After hearing about Mindy Kaling’s brother Vijay Chokal-Ingam and his “social experiment” to get into college, I had to stop and ask whether or not it was a joke. Would someone really go as far as lying about their race to gain college admission? I’ve heard of people trying to stretch their Native American bloodline in efforts to reduce tuition, but posing as a Black man named “Jojo?”
That’s kinda crazy.
Needless to say folks weren’t very happy about his antics, questioned his sanity and whether or not he would enjoy pretending to be Black if pulled over by a cop. I, on the other hand, was interested in the reasons why he decided to take such bold efforts in order to secure graduate school admission. In comparison to some of our elite universities, most colleges in India are more competitive and require applicants to step up their game when it comes to academics and activities. As a result, many students in that country take the necessary steps earlier in their educational pursuits. Because of this, and the fact Vijay Chokal-Ingam’s parents are both doctors, I don’t see why pretending to be Black would help gain admission into a U.S. school.
“Affirmative action perpetuates racial stereotype,” Vijay wrote on Twitter. His new book Almost Black takes a look at the “positive discrimination” policies in place that help minorities. For this reason, he applied to many top medical schools across the country and reportedly never lied about anything other than his race. With a 3.1 grade point average, he shaved his head, used his middle name (Jojo) and highlighted time spent in Africa. The University of St. Louis accepted him though he dropped out after making the decision not to pursue medicine.
While Vijay has mentioned being profiled and shared experiences of discrimination, that doesn’t stop him from bringing an interesting discussion to the table: Is affirmative action still relevant today?
Sure it’s easy for some in a position of wealth and status to assume it’s a crutch for minorities–mainly Blacks–but that’s just not the case. In fact, it was started back in the day to help white women land employment opportunities. Those who have been on the receiving end of affirmative action praise its existence. Things are not always equal or fair when it comes to landing a job, or gaining admission into a top school. Even though Vijay’s grades were okay, there are still many applicants with higher GPAs and credentials who are unable to earn a seat on merit alone.
As a counter argument, Vijay points out a statistic in The Wall Street Journal that claims “more than 80 percent of Blacks and two-thirds of Hispanics have received at least moderately large admission preferences.”
Has affirmative action turned into a platform where institutions look to fill a quota instead of the best candidate? Obviously not all minorities need affirmative action to land positions or get into school. Recently a Nigerian-American student made headlines for being accepted into all eight Ivy League schools. As the salutatorian of his high school, he had the grades and resume of volunteer experience that made him a top candidate. Would some think his racial background helped him gain admission, or is he “an exception to the rule?”
While I’m not blind to certain injustices that still occur in this country (I am a Black woman), it’s always interesting to hear conversations about race and unfairness, especially between minorities. Some of my friends who come from abroad have different viewpoints when it comes to certain things that occur here in the United States. Sure it’s easy to say “but you’re not from here and don’t understand,” but let me tell you something, there are many who have lived in third-world nations and have dealt with unimaginable things.
I think it’s easier for us to silence white counterparts who have difficulties understanding the benefits of affirmative action, but what about other minorities who believe it needs to be a thing of the past–even those who are Black but not African American? While Vijay appears to come from a family of privilege, he is certainly not the only person of color who disagrees with this policy.
What are your thoughts?
main image via Facebook