Almost Black. Hmm. Kinda sounds like the would-be title of a wistful memoir written by a biracial American who never quite found their place in society. But Vijay, you aren’t almost black. I should know: I actually am almost black, and for what it’s worth, I’m almost Indian, too.
My father is from South India and my mother is a black woman from well, the South. I went to Stanford, was fervently pre-med, took the MCAT, and began the AMCAS application process before embarking on an accidental career at Facebook. I feel that I’m bizarrely positioned to comment on your ruse — and subsequent attempt to profit from said ruse.
My main problem with your book is that it attacks affirmative action in the shallowest possible way: affirmative action helps one group at the cost of others. That is, I wouldn’t be writing this if you positioned the crux of your book and media blitz to say, “it’s ridiculous to require such high test scores for Indians/Asians to get medical school interviews” rather than the salient positioning of “black people don’t need to try as hard, or be as good to succeed.” Of course, one generates controversy and sells books, and the other is well, not a great sound bite. By selecting this angle of attack, you are diminishing the accomplishments of all black (and other non-Asian minority) students. What about the black students with the extremely high test scores and sterling recommendations?
But admissions is only half the picture. What happens once those students matriculate? I’ve seen no study that shows that students admitted on the basis of affirmative action, are any less competent professionals than others in their fields. Diversity — in all senses of the word — only enhances an institution of learning. If you’re looking for a tangible benefit, a diverse medical school class contributes to greater cultural competency. Cultural competency is extremely important in health professions, which you would know, had you matriculated. Hell, even the Supreme Court agrees with the gist of what I’m saying. If you don’t believe me, look up Fisher v. University of Texas.
To be perfectly clear, I am not in favor of lowering admissions thresholds simply to create more minority doctors — that doesn’t do the school, patients, or the medical community any service; however, I am supportive of opening doors for people who show great potential relative to the resources available to them. Providing that assistance will have positive generational effects as these students become mentors, role models, and parents in their communities. The end goal of affirmative action, as I understand it, is to make affirmative action unnecessary, and I think we will approach that time in the coming two decades.
You lied about your racial identity on the AMCAS application, and your book hinges on the idea that this single piece of information was enough to get you interviews at top medical schools, and admission at one. Had you written “Indian,” would you have been ignored? Perhaps, but you don’t know for sure. I can’t find any evidence that you applied a second time under your actual racial identity to determine if there were any differences in the number of interviews given. For a science major, your process was decidedly unscientific.
- Why is there a paucity of data on your website?
- How many medical schools were you interviewed at as a black student?
- And presuming you re-applied as an Indian, how many admitted you? Was it just one?
- Why did that school admit you?
- Was it race or GPA, or both, or some combination of other factors?
- How much of each factored into the admissions decision? Was race even considered?
Is that even knowable by anyone other than the admissions board? Moreover, did your interviewers wonder how the hell you were a black guy with the name Vijay “Jojo” Chokal-Ingam? On your site’s FAQ, you admit that at least one school’s admissions officer confronted you about your ploy. Finally, how does it feel to know that you are barely admissible even as a black student with the oh so powerful gale of affirmative action in your sails?
You went in knowing that race might be a factor in admissions and that your own race may work against you, but that didn’t inspire you to hit the books harder. The truth is that you weren’t a very good student and you sought to wriggle through a perceived loophole. Had you been a 3.8 GPA student with a 37 MCAT who didn’t get admitted as an Indian, you might have a stronger case. Those people exist, and it’s a terrible shame. Perhaps you should be attacking the guild system perpetuated by established doctors. Despite a growing need for doctors, schools are making it harder and harder to become one. But no, that wouldn’t strongly position you for your new career goal.
The positioning of your book and a quick scan of your tweets, mentioning Clarence Thomas, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina, suggests that you are not a stalwart champion of morality and virtue, but instead, an unprincipled opportunist who churned out a book as a sort of admissions essay for enrollment into that cadre of intellectually dishonest and disingenuous right wing pundits, politicians, and their ilk. You’re looking to sidle up to right wing media outlets, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson, Dinesh D’Souza et al. and you’re just the type of guy they love — a person of color who’s smart enough to know better, but happily takes on the role of turncoat snake oil salesman and pot stirrer if it means a little airtime and a few greenbacks in his bank account. When the chips are down, one will go for broke, I suppose.
If all goes as you intend, you’ll find yourself on the Fox & Friends shortlist, and we’ll be watching Trevor Noah skillfully dismantle your half-baked ideas on The Daily Show for years to come. If it doesn’t, you’ll simply be remembered — if at all — as a failed fraud whose only claim to fame is a sister who is infinitely more successful. Good luck, Vijay.
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