Deconstruction of a Twitter fracas involving Ibram Kendi

October 31, 2021 • 9:15 am
The tweet by Ibram X. Kendi quoted by Hashmi and Greenwald below was later removed by Kendi.  You can see the article on The Hill to which Kendi refers here, and the original survey is here.


Now clearly Kendi removed it (though he denies it; see below) because it appears to show that lying about your race if you’re white improves your chances of being accepted in college. I can see no other reason for the removal, especially given the pushback he got from people like Greenwald.

However, the original survey of 1250 college students doesn’t have a control group: the percentage of students who didn’t fake minority status and still got admitted to college. You could sort of have a control by looking at the percentage of students who got into college in each of the four categories: Black, Native American, Latino, and Asian/Pacific islander. If there were huge disparities in the acceptance figures among these liars—say that those who pretended to be Black or Hispanic got in much more easily than those who pretended to be Asian/Pacific islander. Even that has problems, but would show that claiming you’re of oppressed minority status makes a difference in admission, facilitating it in the expected direction (Blacks and Hispanics are favored over Asians). But I can’t find that data.

Absent the control percentage, of students who didn’t lie and got in, you can’t make an airtight case for the advantage of lying.  I suspect, however, that fewer than 3/4 of applicants get into college. (But even that’s problematic, because the survey didn’t specify that the students got into the college of their choice, just got into a college.) All you can say is that there is a reason students lie about their ethnicity (the most common reason given was to get financial aid), and that nearly every college in the U.S. is looking for good minority students, exercising affirmative action to take them. (I am, by the way, in favor of a form of such affirmative action.)

The other thing to ponder when “deconstructing” these tweets is why Greenwald says there are “numerous obvious falsehoods” in what Kendi said.  I couldn’t see any immediately, but the second tweet below clarifies things a bit:

What Griswold means is that if one-sixth of white applicants lie about being Native Americans, and 77% of those get in, then one expects (if these results are general) about 12.8% of the truly white students in a college would be classified as Native Americans. (The true figure, of course, will be lower than this because not all students in a college are white). Still, I don’t know of any college, except perhaps ones in the Southwest, where even 5% of students are classified as Native Americans.

What this comes down to is that the data in the surveys cited by Kendi are surely bogus. That doesn’t mean that Kendi screwed up big time, because this line of reasoning takes time, and he may simply have tweeted out what he read as the headlines or bullet points in the survey or The Hill article.

Where he messed up was simply posting the tweet, probably because the data seem to go against his thesis that there is structural racism everywhere, which would predict that members of minorities don’t get preferential admission to college or financial aid. If they didn’t (and of course they do), there would be no motivation for white students to lie. In other words, the data (though they may be faulty) appear at first glance to falsify Kendi’s main thesis: there is inequity everywhere, and if you see it it reflects “structural racism” acting at the present. Everyone involved in colleges knows that this is not true for the admissions process, at least for black and Hispanic students.

In the end, though, Kendi probably did the only thing he could do: delete the tweet, for the man is loath to admit he’s wrong.  But he screwed up again when he started defending his original tweet, saying stuff like this:

Again, what we need here is a control group: a group of similar white students who didn’t lie about their ethnicity, and whether their admission rates were substantially lower than 81% (the admission figure quoted in the survey for students who lied). If there is such a difference, then Kendi is wrong.  But I suspect that lying does help one get into college or get financial aid, and students realize it (remember, over a third of  the sample lied about their ethnicity).  And if that is true, then the “tortured line of thinking” is not tortured at all.  If there is an advantage of lying, then it’s not just that you “think” you have an advantage. (That’s why Kendi deleted his original tweet.)

This is not to deny that there is structural racism in various institutions or organizations. But if a more sophisticated analysis and explanation for the data show preferential college admission of minorities, then there is no structural racism in the college admissions process.  Indeed, there, at least, it’s an advantage to be a minority.  And we know this because colleges practice affirmative action.

I suspect that Kendi’s answers reflect his being flummoxed by all this. If I were Kendi, I would have simply removed the tweet. He’d still be excoriated by people who captured the screenshot, but he’s going to get into more trouble if he tries to debate. I’ve given him some material to defend himself in this post, but there’s simply no doubt that there is no “inequity” in college admissions for blacks or Hispanics.

The tweets may reflect reasons why Kendi doesn’t engage in live debates.

69 thoughts on “Deconstruction of a Twitter fracas involving Ibram Kendi

  1. Here is how to remove structural racism in college admissions.
    Remove all mentions of identity from the application form.

      1. If that was easy to do, there would be no point in students lying about their race in the application form.

          1. How would they really check if they wanted to? DNA tests would be expensive and considered an obvious invasion of privacy. Exploring their family tree wouldn’t work for most people and would be too easy to fake and expensive to verify.

    1. Recently, many universities (including several Ivies) have been boasting about the small percentage of non-Hispanic white students being admitted; for the class of 2025, Princeton’s percentage of non-white students is 68%, with 32% white, while Harvard announced figures of 60% for students of color, 40% for students of pallor. Are not these numbers a stark violation of the much-praised principle of “equity”, i.e. exact proportional representation?

    2. I never understood why elite colleges in the U.S. don’t have their own tests as for example the best ones in France (called Grandes Écoles). Those are the only criteria for admission. It makes discrimination almost impossible.

      1. Because that would presumably, like the SATs, heavily favored Asians and whites, neither of which such colleges are at this point looking to be compelled to admit.

    3. The goal is not to remove structural racism in college admissions. The goal is to entrench it. And to do that you have to invite people to describe their racial background.

  2. Sounds like a storm in a teacup to me.

    I am halfway through Kendi’s book at the moment and it isn’t the book his detractors say it is.

    Incidentally I think anyone, not just Kendi, is wise to avoid live debates which favour slick talkers rather than good argument. Just look at how often William Lane Craig, despite relying on the same raft of weak arguments every time, nearly always manages to create the impression that he has torn his opponent a new one.

    1. Sorry, but I read Kendi’s book and it IS the book his detractors say it is. One is John Mcwhorter, whose review is here.

      Kendi doesn’t come of well in critical interviews, either, at least in his NYT interview with Ezra Klein here.


      1. We will have to agree to disagree on whether his detractors have fairly characterised the book. I am not saying I agree with Kendi, just that I am constantly being surprised by the arguments he is making, they are not what I was led to expect from the reviews.

        1. “….I am constantly being surprised by the arguments he is making…..”

          Unless he gets to them much later in the book, so far I haven’t seen him make any arguments at all. He makes assertions, not arguments. Bald assertions, at that.

          From Kendi I learned that Africa was a peaceful place before European contact. How delusional.

          1. “He makes assertions, not arguments. Bald assertions, at that.” I second what you say here. Indeed, this book is a collection of assertions and claims without any hard data or evidence to back them up. Still, Kendi is treated by his cultists as if he were a new Moses bringing the Law down from the mountain. How to Be an Anti-Racist is thereby considered to be holy writ transmitted by the Prophet, a divine revelation that must be followed without question. See also Pollen’s reference to the book as a “synoptic gospel” in his review of McWhorter’s Woke Racism.

    2. I’m currently trying to read Kendi’s book. It’s the dumbest book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read apologetics. I have to keep sharp objects out of hand’s reach in order to avoid self harm while reading it.

  3. The stats in Kendi’s original treat are obviously false. Then to say the pushback is to defend students who falsify their applications is breathtakingly stupid.

    I’ve heard it said on this site that Kendi is smart. Evidence?

    1. Kendi is smart like a fox, in the same way Donald Trump is. Structurally racist or not, America is the land of Opportunists when it comes to embracing the grift.

      1. Your comparison of Kendi and Trump is sound. Both have cults of personality that have accreted around them, Trump being the God-King of his cult and Kendi being the True Prophet of his. Reading How to Be an Anti-Racist as well as researching Kendi’s biography, one can see clearly, I believe, how he intended to be a cult leader. After all, he changed his name from Ibram Henry Rogers to Ibram X. Kendi to, IMO, evoke the memory and aura of Malcolm X and to give the impression that he is African. On top of that (no pun intended), he grew his hair long and wove it into dreadlocks. This completed his transformation into a mythic cultural image.

  4. Kendi’s second tweet seems to undermine his general position. I.e. to argue that Posobiec is wrong, he has to imply that while white students lie about race to get an advantage, they don’t actually get any advantage.

    But if it’s the case, there is not systemic racism in admissions, because admissions officers aren’t considering race.

    Remarkable how unwilling people are to admit mistakes – even when doing so can make them look better. “Greenwald brings up a good point, and the statistics I cited earlier likely have problems. Yet a survey showing so much lying on college applications surely merits further investigations” would’ve gotten him out of this hole just fine, and made him look more like a serious scholar than perhaps even his first tweet.

    1. Alexander Weissberg-Cybulski’s “The Accused” is the most profound account we have of the Great Purge in the USSR in the late 1930s. In it, one of the author’s fellow prisoners explains the madness of the purge as engineered entirely to avoid the Party’s having to admit a mistake in the disastrous earlier forced collectivization of agriculture. If this analysis is correct, then the motive of covering up a
      mistake had significant effects for several hundred thousand people executed and millions imprisoned in this exercise. But we do have a few examples of powerful institutions admitting a mistake, although not exactly promptly. In 1992, Pope John Paul II sort-of admitted error in the trial of Galileo, 360 years earlier.

  5. Why would Kendi delete the tweet?

    Surely the whole point of structural racism being structural, is that it is not caused by individuals being racist. It is caused by the structure of society.

    People can be biased in favour of minorities, but that won’t change the structure of society and so won’t eliminate structural racism.

    1. Yes let’s hope so. The first tweet was just another example of him jumping a very tired shark before a very, very bored audience. The second was better – he attempted a fancy move way beyond his meagre abilities. Unable to pull it off, he clattered the shark with his trailing ski, greatly annoying it, before landing legs akimbo in an undignified, cartwheeling, comedy splash. He will no doubt keep his head down for a few days, at least until the angry shark gets bored and stops circling.

      He’s made himself look a complete muppet due to his inability to display humility. All it needed was: “Ah sorry, I got that wrong, didn’t have my thinking cap on people!”. Instead, he doubles down, gets snarky and shows why he is very far from being a serious scholar.

  6. “… nearly every college in the U.S. is looking for good minority students, exercising affirmative action to take them.”

    What if a university would adopt the policy of admitting only white Anglo-Saxon (no Aisian) candidates, as a counter to reverse racism? Would that be 1) morally wrong; 2) illegal?

    1. You mean because WASPs have been victim of so much historical discrimination in US higher education? Christ, for a couple centuries, they were the beneficiaries of the greatest affirmative-action program ever devised: others need not apply.

      1. Whites created the university system and discovered the vast majority of the knowledge disseminated by them. Why are whites obliged to allow other races in?

        1. Really? You’re claiming proprietary interest over accumulated human knowledge by race?

          That stands as one of the most outrageous statements I’ve ever read — not to mention inimical to the ideals for which the United States of America stands.

          I hope this was simply some maladroit stab at irony.

          1. I’m saying that I see no reason that whites are obligated to admit others into a system they created.

            1. Hmmmm… let me think. White people invade a continent, commit genocide against the native population. Steal their land through force. They establish a society which continues to oppress the native people. The white people import millions of human beings, captured like animals in Africa, transported in cages and chains. These Africans are imported for one reason: slavery, and are tortured and worked half to death. The white people were able to do this because of wealth – mostly thanks to coal and the industrial revolution in the UK and Europe. The wealth provided ships, armies, guns and governments. Then empires.

              All the while, white people build a society and economy in the US that could not have been built without slavery. They used the resulting wealth to build institutions of learning, to push forward science and other areas of knowledge. The educated society that arose from all this set new standards for comfort and wellbeing, but there remained certain barriers to living a decent life, especially with regard to being a ‘success’. To have a successful rewarding life almost certainly requires good education these days. The educational system was built by many demographics, not just whites, it was also underpinned by the economic strength arising from untold labour performed for free by slaves in the most horrendous of circumstances.

              Black and other peoples were captured, parted from their families, dragged over here in chains, worked to death, tortured and God knows what else, to help make the educated civil society of the US a reality.

              Ignoring all the force and violence that was used by whites on native and black people, how can you even claim university is a white system? That’s ignorant of reality. Even worse, how can you claim there is no obligation to let black people into a white system? Black people built much the system, and what’s more they did it in servitude, without choice. Should they all have to miss out because of their skin color?

              But above all this, why the hell does skin color matter in this regard? It’s one trait among many that a person might possess. Why not split it between males under five foot two and those over five foot two. You can be certain that most males who developed the university system were over five foot two. Does that mean we have no obligation to allow five foot one men into university? What about women? Or people with just one leg? These categories are completely arbitrary, a bit like your thought process apparently.

              I’m absolutely staggered by your comments and genuinely hope you are not serious. If you are, I can only suggest that you stop worrying about other people getting a decent education. Concentrate on your own instead, you checked out of school far too early based on current evidence.

              1. When did white people capture Black people? Black people were only too eager to sell the slaves they had captured. Please give examples of white soldiers capturing Black people and selling them as slaves.

                For example, Mansa Musa was the richest man in history, and the Mali Empire he ruled had uncountable slaves.

                Africa was colonised mostly well after the Slave Trade was ended by Britain. And America had no colonies in Africa.

                Far, far more slaves were taken to Brazil than to the United States.

                So why isn’t Brazil wealthier than the United States?

              2. >let me think. White people invade a continent, commit genocide against the native population.

                All right. Let me think. Genocide was defined as a crime in international law in 1948 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on Genocide. Its principal author and tireless advocate, Raphael Lemkin, coined the term himself “in 1942 or 1943” (Wiki) as his family was disappearing into the Holocaust. As with all good legislation, there was no intent in the Convention to “certify” historical acts as genocide retroactively, only to deter national leaders from carrying it out in the future. Theretofore under the doctrine of national sovereignty, leaders could do anything they wanted within their own borders, subject only to what their own citizens would put up with. The surviving Nazis of the Third Reich were tried at Nuremberg only for crimes committed beyond Germany’s 1939 borders because the victorious powers did not want to set a sovereignty-abridging precedent.
                Instrumental in getting the member states (as they were in 1948) to accept the trumping of sovereignty by the Convention was the assurance that past actions, however repugnant, would be forever beyond the purview of the World Court. The member states were worried not just about the possibility of present-day leaders being hauled into court to answer for past actions now defined as crimes but more practically about the political effect on restless aggrieved minorities should their country be certified as run by descendants of génocidaires. (As witness the Turkey-Armenian running sore.)

                Consequently, it is ahistorical to describe the actions of the explorer-conquerors of the Americas, or any other event in the past, as genocide. “Was it genocide for X to do Y to Z?” is an exercise in political polemicism and one’s answer cannot be presented as settled fact.

                I also point out that “cultural genocide” does not appear in the Convention. Lemken proposed a definition in a draft version but it met with so much resistance from member states that all mention of it was dropped. Therefore the term, much-used in Canada, means whatever the user wants it to mean.

                A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation. By Eric D. Weitz. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003. (Updated edition 2015)

              3. 19 July 2020
                ‘My Nigerian great-grandfather sold slaves’
                ‘Nigerian journalist and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani writes that one of her ancestors sold slaves, but argues that he should not be judged by today’s standards or values.’

                He did very well by it and was widely respected in his community for his success, even getting special dispensation from the British governor to continue his business after the abolition of the slave trade..
                Lots of historical documentation in the BBC piece from a viewpoint few of us can have.

                (Thanks to Pam Lindsay for citing the article.)

          2. Aren’t gay rights, feminism, and even the abolition of slavery a product of what now would be termed “whiteness”?

        2. “Whites” (to use your term) invented golf, too. Damn shame they can no longer exclude Jews and blacks from country clubs, huh?

          Whites also invented the subdivision. Too bad the restrictive covenants they originally included in deeds to keep Jews and blacks out their neighborhoods have been struck down as unconstitutional, right?

          1. Is that true? That a private club (for the purpose of golf or anything else) that does not offer services to the public cannot exclude a putative member on the basis of race or religion or sex? Don’t think so. Private clubs that have rescinded these discriminatory policies over the years have done so because of public pressure or refusal of sponsors to host tournaments etc. at their facilities, or just a desire (not universal) to be more in keeping with the times, not because they were compelled to by force of law. And of course women have benefited from the networking available in private women-only clubs that cannot be compelled to admit men, as men or claiming to be women.

            A larger “system of knowledge” has of course too many moving parts to be considered a private club, but the country-club analogy fails.

      2. Ken, you didn’t answer my question. Do you think such a university, with that admittance policy is moral? Legal?

        1. No and no.

          I do, however, agree with our host in his post above that a circumscribed form of affirmative action to remedy past discrimination can be salutary.

      3. For today’s youths who remain out of desired universities because of their skin color, it is little comfort that the same skin color has offered historical advantage.
        (Disclaimer: I would not want a white-only university – in my view, race-blindness should be a cornerstone in admission.)

  7. So many of the “antiracist activist” authors who pop up with books to sell are simply hustlers and anti-intellectual frauds, who know that, in the current climate, they can get away with selling their snake oil without being sufficiently challenged.

    Pseudo-skeptics like Hemant Mehta seem impressed, however.

  8. Excellent lecture by Glenn Loury on persistent racial inequality in America:

    Analytically, he breaks down barriers to equality by those promoting a bias narrative and those promoting a behavioral narrative.

    Obviously, a bias narrative places the responsibility on the Other, and the behavioral narrative places responsibility on the Us. Furthernore, when the noticing of evidence for the behavioral narrative is represented as proof of bias, e.g. “racist facts”, then you can cognitively bluff your opponents by calling them names rather than offering facts in support of your position.

    There are three problems for the bias narrative:

    1.) Some non-European minorities do far better than Europeans, which would not be the case if the country were secretly controlled by a cabal of David Duke-style white nationalists as our enlightened intelligentsia want use to believe. Also, the data for Europeans is, to put it mildly, granular. This is perhaps why Asian-Americans do not exist or why we pretend they are “White” somehow, even though neither by ancestry nor culture can groups like Japanese-Americans or Chinese-Americans can be considered “white” under whatever definition you create.

    2.) Evidence on stereotyping shows stereotypes are empirically robust, and have replicated in numerous studies, whereas the “stereotype threat” literature fails to replicate. If bias is driven by accurate general assessments of group behaviors, then it is the behavior causing the stereotype, not the other way around. Further, you don’t actually have a bias if your stereotype is generally accurate, even if your stereotype makes people subject to that stereotype feel bad or get angry because it is not flattering.

    3.) Whatever bias exists in American society, it is strains credulity to pretend that racial bias exists in anything like the levels in 1960. If bias were a cause, then there should be dramatic improvements in equity. Obviously, the absence of such improvement creates the need for “unconscious” bias and “systematic racism”, thereby creating pseudoscientific explanations for the phenomenon similar to the garbage the Freudians used to peddle. Because there is no empirical evidence that can prove or disprove “unconscious bias” (the lack of evidence simply proves the unconscious bias of the researcher), you end up in the land of Dianetics and Orgone accumulators.

    Given the above, it is unclear that unless you are being paid or your job rests on the bias narrative, there is no reason why any intelligent person should believe in the bias narrative. For the wider question of why stupid ideas take hold of societies, it falls back on the fact that stupid ideas serve a constituency. Obviously, plenty of people are making out well on the DEI industry, but more importantly, it serves to deflect from the major social transformations in American society which involves a falling standard of living for most people and a bloat at the top. Its all about avoiding questions of class and economic inequality for those people at the top.

    1. If one wants to examine the replication crisis in the social sciences, there are two areas in social science which replicate:

      1.) Psychometrics.
      2.) Studies on the general validity of stereotypes.

      Also interesting is the way that neither of these subjects, nor the literature on these subjects finds its way into undergraduate studies, whereas junk science on “stereotype threat” continues to be cited.

      1. I take it all back. We just need to erase white America’s unconscious racist “engrams” and take them to “clear” and racial equity will happen. I am happy to help, just send me 1 million USD.

      2. “Stereotype threat” is quite possibly the single most egregiously fallacious idea in the history of the so-called “social sciences”, which are littered with foolish ideas. Lee Jussim (Rutgers) has written about this at Quillette.

    2. In a sense, then, the current Kendian “anti-racist” craze in American society is analogous to the periodic purges that paralyzed questioning even more effectively in the USSR. On that basis, we should certainly refer to the new class of DEI bureaucrats (and their ideological apologists in academia) as our very own nomenklatura.

      1. @Jon Gallant

        It’s not surprising. Kendian/Woke is pure neo-Marxism, as was the USSR. Both require absolute non-tolerance for anything other than their worldview.

    3. That’s a good lecture by Loury — though I wish he wouldn’t read his lectures from a script. This results in him over-complicating his language. His dialogues with McWhorter show that he’s entirely capable of speaking off the cuff, and he’s more effective when he does that.

  9. Isn’t the concept of structural racism the concept that institutions and their rules, even when they are formally unbiased, function to perpetuate inequalities. College admissions would be a good example of that to the extent that formally meritocratic inputs like gpa and test scores are affected by things other than individual potential – things like zip code, school system, access to after hours coaching on how to take admissions tests, etc etc., which might be distributed unequally by race for historical reasons. Isn’t this the reality “affirmative action” was meant to address in the first place? Do we suppose what there has been of affirmative action in the past 50 years or so has eliminated that reality by now? That seems doubtful.

    1. It is important to recognize that American universities are structurally racist, in that they systematically under admit Asians and stifle Asian-American achievement, which represents an unconscionable waste of human talent. Its just that that is not the form of structural racism we were looking for.

      1. Depends on who “we” are. As does so much else. There’s a significant “we” who are loudly in favor of “meritocracy” until it comes to eliminating legacy admissions.

        1. Universities are businesses, and admissions is about generating revenues, and legacy admissions are critical to revenues. Further, I’m sure that all this DEI admissions stuff is about branding and $$$. Harvard is never going to hurt its revenues by, for example, accepting all the qualified Asians from modest economic backgrounds that they don’t expect to become alumni donors and run away people like the Kushners trying to buy their way in.

          All these DEI set asides (besides most of them being high income) and subjectivity allow elite universities to target students from elite backgrounds that represent the highest return on investment (from their parents or as future alum), and ignore poor and middle class students who may be more talented.

    2. Another 50 years of affirmative action should do the trick.

      We could start with banning coaching, which perpetuates inequalities. No more coaching for cornerbacks is what I say. It simply perpetuates the race divide in the cornerback position.

  10. Good loard.

    Kendi, trying to defend his original tweet, replies that the white students logic was “tortured” to think their lying about their race gave an advantage in admissions….when Kendi’s OWN TWEET CLAIMED THEY WERE RIGHT!

    Kendi himself had just claimed 3/4 of those who lied WERE accepted. So clearly the “tortured logic” of the lying white students was correct, based on Kendi’s own tweet!

    It’s like he completely forgot what he himself just tweeted. Truly bizarre. But of course that was him childishly trying to dig out from his own hole. And he is rightly being excoriated in his twitter feed for his strange self-own.

  11. … there is no structural racism in the college admissions process. Indeed, there, at least, it’s an advantage to be a minority.

    Unless that minority is Asian-American of course. In which case you’ll be discriminated against.

    I think that nowadays US university campuses treat black students hugely favourably in just about all aspects of university life. The idea that universities today are “racist” against blacks is pretty laughable (despite Princeton’s posturing declarations to that effect).

    By the way, in a recent video, John McWhorter is pretty scathing about Kendi, suggesting that he’s not that bright. (The video is well worth a listen by the way.)

    1. Thanks, Coel – an interesting link. My copy of Woke Racism arrived yesterday, so I’m looking forward to reading McWhorter’s latest.

  12. We used to teach critical appraisal of biomedical research by challenging learners to look at a brief synopsis of a claim with little supplied evidence and “exhaust the hypothesis space.” The rationale is to debunk the Sherlock Holmesian argument that if you enumerate all the possible explanations (suspects) and exclude them one by one, the last one must be correct (guilty), no matter how unlikely it seemed at the outset. It quickly becomes apparent that the number of possible hypotheses greatly exceeds the imagination of one biased thinker, leading to premature closure and accusing the wrong guy. For example, when asked to propose explanations why there are so many Irish-sounding names on the sign-up sheet for a workshop on systemic racism, almost never will a group of interns in Toronto offer, “Because the bulletin board is in Dublin.”

    So I offer a few hypotheses about the “lying” survey not yet mentioned, which are not rebutted by any available evidence:
    1) Intelligent made up the whole thing out of thin air (like the study debunking OH-chloroquine for Covid that completely fooled The Lancet.
    2) Intelligent did the study but didn’t like what they got and so substituted imaginary results.
    3) People who completed the anonymous survey lied about lying on their college applications in order to stir the pot at no cost to themselves. Since we don’t know how the survey recruited respondents, they might even have actively encouraged each other to lie. For instance, the guy who, on reading the survey, says, “Crap, I never thought of lying on my application. I should have!” Friend says, “Yeah, me neither. Let’s mess with this survey.”
    4) The sample of respondents was deliberately or unintentionally biased in a way that would lead to the observed results being unrepresentative. Nothing at all is said in the Intelligent article about how the survey was conducted or how biasing in the sample might have affected the generalizability of the results to the population of college applicants. Surveys conducted by clicking buttons on-line are notorious for bias….and you can vote as often as you like!

    There is of course every incentive to self-identify as Native American. (Someone could say, Well, I was born in America, that makes me a native American, right?) Sen. Elizabeth Warren has. It is very difficult to disprove the claim. Canada and the U.S. differ on how indigenous ancestry is verified for the purpose of financial or other legal benefits (such as escaping punishment for serious crimes.) But it is a common-place that many registered “Status Indians” look much like anyone else and these are only a subset of the people who identify as indigenous on our census. If there is a known deliberate bias against white and Asian applicants, the temptation to lie would hard to resist, especially if you didn’t have to attend smudging and other rituals once in. Who would ever need to know? I would draw the line at getting financial aid. That sounds too much like fraud and the authorities would have too much incentive to interrogate you. It would be rich to discover that all the Native American/First Nations students at a college were dissemblers, though.

    Philosopher Rebecca Teuvel has even argued (tongue-in-cheek, I think, but still persuasively) that if one can self-identify as any gender one chooses and the claim cannot be challenged, why then can one not self-identify as any race one chooses? If gender is “merely a social construct”, then surely so is race. The objection is deeper than “Affirmative action would collapse if this were allowed, just as women’s athletics will.” It would undermine the ability of one social tribe to set the rules by which it excludes others. EDI should really be called EDE.

  13. «. But if a more sophisticated analysis and explanation for the data show preferential college admission of minorities, then there is no structural racism in the college admissions process. » I would think that it does show structural racism in the college admission process. It is only that the structural racism in the college admission process is favoring the minorities that Kendi believes to be victimized.

  14. Perhaps this is a tangent, but missing from this debate about admission advantages is that most colleges and universities in the United States are either not selective at all or only marginally so: graduate from high school, apply, you are in. So, lying about race would be of no benefit for admissions but it might be for financial awards. Much of our debate focuses on the selective colleges, particularly the “elite” ones. I am not certain why this is so other than that most of our media and academic commentators graduated from such schools.

    Southeastern Oklahoma State University, to pick just one example, is an interesting case of underrepresented minority enrollment. They claim a student body of 28% Native American descent in a population of over 4700 undergraduates ( Now, I don’t know about this particular school’s admission standards, graduation rates, or job placement. It is safe to say, I assume, that they do not compare with those of Harvard. But, so what?

    Researchers at Harvard have essentially asked that “so what?” question themselves. It turns out that a number of mid-tier public universities appear to do a much better job facilitating upward mobility of disadvantaged students than do the Harvards of the world. If you want to move from the bottom quintile to the top 1%, then by all means pursue Harvard College. But staying closer to home with people whom you better relate at a school focused on your particular background and needs may give you a much better leg up into the top 20% than chasing after the Ivy league and its peers. Try out a school like University of Texas at El Paso that boasts an enrollment that is 83% Hispanic in a student body of 25,000 and has ranked in the top 10 nationwide for upward mobility, which reflects both access and student outcome. Standard caveats of causation/correlation apply, but the work on mobility at the below link is intriguing nonetheless.

    Now if pedigree, power, and trendiness are what we want . . . back to Kendi. (And, yes, I do realize that there are sound reasons to attend Harvard!)

    1. I agree there is a tremendous focus on elite colleges in these debates. Same with student debt discussions. Boo hoo, you graduated from Princeton with $150,000 in debt. You could have gone to an in-state school and graduated with a very manageable debt load, but you chose prestige over affordability. Suck it up.

  15. There is a new film out called ‘Passing’ which shows how people had to lie about their race to be socially accepted.

    They did that so successfully that the director, Rebecca Hall, never realised her mother was not white until late in life.

  16. Again, what we need here is a control group: a group of similar white students who didn’t lie about their ethnicity

    Sure, that would definitely put us way ahead of the evidence we’ve got now. But there could easily be a self-selection effect. Perhaps only (or mainly) those who are sorely lacking in GPA and SAT scores feel the need to lie about their ethnicity. In that case, extracting the causal contribution of a student’s self-reported ethnicity becomes even harder.

    1. “White” is not an ethnicity. Sometimes “white” is used to designate “Caucasian” but “Caucasians” exist across Europe, Western Asia, Middle East, and North Africa, so not your “white homeys”. [And our race is a social construct people don’t believe in Caucasians.]

      I think of the West, e.g. area of former Christendom, and maybe “white” means descended from peoples who lived in Christendom, but that makes most of North America “white” and groups like Greeks and Slavs would be out.

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