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NYTimes: Race Question on Apps Perplexes Multiracial Students

Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Posts: 106,156Founder Senior Member
edited July 2011 in College Admissions
College Confidential member Clearbrooke and others are quoted in this front page NY Times story by Susan Saulny and Jacques Steinberg:
At the beginning of the college application season last fall, Natasha Scott, a high school senior of mixed racial heritage in Beltsville, Md., vented about a personal dilemma on College Confidential, the go-to electronic bulletin board for anonymous conversation about admissions.

From: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/us/14admissions.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all

The article goes on...
...the number of applicants who identify themselves as multiracial has mushroomed, adding another layer of anxiety, soul- (and family-tree-) searching and even gamesmanship to the process.

Congrats to Natasha on U. of Virginia!
Post edited by Roger_Dooley on
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Replies to: NYTimes: Race Question on Apps Perplexes Multiracial Students

  • anothergalaxyanothergalaxy Posts: 705Registered User Member
    *Affirmative Action, not African-American, how can we notify NYTimes about this?
  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Posts: 106,156Founder Senior Member
    Good point, anothergalaxy, your interpretation of the initials would seem to fit the sentence as it is recorded in the story.
  • UVAorBustUVAorBust Posts: 2,504Registered User Senior Member
    This perplexes me. Isn't everyone "multi-cultural". I certainly know my parents were not the first colonists... And even if they were, I would still be multicultural. Anyways, what CA asks is which race we identify ourselves with. Not which race we definitively are.
  • Lemaitre1Lemaitre1 Posts: 1,736Registered User Senior Member
    My wife's mother was from Japan and her father was White and she is never really sure what to put down as her race. Our two sons are one quarter Japanese and three quarters White. My older son clearly identifies himself as White and has no interest in Asia or anything Asian. My younger son shows great interest in Japan and is trying to learn to speak Japanese from my wife you is completely bilingual. Being White or Asian has absolutely no value in terms of college admissions. However, I wonder how many kids of mixed White and Japanese backgrounds there are in colleges? are they under-represented? Would their admission add diversity to a campus?
  • UVAorBustUVAorBust Posts: 2,504Registered User Senior Member
    I would put down African American. Even if you are white, the question is which race you associate yourself with. I'd associate myself with whatever race gave me the best chance of acceptance. Heck, being given less of a chance of acceptance solely due to your race is quite radical itself.
  • BigAppleDaddyBigAppleDaddy Posts: 272Registered User Junior Member
    While I am happy that this young woman is now at a good school like UVA, I am also appalled that at the age of 17 or 18 she does not know "what she is" ethnically speaking. That is disingenuous at best, and a lie at worst. She knows.

    In the US, people's racial and/or ethnic identity is formed long before its time to apply to college, whether one is black, white, Asian, Native American, Hispanic, or some mixture of the above. It is formed by how one looks physically and how others experience and respond to you. No black person I know has ever had to wonder whether they are black or not. No Hispanic I know has ever had to wonder if he’s really Puerto Rican or Mexican or Dominican or whatever. And no mixed-race kid I know has ever had to wonder what to check off. It’s usually more than one box, but sometimes a single one because despite a mixed heritage, they know that for some of them, they look like and get treated as a single race. (Obama would be a good example of this.) Even recent immigrants to this country can pick up pretty quickly what ethnicity is about, sometimes ina good way, sometimes not. But unless you have been a hermit living in a cave you do not have to wonder "Am I black or am I Asian?" You know.

    Colleges -- as well as society as a whole I think -- have a legitimate interest in forming an ethnically diverse student body. And if you disagree and think race is or should be irrelevant you don’t have to identify as anything. That is an option. But students who pretend that they cannot honestly discern their own ethnic identity are, IMHO, full of it.
  • almost therealmost there Posts: 1,417Registered User Senior Member
    I posted this in the other thread but I feel like its relevant here too:

    I'm half black and half white. I grew up in a fairly wealthy mostly white area and I never really identified with the black kids that did go to my school. Should I check white? Should I check black? Should I check both?

    As someone who is completely opposed to affirmative action I should say that I would choose both or white because that is what I identify as but honestly that probably isn't what I'm going to do. I know that makes me a hypocrite but if identifying as black is going to give me even a slight edge I'm going to do it.
  • BigAppleDaddyBigAppleDaddy Posts: 272Registered User Junior Member
    to almost there:

    This is what i am talking about. if you are to be honest about it all, just check off two boxes--black and white.

    Or if you don't like that, check off nothing.

    But dont twist yourself in knots trying to figure out "who I am." You already know. Just be honest about it on your college applications.
  • almost therealmost there Posts: 1,417Registered User Senior Member
    BigAppleDaddy are you multiracial? If not it's kind of impossible to understand the struggle to find your racial identity that a lot of multiracial people go through. It isn't just what people think you look like when they see you for the first time and how society treats you. It is how you grow up, and how you relate to your peers of the various race groups that you belong too, and how your parents raised you. If those things conflict with the way you look it can be a major struggle.

    To say that racial identity is something that is formed long before you apply to college simply isn't true for everyone. Until a year or so ago it wasn't even anything I even thought about. I was just me. If a form came up I'd usually check both boxes because that's what my parents were and I really didn't think about "identifying" with anything. Finding their racial identity is something that a lot of multiracial people struggle with even into adulthood.
  • BigAppleDaddyBigAppleDaddy Posts: 272Registered User Junior Member
    I am not multiracial and neither is wife. But many of my kids' friends are and I take my cues from them. I dont mean to underestimate whatever psychic strain there is over this. That is part and parcel of being a teenager, for one, along with many other parts of growing up. And perhaps racial identity comes faster to kids here in a very big, very diverse city, than it does where you live. I am not unsypmathetic to that at all and wish you nothing but the best along your life's journey.

    But I am speaking in the very narrow sense of ethnicity as it applies to college application. You will have time to figure out the rest of the stuff. But on your apps, which you will soon be filling out, just check off the black and white box and be done with it. You will be honest, and anything else you care to say about your upbringing and your life will be apparent from the rest of your package. Or at least it should be.
  • woosahwoosah Posts: 503Registered User Member
    Some colleges are now calling guidance/college counselors to see if student x is really what they marked down. Your ethnicity is in your school record so a person from your school will pull the file and say whatever the parent put down when you enrolled in school.
  • almost therealmost there Posts: 1,417Registered User Senior Member
    ^ That's another thing that complicates the matter. Since my dad is the one who filled out the paperwork when my parents enrolled me in the school district that I'm in like 10 years ago on my transcripts and stuff I'm "Black/African American" If my mom had enrolled me I would have probably been white or other (back then they didn't allow you to check more than one box) but she didn't so it would be completely honest for me to apply as a black student.
  • mommusicmommusic Posts: 8,301Registered User Senior Member
    I have known a couple of kids who were bi-racial & from well-off families in mostly white school districts. It wasn't until they looked at colleges that they thought about exploring their black heritage, possibly even attending a historically black college.

    Sometimes consciousness must be raised. Life is a journey, and people are in various places along their personal roads. Just pointing out that it's not all "black and white" so to speak.

    Now a question--I'm trying to remember about the online app--is it possible to check more than one box for race? Or is it one of those questions that unchecks one box when you check a different one?
  • illuminator1illuminator1 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    I know someone who was Egyptian, and he bragging about how he was using the system in his favor by putting himself down as African American.
  • fogcityfogcity Posts: 2,603Registered User Senior Member
    College admission committees mean well in trying to create a diverse freshman class. However their approach to achieving diversity reflects laziness and naivete. We can't blame applicants for trying to maximize their acceptance chances. According to Rice admissions applicants can get an admissions advantage by checking the right boxes, and by "confirming" their race through their essays. It is too tempting for seniors with societal and family pressure to get accepted into the "best" university to ignore this opportunity. I don't blame applicants for gaming their applications. To foil the exaggerations, admissions committees are heading down the path of requiring DNA samples from applicants to verify race.

    College admission committees need to accept the need to meet applicants and to interview them critically. Only in this way can they make meaningful decisions regarding diversity in their freshman class.

    Admission decisions, much like hiring decisions, need to be a two stage process. The first stage is qualification. This must be based on diversity neutral criteria -- grades, standard test scores, recommendations, ECs etc. Qualified applicants would then be interviewed -- not just by remote alumni, but by admissions decision makers on-site. It is at the interview stage that diversity criteria can be applied -- or not applied.

    This approach can be tuned, as by accepting the very top tier of students without considerations of diversity, and interviewing the tier just below. Rice admissions states that they have this notion of top tier, as I expect is the case for other selective colleges. Also admissions may choose to let students decide whether or not they want to be considered using diversity criteria, and only those students who decide to do so would be brought in for extensive interviews.
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