Is the Carolina Review racist?

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?

7 comments

  1. I agree. Duke never said that no black students were as qualified as he is to be here, so why is it necessary for the author of the letter to assert that she, as one individual rather than as a representative sample (as Christopher pointed out), is “just as qualified, if not more” to attend UNC than Duke is? There’s no need for ad hominem attacks; as Christopher pointed out, all Duke’s saying is that when you do let in students who don’t meet the general standards for admission that are applicable to everyone else, no matter their race, you just can’t expect that they will be as academically competitive, as demonstrated by the statistics he “flaunted.”

  2. Although it is a generalization that all the black students are at the top of their classes, who is to say that all or most of the black students attending UNC are here because of affirmative action? Being a black student also I can say that both myself and the majority of my black friends were in fact in the top 25% of our graduating classes. The university does recruit the highest achieving high school students with median GPA and SAT scores increasing every year. What about other effects that may have led to the higher drop out rates among ethnic students other than being less qualified. Blacks on average earn less than whites so what about the black UNC students that end up dropping out for financial reasons, because they cannot afford it or have to work to help their families. And what about emotional reasons for dropping out such as being in a predominantly white setting and being the only black person in classes at times, some black students can struggle with this. And what about the fact that there is a much smaller number of minority students at UNC so their drop-out rates may seem higher sense they are a smaller representation of the population. Would this be the same case if UNC was 50% black and 50% white??? Just because there are higher drop out rates among minority students does not on its face mean that the reason for this is affirmative action placing less qualified minority students in the place of more qualified white students. What about legacy students, a higher number of which are white, who receive preferential treatment because their parents went to school here? How is that fair for equally qualified 1st-generation minority students who would not have a chance if it were not for affirmative action. The idea of affirmative action is not reversed racism but giving equally qualified minority groups an opportunity when they would normally be at a disadvantage and lose the spot or position because the other person was white or male. I am a student caller on behalf of an alumni giving association and was mortified when a prospect refused to give because his son was not accepted and the reason being was that he was a white male! Does he not realize that UNC opened as an all-white all-male institution and has finally began to make up for some of those inequalities. When I step in to a classroom, especially one that is less than 40 or 30 students I am certainly not surrounded by other students that look just like me [African-American and female]! And I can add that I worked just as hard as anyone male or female, white or black, legacy or non-legacy to get here and I certainly deserve it as I’m sure many other black students did also!

  3. Thanks for your comments. However, I think you are missing something. On the whole, there is no evidence that racial preferences at any institution (when they were officially admission factors, or now, when they are not officially factors) actually help increase college access for minority students.

    What we need to focus on in order to reduce racial disparities is better high school preparation and outreach. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to get a good education in high school. That is why conservatives support school vouchers (for instance, the D.C. voucher program) that allows students (especially low-income minorities) to have better alternatives to low-ranking public high schools in inner cities.

    Academic expectations are also very important. We should not lower expectations for any group. Even though this seems harsh up-front, recent research has demonstrated that lower expectations (officially or otherwise) can actually cause racial disparities to widen.

    To progress forward and finally move closer to getting rid of racial disparities, we must create equal opportunities at the high school level.

    This is why conservatives vehemently oppose forcing poor minority children to attend low-ranking public schools. This just keeps people dependent on the government for schooling, it gives them no choice, and it in no way helps reduce disparities. Increasing achievement by school choice at the secondary education level is a more effective way to combat racial disparities than affirmative action.

    Note that UNC does not officially practice affirmative action… Duke’s article simply pointed out that by striving for “diversity”, we are doing just that: striving. If people really want to reduce racial disparities (like all of us at the Carolina Review do), they must start by increasing high school achievement. UNC would naturally become much more diverse than it will ever be under the ‘striving for diversity’ model because there would be no “achievement gap.”

  4. Here’s an idea. Instead of basing affirmative action decisions on the amount of melanin in someone’s skin, we base it off of economic status. That way, we still help students who have been disadvantaged, but we are basing it off of actual measurable differences instead of race.

  5. Hey everybody. I’m Boobie Diddles and I like to keep it real.

    Was the article by what’s his face in the Carolina Review racist? No. Was it poorly-reasoned, poorly-written, and mean-spirited? Yes.

    The problem with the Carolina Review and some conservatives is that they are so invested in the idea of themselves as victims, as an embattled minority facing the unrelenting onslaught of liberal hegemony, that whatever intelligent thoughts occasionally surface in their mind soup get lost to emotion. Like the proverbial piece of undigested corn, Duke’s (is that his name?) potentially thoughtful critique was quickly overwhelmed by word poo.

    I would have written the article for him, but I’m not a conservative and the liberal publications would have been too afraid to publish it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s