I do generally loathe reading the comments sections of most news sites (any sites, really), but the one on Robin J. Hayes’ ”Why Ivy League Schools Are So Bad at Economic Diversity” in The Atlantic is a real trip. There are dozens of comments in which people are playing amateur eugenicists, as they’ve connected wealth & poverty to intelligence. For these folks, the poor perpetuate themselves because they are stupid, and when they have kids, they’ll be born stupid as well, and therefore, will remain poor. As if structural inequality and structural racism have nothing to do with creating the gaps in wealth and education for millions of Americans.
I’m sure I haven’t seen more Social Darwinist /scientific racist /pro-eugenics comments anywhere, including on neo-Nazi websites. Apparently, the only thing The Atlantic’s commentators read while in college (as this is allegedly the profile of their readers) was Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve (1994), as their arguments came out of studies that are now well over 100 years old. (I defy anyone to say they’ve read all 838 pages, though!) What these people should’ve been reading is Jerome Karabel’s The Chosen (2005) and Nick Lemann’s The Big Test (1999), both of which indicate the Ivy League’s long history of high racial and socioeconomic bias, not just high selectivity.
So I responded, using the lessons I’ve learned from my life and from writing Boy @ The Window, pointing out along the way that “Yale and the others offer what they offer to us po’ folk because they want to appear like they’re doing good, knowing full well that actually working to increase economic diversity is too much for them to fathom.” It elicited this counter-response from someone calling themselves Christy2012:
Pardon me for being so blunt, but you seem to imply that you were somehow obvious Yale material based on your top 2% status. However, you indicated on your blog that you earned a 2.6 GPA at University of Pittsburgh, a much less competitive institution, in your freshman year. Do you suppose you would have attained a higher GPA at Yale? Many rich people get turned down by Yale with even better credentials and Columbia is a fairly elite school itself. That Columbia offered you at chance and that you didn’t exactly hit it out of the park at UPitt is not exactly evidence that the schools are biased against the poor (maybe even the opposite).
Maybe there was (or is) an issue relating to how they consider deadbeat fathers in financial aid and scholarship consideration. It seems you should probably focus on that and that is probably an issue for more middle class applicants too.
It turns out that Christy2012 made these personal swipes from an extremely selective and incorrect reading of my blog because she believes all poor students and students of color really aren’t smart. I/we apparently benefited instead from “affirmative action and/or the pity of bleeding-heart White liberals,” and “not because of our abilities or because of hard work” (my translation of her other comments, by the way). Of course, Christy2012 never revealed anything personal about herself. It’s likely she never attended an elite college and has never met a poor person — especially one of color — that she didn’t feel superiority over.
If this set of comments is any indication, it will be hard for Yale or any other school — even if they’re sincere in their efforts at racial and economic diversity — to fulfill them. So many folks even without holding positions of power or serving as gatekeepers decide before looking that poor folks and poor folks who look like me are incapable and unqualified for anything other than a mop, a broom or a jail cell. Is there any wonder that so few of America’s poor and of color have a chance at any higher education of significance, forget about getting into an elite or Ivy League institution?