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I Am Whatever Race I Say I Am!

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By Walter Donway

December 7, 2017

 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “underground man” issued his declaration of independence today at Brown University. Henceforward, he will be free of the confines of Aristotle’s law of identity, that A is A.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “underground man” issued his declaration of independence today at Brown University. Henceforward, he will be free of the confines of Aristotle’s law of identity, that A is A.

American colleges and universities are under intense pressure from current students and faculties to redress the wrongs of historical racism that kept “students of color” out of higher education, that produced what are called “under-represented minorities.” This is not new. Back in the 1960’s, half a century ago, Brown was mobilized to realign itself according to racial criteria.

Today, as a matter of course, institutions of higher education invest intensive efforts in recruiting applicants who are American Indian, Alaska Native, African-American, Hispanic or Latin American, and Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander. There seem never to be enough academically qualified such students to meet the quotas. Top schools bid aggressively for the best-prepared students.

The schools insist on ambiguity about whether or not they trim, loosen, or just plain suspend their admissions standards to achieve their “numerical goals” (never “quotas”) in “representing” a “culturally diverse” population and so achieving the “essential diversity” required for their mission.

 

Once, the Battle Was Against Discrimination

Other students who apply to these prestigious, “highly selective,” “elite” schools have worked throughout their earlier education to achieve college-application credentials far superior to many applicants of “color,” the “under-represented.” But they are rejected by the colleges of their dreams because they are worthless as a credit toward the school’s “diversity” mandate.

To return to the problem: Other students who apply to these prestigious, “highly selective,” “elite” schools have worked throughout their earlier education to achieve college-application credentials far superior to many applicants of “color,” the “under-represented.” But they are rejected by the colleges of their dreams because they are worthless as a credit toward the school’s “diversity” mandate.

Back in 1962, I was admitted to Brown University, an Ivy League college, which, in the decades since, has become almost embarrassingly beset by top college applicants worldwide. Today, Brown admits less than 15 percent of its undergraduate applicants. Brown also is leading the charge for full “representation” of races in its incoming classes.

When I attended Brown, the university was redressing the historic injustice of its quota-limiting admission of Jewish applicants. The “problem” was that admission of freshman classes according to Brown’s own declared standards—grade point average, SAT scores, extracurricular achievements, recommendations—would have resulted in classes “full” of Jewish students. Okay, but what was the problem? Narrowly, it was that alumni of Brown, its chief financial supporters, demanded admission of their sons. More broadly, it was that Jewish-Americans are about 5.5 percent of our population and were becoming way “over-represented” at Brown. So. Brown, it seems, had discriminated against Jews, rejecting their applications because they were Jewish not because they did not meet all admissions criteria.

By the time I arrived, Brown was facing up to the problem. On my dorm floor of Bronson Hall, more than half of the freshmen were Jewish. Yet, there still was the occasional outburst as when in the dining hall (refectory) I saw a sudden fist fight break out among fraternity students, with the anguished cry, “You anti-Semitic bastard!”

 

Please select what race you wish to be

Henceforth Brown will accept the “self-identification” of applicants as “students of color” or as under-represented. It takes a moment to come to grips with that idea.

Returning to the present, there is a report today that Brown University has approved a policy, relating to admission to graduate programs, that henceforth Brown will accept the “self-identification” of applicants as “students of color” or as under-represented.

It takes a moment to come to grips with that idea. The first report of this change came from “The College Fix,” an online publication that supports college reporters and writers of a right-wing persuasion. Or so I gather from the publication’s self-description.

“The Fix” broke this story, which then was picked up by Breitbart News, citing ”The Fix” as its source. “The Fix,” in turn, reported that it approached (actually, hounded) Brown University officials again and again to clarify this story, but with no response.

Powerful Asian-American groups are suing major universities for discrimination against Asian applicants in favor of “students of color.”

Apparently, this is what happened. Asian-American graduate students at Brown complained that they felt “invisible” at the University because they were not recognized as “students of color” or as “under-represented.” For example, one said, they were not invited to meetings or special dinners for “historically under-represented” students. (As a side note, it gets more serious than that; powerful Asian-American groups are suing major universities for discrimination against Asian applicants in favor of “students of color.”)

But now (may we have a drum roll, here) we have the solution: applicants may “self-identity” as “of color” or “under-represented” and Brown will take them at their word.

This seems to mean that the evident unfairness of Brown in giving preference to certain racial groups will be remedied, now, by permitting ANYONE to self-identify as a member of such a group. Are there no longer objectively real and identifiable racial groups? Is membership in such a group a matter of individual option? Or is Brown washing its hands of the whole race shtick and anyone is a member of any racial group if they say they are?

Today, once again, Jewish-Americans in fact, are admitted to Brown under quotas.  If every applicant of color, from any “under-represented” group, must be admitted to Brown in proportion to their group’s size in the population, then Jewish applicants are competing for admission slots left over when all other racial/ethnic groups have been accommodated. And precisely the same is true of Asian students who, if accepted according to their academic and other qualifications would fill up freshman classes.

All Caucasian applicants are in the same position. There are a limited number of slots open to them after the demands of “diversity” have been met. Jewish-Americans now are included under this quota.

Brown, with an African-American woman as president, is leading the university deep into Postmodernist “identity” politics. I love my alma mater. It provided me with an extraordinary liberal arts education. Both my sister, Lucile, and my brother, Roger, are Brown alums, as is my lifelong friend and co-philosopher, David Kelley.

 

The philosophy that dissolves reality
But Brown, today, is an occupied country.  It is a captive of Postmodernists. Its professors in the humanities and social sciences reject Modernism—the Enlightenment philosophy of objective reality, the efficacy of reason, individualism, and government limited to the protection of individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For Modernism, Postmodernism substitutes an ideology that includes cultural Marxism, the tenet that all politics must be interpreted in terms of exploiters and exploited. On this view, the white male of Western capitalist culture is the exploiter of all other races, sexes, and socio-economic groups.

The outrage of Dostoyevsky’s “underground man” is that 2 plus 2 equals 4 and there is nothing he can do about it. Brown now replies: “Certainly, there is!”

To the outside world, increasingly including its alumni, Brown appears to stand for nothing but achievement of racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity by the numbers. Education increasingly is a crusade against white, male, Western, capitalist “exploitation.” And any student’s shortcomings, dissatisfactions, or grudges against life can be cast in terms of “exploitation.”

The outrage of Dostoyevsky’s “underground man” is that 2 plus 2 equals 4 and there is nothing he can do about it. Brown now replies: “Certainly, there is!”

 

Go ahead and “self-identify” whatever answer you wish to be correct.

 

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  • Russ

    Alumni from now-irrational universities/colleges need to hit them where it hurts: the pocketbook. If enough rich alumni pulled their contributions, I suspect many of these “modern” institutions of “higher” education would quickly abandon their idiotic policies…

  • W.R. Donway

    Of course, that long has been urged and there even are organized movements to do so. The problem is that it is no easier to convinced alumni donors of the folly of Postmodernist policies than it is to convince faculties and administrators. After all, for decades advocates of capitalism/opponents of socialism have been raging at businessmen to stop supporting their own destroyers in universities who attack economic freedom and big business. If businessmen won’t stop contributing to colleges that directly attack their essential interests, I don’t have much hope they will stop contributing because of identity politics. Ayn Rand said once that businessmen are the most self-destructive group in the country because they are steeped in the philosophy of pragmatism. Admittedly, though, business tycoons don’t tend to give for the liberal arts and social sciences as much as to medicine and science and the arts. And, of course, to business schools. A problem is that there are no objective standards in play for judging colleges and universities. The chief standard is how “selective” are they–the ratio of applications to acceptances–that that is based on prestige. The Ivy League schools are the seven oldest, nothing more, but they have the prestige–and the students, the money, the facilities, the choice of faculty members. One problem is that the most prestigious colleges tend to attract money and faculty for the best medical, law, engineering, and business schools–and those schools tend to be a bit more rationale because focused on specific areas of reality. The top colleges and universities also tend to have to “top” graduates (test scores, awards and fellowships, job offers, admission to graduate and professional schools) chiefly because they get the very top freshmen, even given the race games. I believe that the summary should be something like this: very strong, resilient organisms with a very insidious disease… Which will win?