April 12, 2006

"Naturally when you're applying to college you're looking at how your genetic status might help you."

A DNA test can help.

27 comments:

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh, naturally. As they say, DNA before SAT.

That's hilarious. What world do these people live in that that would be considered a natural part of the college admissions process?

JohnF said...

Well, if anything showed the dopiness of using ethnicity of a candidate to confer an advantage, this is it. A good find, Ann.

Balfegor said...

That's hilarious. What world do these people live in that that would be considered a natural part of the college admissions process?

What world? Our world. This is the world created by affirmative action.

Actually, I expect people will just start to lie on their applications -- there's plenty of people who claim to be African American who look about 100% White to me, and people who are ethnic Hispanics who look Whiter than George Bush. So it's only a matter of years before White applicants wise up to the possibilities and start claiming ethnic ancestry on the basis of mere rumour and speculation (and if found out, they can make like Kerry when it turned out he wasn't at all Irish, like he had thought/been pretending). At that point, DNA tests may become a regular part of the application -- who knows? Or maybe they'll just go for a photograph and check the form of your skull, the curve of your nostrils, and the shape of your eye. Or perhaps they'll require documentation of your ancestry up to you grandparents, or something.

The American establishment has, of course, long experience with the techniques of racial identification.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

I've heard of a "Brandeis brief." Is this sort of like a "Brandeis application?"

Jim Hu said...

I'm an African-American (so are you, if you're an American).

I had a dream...

Smilin' Jack said...

I was born too soon to take advantage of affirmative action, but on census forms etc. I alternate between African-American, since my ancestors came from Africa (about 50,000 years ago) and Native American (since I was born in this country.)

$CAV3NG3R said...

I'm dying with laughter at some of this comments, but like we say in africa, it's the white man that invented the pencil who also invented the eraser. In essence there's a solution to every problem.

To Balfegor: I would even go one further and tell all white parents to give their children (as a fifth name on the birth certificate or something) a typical african american name like lashawn and tyrone. Let the games begin, I'm loving it!!!

John(classic) said...

I was born here.

Am I wrong to check Native American on the application form?

(If I am, what am I a native of?)

Bruce Hayden said...

Not quite the same thing, but Ward Churchill is still in Boulder collecting money from the State of Colorado as a professor, despite being an affirmative action hire for his claimed Indian heritage - that turned out to be bogus. The absurdity is that the CU tenure system won't let them fire him for lying about this to get the job and then to get early tenure.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Sippican: Not another pencil test!

Ann Althouse said...

Let's look at the particular matter covered by the article, that DNA tests are making Americans think it isn't lying to claim to be a member of a minority group that they never previously had any reason to think they belonged to. The article describes one young woman who checked "Asian" on a college form based on a DNA test that showed she was 2% Asian.

The article also says that universities rely entirely on self-reporting. The individual is left to decide whether the DNA test is the standard and what percentage counts.

Gaius Arbo said...

Paraphrasing what john said, this shows the insanity we've inflicted on ourselves. And since we can now declare our ethnicity - via self reporting of course, I am now a vulcan. I demand my affirmative action spot in the college of my choice! There are clearly too few of us on campus' these days.

Balfegor said...

The article also says that universities rely entirely on self-reporting. The individual is left to decide whether the DNA test is the standard and what percentage counts.

Well, having seen lily-white people claim seriously to be African American (and not in the sense that they're Rhodesian or somesuch) on the basis of a Black grandparent or great-grandparent, I would guess many individuals decide what race they are on something other than physiognomy, and hence something other than their social identity, in the sense that a stranger, coming up upon one of these White African-Americans, is unlikely to subject him to any of the usual forms of racism, even if that stranger happens to be an inveterate racist.

The schools, of course -- as the quote from an admissions officer indicates -- want race in the social sense. But they have no way of verifying that yet. And nor have the people applying to their schools -- what race you think you look and act like may not be well connected with what other people think you look like (and they may differ in their opinions) so you may simply not recognise the forms of racism levied against you.

I myself am clearly not 100% White. But observers differ on what race I am. I have been identified (correctly) as half-White Asian. But I have also been identified as Hispanic, Persian, Arab, Finnish, Russian, Turkish, and French. How am I supposed to guess what experience of racism I have? Have people discriminated against me because they thought I was French, for example? How would I know it when it happened to me, and how would I distinguish it from common-or-garden rudeness?

I don't think anyone has a better metric for what race they are than DNA testing. In the first example in the article, the fellow had his adopted twins tested because their skin was a touch dun, and he thought they might be able to get an advantage out of that. Their father noticed they were dark -- perhaps other people did too? Perhaps they had encountered some racism, and could only recognise it in hindsight (so they could write about it in their application essays).

2% is perhaps only a little, and well within the range of error for these tests. But in other cases, perhaps the test is merely a key allowing the testee to reify his experience through the lens of race, and come to recognise potential racism where it has lurked in his past.

brylin said...

Justice O'Connor says the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary in 22 years.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bissage said...

Ann Althouse said: "Let's look at the particular matter covered by the article, that DNA tests are making Americans think it isn't lying to claim to be a member of a minority group that they never previously had any reason to think they belonged to."

George Costanza said it's not a lie if you believe it's true. To that I might add: "or believe it's true enough."

I don't know how to classify these genetic testing services. Maybe they're con artists. Maybe the perfectly legal product they sell is plausible deniability.

JLR said...

Ann Althouse writes in a comment that the NYT article discusses that "DNA tests are making Americans think it isn't lying to claim to be a member of a minority group that they never previously had any reason to think they belonged to."

That appears to be a major issue. How "essentialist" should we treat race? As long as universities consider it to be a "plus" to reach a "critical mass" of "underrepresented minorities," it seems quite rational for people to try to use any legitimate method to classify oneself as an "underrepresented minority."

Likewise, it would seem no less rational for a college-bound individual to take a DNA test to see if one can classify oneself as an underrepresented minority than it would be to acquire extracurricular honors and achievements in order to give oneself the best possible opportunity to get into the college of one's choice.

This will continue unless America stops buying into the US News-fueled college admissions hustle. But that's unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Independent George said...

The article describes one young woman who checked "Asian" on a college form based on a DNA test that showed she was 2% Asian.

If she believes that being Asian makes it easier to get admitted to college, she then she really needs all the help she can get.

37383938393839383938383 said...

Frankly, I find this whole discussion disgusting. "Affirmative-action" seeks to promote diversity in the classroom and amongst the elite class of this society in order to counteract systemic racial discrimination on the basis of stereotypes and prejudice. It has nothing to do with biological determinism, or even the milder presumption that the human population can be sorted into the crude racial catergories that society uses to discriminate. But the fact is that these "cheaters" are cheaters not because they lack the right genes, but because they don't suffer from the discrimination that the university seeks to counter, nor do they supply the unique viewpoint that the university seeks to attract. They're just liars. I have no idea why lying is okay if you're white and you think you have a right to college admission because you're white. Fraud on your college application should be a reason to be banned from college.

Balfegor said...

But the fact is that these "cheaters" are cheaters not because they lack the right genes, but because they don't suffer from the discrimination that the university seeks to counter, nor do they supply the unique viewpoint that the university seeks to attract.

I suppose we could impute to the universities the marginally less contemptible desire to find people who have suffered from discrimination, or who offer "unique" viewpoints (as, ah, representatives of a race? Is there such a thing as a "racial" viewpoint?). But they ask for race. Race.

Race -- as I explained above, using my own experience as an half-Asian who looks variously Arab, Hispanic, Finnish, Turkish, Persian, Russian, and French -- is a highly unreliable proxy for the experience of discrimination. It's also not, in this country (the USA), particularly well tied to any specific viewpoint whether "unique" or simply representative somehow of a race. At least past the first generation or so.

I have no idea why lying is okay if you're white and you think you have a right to college admission because you're white.

Because when confronted with a nakedly racist and hence immoral system, resistance is entirely proper.

37383938393839383938383 said...

(as, ah, representatives of a race? Is there such a thing as a "racial" viewpoint?). But they ask for race. Race.

Actually they don't ask for race, which you seem to have reified. They ask for racial classification. In other words, they ask how other people tend to classify you, what your individual experience of racial classification is. And most, if not all, colleges give one the opportunity to write an essay to explain how one's viewpoint has been shaped by whatever factors. If you're a white student who feels oppressed by the university system, you can write an essay explaining those feelings. I am sure you would receive extra points for your unique view, just as you would if you noted in an essay that you were an immigrant, or spoke seventeen languages, or have no limbs. I don't see anything contemptible with that, nor do I see the need for "resistance". As a final point, promoting white privilege is not resistance. It's anticompetitive. The Nazis didn't want to compete against Jesse Owens either; and with good reason.

But at least the Nazis didn't insult our intelligence by claiming to be victims of cosmic injustice. Oh wait. They did.

Balfegor said...

they ask how other people tend to classify you, what your individual experience of racial classification is.

Maybe they do now. When I applied (which, I guess, is actually almost a decade ago now), it was just boxes. Mark your race.

As a final point, promoting white privilege is not resistance. It's anticompetitive.

When did race-blindness turn into white privilege? How did race-blindness turn into "anticompetitive." What is this, 1984?

And while I'm at it, I have white kin and I have kin "of colour," as people say nowadays. The notion of "white privilege" for ordinary whites (as opposed to the Bushes, Gores, Winthrops, Rockefellers, and even those Irish Kennedies, of the world) runs flat out counter to my experience and the experience of my kin. If my white kin have enjoyed some kind of "white privilege," my coloured kin (and I) have enjoyed a "yellow" privilege that's far more powerful, and gifted us with a lot more of the usual "privilege" stuff -- like posh schools and good jobs.

And this is not, mind, because my white kin are dirt poor or white trash or something. They're not, not by a long shot -- we used to belong to good clubs when the family was up in New York, for all that we were fairly recent arrivals to the country (all within the past 110 years) and the recent generations all had decent middle class upbringings.

Where is that white privilege? What happened to it? They have seen neither hide nor hair of such a thing.

Now, as far as a more wide-ranging "non-Black" privilege -- or rather, a kind of social credit from simply not being Black . . . I think there's a better case there. In the recent immigration debate, one point that's been raised is that employers would clearly rather hire dirt poor Hispanic illegal immigrants who speak no English than hire young Black men. And that's . . . pretty bad.

But white privilege? No, I don't buy it.

I don't see anything contemptible with that

I do.

You know perfectly well that when they go on about "critical mass," they're not talking about "critical masses" of immigrants who speak seventeen languages, or have no toes or whatever. They're not talking about "critical masses" of Hmong or of Quechua speakers or Sikhs. They're talking about "Race" as it is conceived of in the US. Black/White/Yellow/Brown/or Red?

When they talk about remedial purposes, they are not talking about remedying the suffering of polyglot immigrants with no toes. They are talking about remedying their perception of racial imbalance. Do they mean a death of Uighurs, or a surplusage of Japanese and Jews? No. They are, again, talking about those blanket racial categories (and a few others -- like gender, sexuality, and possibly disabilities; so no toes might actually fit in there).

You can try and put a benign construction on it. But don't insult our intelligence.

37383938393839383938383 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
37383938393839383938383 said...

Because you apparently did not learn very much in school, here you go:

anticompetitive
(adjective) : tending to reduce or discourage competition

37383938393839383938383 said...

When I applied (which, I guess, is actually almost a decade ago now), it was just boxes. Mark your race.

Yet for some reason to you empty boxes next to racial classifications = mark your race. One would only think this if he believed that racial classifications, with all the cultural assumptions that attach, actually correspond to the human genome. They do not. The reason the universities are seeking a diverse student body is to reach individuals like yourself with a mistaken view of reality before they become tomorrow's leaders and set public policy on the basis of such mistaken assumptions.

In similar spirit, anyone who uses anecdotes to attempt to invalidate scientifically-derived generalizations needs outreach by a caring professor with a logic book. An anecdote might contradict a categorical proposition, but not a general truth. I never stated that all people who are culturally classified as white possess the individual property of white privilege. The claim was that the collective has the property. It is quite possible that 99.9% of American whites have white privilege and one white bumpkin in the mountains of wherever does not -- while it is not categorically true (if a white person, then white privilege), it is generally true (most do). That you are that white bumpkin does not dispove the existence of white privilege. Your personal stories or feelings are irrelevant. But while we are on the subject of irrelevant asides, I will note that Bill Bradley ran for President in 2000 and one of his stump speech topics was "white privilege"!

Perhaps you have trouble thinking logically because you tend to see individuals in terms of their group affiliation, i.e., you think "race" is a real property, rather than a system of social classification that both predates verifiable/reliable data on the human genome and does not correspond to it. Your attitude, the attitude on display in your second post, Bal, is exactly what universities are trying to combat with affirmative action policies: ignorance.

And while we are on the topic of logic gaps, let's talk about impossibility. It is not possible to insult your intelligence by pointing out in writing on a blog that you are ignorant, because it presupposes you are capable of acquiring more knowledge than you currently have as quickly as you can read these words.

But then, I don't assume that entire groups of people, or any individuals, are unintelligent simply because they are Hmong or immigrants. And if you don't think immigrants get points for being immigrants, you have never observed an admissions board go over resumes, essays, and grades or been on a hiring committee at any kind of professional firm. Any kind of distinction counts. Any.

caninefreedom said...

In fact, there is no scientific basis of race (at least up to now), and the DNA test many have spoken of doesn't give you much information other than what "Haplogroup" your chromosomes belong to. In population genetics, one can trace one's ancestry through this method, but possessing a certain chromosome (and thus associating with a ethnic/geographic population that has the highest incidence of that Haplogroup) never *makes* you a member of the corresponding population. For instance, you might be completely unrelated to a group and yet the test shows you have a chromosome that occurs most frequently in that group.

Also, the idea of Haplogroups/types do not really correspond to the modern American notion of race - the 2% "Asian" DNA could also be the same genes that are found in Australian aborigines who look more "black" than "asian." At the same time, you can have a Hungarian person, who passes for a "European" in this country, having the same "Asian" genes due to the Huns and Mongols that migrated there a long time ago.

It's generally agreed among human biologists and anthropologists that conclusions drawn from such DNA tests are useful largely in discussions involving entire geographic groups, but not individuals - there is simply too much variation among different individuals to accurately trace their ancestries. So when it comes to race, I wouldn't rely on DNA tests - they lack relevance to the modern American concept of race, which has more to do with culture, history, and social structure than with biology.