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Obama and the Race Box



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Given the ongoing dispute between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on issues of race, I’ll pass along one item of possible interest: I’m reliably informed by one of Obama’s colleagues on the board of editors of the Harvard Law Review that Obama told conservative editors that he did not check the box identifying himself as a minority on his law-school applications.

I’m not sure what, if anything, folks might make of this. Let’s assume, as I readily do, that Obama’s reported statement was truthful. On the one hand, it almost certainly would have been clear to admissions officers from other aspects of his application (e.g., undergraduate affiliations, letters of recommendation), if not from his name alone, that he was black or half-black, so the failure to check the box would likely not have affected his eligibility to benefit from racial preferences in admissions policies. (Whether he needed any such benefit to be admitted is, of course, a different matter.) On the other hand, his decision not to check the box would seem to signal, at a minimum, some discomfort with the prevailing system of racial classifications.



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