Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Needed: More Boxes


The Los Angeles Times has an article today about the tragic shortage of racial boxes on the UCLA admissions form, and in particular the lack of any “Middle Eastern” boxes.  As a result, students of that ancestry must choose among “Asian,” “African,” or — horrors! — “white.”

It’s an odd article. Since ostensibly UCLA is not supposed to be considering race or ethnicity at all — thanks to Proposition 209 — it’s not clear why this matters in practical terms. To be sure, it is silly and even insulting that people are asked to choose among rather arbitrary categories:  Not just Middle Easterners, but the aforementioned “Asians” and “Africans” as well as “Latinos” or “Hispanics” (all arbitrary classifications that include many different ethnic groups), to say nothing of multiracial and multiethnic individuals. But that’s not a problem that can be fixed by adding another box or even a whole bunch of boxes. That’s also true of another problem raised toward the end of the article, namely that “white” is often used as a proxy for “educated and affluent” and “English was my first language.”   

And so, for now, the boundary line between “white” and “Asian” is drawn not at the Urals but between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Odd that this region should be the dividing line, thus adding yet another burden to the long-suffering Osama bin Laden: Which box would his college-age children check?


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