In 1998, apparently frustrated with his application process for entry to medical school, Vijay Chokal-Ingam, who is Indian-American and the brother of comedian Mindy Kaling, decided to try a social experiment: He shaved his head, trimmed his eyelashes and pretended to be black. He claims that this pretense increased the number of invitations he received to apply and was responsible for his ultimate admission into medical school.
In explaining his experiment this week, Chokal-Ingam has outed himself a vocal opponent of what he called “affirmative action racism.” He claims his experiment proves that admission standards were “less stringent” for certain minorities.
While Chokal-Ingam’s story is outrageous, his anti-affirmative action activism falls in line with a common conservative argument: that these policies allow entry for less qualified students who take spots from other more qualified, usually white, individuals — what critics often refer to as reverse racism.
It’s not just white people who take umbrage. In recent years, there have been a few highly publicized cases of Asian-Americans that also feel frustrated by affirmative action policies, including a 2014 lawsuit against Harvard by an Asian-American student. The suit claims that Harvard’s quota cap on acceptance of Asian-American candidates is accepting less qualified black and Latino students in their stead.
Chokal-Ingam is peddling a similar story that sits snugly at the intersection of two racist paradigms: Pointing to Asian-Americans as proof that minorities can succeed without institutional help, it casts affirmative action as preferential treatment for less worthy individuals and asks, why can’t other minorities do the same? Doing so perpetuates false competition between communities of color in the U.S. and renders invisible those who are fighting for access that affirmative action policies can provide…
…Affirmative action is one of the few policies in the U.S. that attempt to correct some of the institutional biases that impede progress for entire subsets of the population….
So why do are there “institutional biases” towards blacks and Latinos but not toward people from India and China? The writer is angry because he senses there is more power for “communities of color” if they all use the same “narrative.” Chokal-Ingam has wandered off the reservation.