to which (per Wikipedia) "The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell%27s_law).
A very good example too!
I've read Bernstein's posts at Reason's Volokh Conspiracy (which I strongly recommend), but I haven't (yet!) read the book, so I don't know if Bernstein cites the law, but I hope he has.
I appreciate Clever Pseudonym's comment that brings in Eric Hoffer's contributions.
Great review! Looking forward to reading the book.
Fantastic post, very enjoyable and informative read. You're such a great writer, Yassine! Can't wait to read more of your missives.
"Bernstein goes out of his way to explicitly affirm compensatory efforts for groups like ADOS".
And how does he define members of ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery)? Does he use the one-drop rule?
You should absolutely be ashamed of having liked Limp Bizkit.
"consider what box someone indigenous to Brazil would check . . .American Indian would not apply either, because lobbying by federally recognized tribes has relegated this definition to include only North American indigenous people." And I'm not sure it even includes Mexican and Canadian people. The notion of "indigenous" status gets slippery fast. We probably need a better name for Amerindians.
There’s a lot of discussion about how stupid the IPEDs race/ethnicity categories are in higher ed data, but those are the categories the feds make us report.
On the one hand, they are crazy broad--Asian American and Pacific Islander includes the majority of humans--but in my experience, smaller colleges have no use for all the categories and will end up concentrating on the two or three groups that make up the bulk of their enrollment. AAPI students generally do not make up a majority of a Mountain West community college.
Plus, theres a rise of students who are classified as multiracial across the country--unless they also marked Hispanic, in which case they are Hispanic. There’s no guarantee that two multiracial people have anything in common, even less than other classifications.