In response to our February issue, sophomore political science major Arielle Reid wrote a letter to the Daily Tar Heel (wrong publication, FYI – Carolina Review accepts letters to the editor) alleging that our magazine is racist.
She claims that our February issue was dedicated to “attacking the black race” and offers as evidence our article by Duke Cheston in which he presents the negative effects of affirmative action. He argues that giving preference to ethnic minorities who might not otherwise be qualified results in UNC admitting students who aren’t able to cut it in college. As evidence, he cited the lower graduation rates amongst ethnic minority students.
Arielle Reid argues that because she is of an ethnic minority and is eminently qualified for the University of North Carolina (something that I don’t doubt given that she graduated in the top 1% of her high school class), that this proves that she and every other minority student has “earned their spot.”
Here Reid commits a fallacy of hasty generalization.
This is the fallacy of generalizing about a population based upon a sample which is too small to be representative. If the population is heterogeneous, then the sample needs to be large enough to represent the population’s variability. With a completely homogeneous population, a sample of one is sufficiently large, so it is impossible to put an absolute lower limit on sample size. Rather, sample size depends directly upon the variability of the population: the more heterogeneous a population, the larger the sample required. For instance, people tend to be quite variable in their political opinions, so that public opinion polls need fairly large samples to be accurate.
UNC is full of thousands of extremely varied students of all sorts of different educational backgrounds. As such, drawing any meaningful information about who “earned their spot” and who got in by special pleading through affirmative action requires a very large sample size. Reid is a sample size of one. Just because she was admitted on her own merits rather than her ethnicity does not necessarily mean that everyone else was.
Reid also takes offense at a joke in our classified section about the UNC African-American Studies Department’s missing academic credibility. I suggest that she take a look at the post below from this one for an example of what we are talking about.
Of course, once again nothing in this joke implies that the African-American studies department is incapable of having academic credibility, it just says that it doesn’t. Nor does it say that the field of African-American studies has no credibility, just that this particular department has some issues in that regard.
No, we’re not racist. Having honest conversations about race is not racist. Discussing the effects of affirmative action on our universities is not racist. Making jokes about our less than formidable departments is not racist.
Charges of racism are a rhetorical hand grenade in the modern American political scene. Just like the terms “fascist”, “communist” and “socialist”, when someone claims the other side is racist what they are saying is that they are rejecting the other side’s arguments a priori, without even considering their reasoning. In short, lobbing incendiary terms is a way to avoid having to think about the issues that are being raised.
PS – why does everyone who criticizes CR begin with “…I’m probably one of the few people that reads Carolina Review…”, when our copies consistently fly off of campus newsstands far faster than almost any other student magazine?