When you post a tweet that a) contains numerous obvious falsehoods in the area in which you claim expertise and b) negates every core contention about American society on which your entire career is based.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 30, 2021
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:
There's also zero chance those stats are accurate, because if so you'd expect schools to report at least 10% American Indian enrollment instead of like 0.5%
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) October 29, 2021
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:
Here is their tortured line of thinking: When White applicants *think* they have an advantage by lying about being a person of color then that means they *do* have an advantage which then means structural racism doesn’t exist.
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) October 30, 2021
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.