In an attempt to prove that affirmative action is one of modern America’s greatest “racist” atrocities, Mindy Kaling’s older brother did more than just embarrass himself with a poorly constructed experiment. His idea to pose as a Black man to more easily get accepted into universities actually added another anecdote to the already bursting file cabinet of reasons why affirmative action is absolutely necessary.
So here is a story you don’t see every day. In the country where Black men are getting racially profiled, gunned down, locked up at unbelievable rates and constantly being targeted by every racist institution that serves as America’s economic support beams, actress Mindy Kaling’s brother actually wanted to pretend to be a Black man.
So he did.
Vijay Chokalingam believed that with a GPA of 3.1 and an MCAT score of 31, his chances of getting accepted into the medical school of his choice were nearly nonexistent.
“Still, I was determined to become a doctor and I knew that admission standards for certain minorities under affirmative action were, let’s say…less stringent,” he writes in a forthcoming book titled Almost Black.
So that’s when he concocted a scheme to pose as a Black man in hopes that affirmative action would give him a better chance of getting into universities like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.
He chopped off his hair, trimmed his long eyelashes and started going by his childhood moniker of Jojo.
He even joined African-American organizations. According to his story, his own fraternity brothers failed to recognize him after the transformation.
Once he submitted his applications as a Black student, he claims he was a contender at schools including Harvard, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Pennsylvania, Case Western and Columbia.
According to Chokalingam, an acceptance letter from St. Louis University served as undeniable proof that affirmative action was nothing but a racist ploy that allowed Black students to get into colleges they didn’t work hard enough to attend.
Before anyone dabbles into the logical fallacies that plague his conclusion, it’s important to note all the missteps he made during this social experiment that rid it of any credibility.
Chokalingam never revealed whether or not he applied using his real identity before applying again with the faux Black alter ego, so it’s impossible to tell if he would have been accepted without going through the identity switch.
His “evidence” that he was suddenly a prime choice for all the schools was also flawed.
He shared only one acceptance letter—the one from St. Louis University, a school that’s not very prestigious in nature or particularly enticing to America’s elite. It seems likely he would have been accepted to the university without the faux identity.
All the other letters he shared were mere invitations to apply to such schools. They were not, by any means, an indication that the school was particularly interested in him.
Then there is also the assumption that he actually fooled anybody when it came to the applications.
He only changed his first name to Jojo. His last name of Chokalingam remained the same on applications.
All the flawed research aside, however, there is an even greater lesson for the failed medical student who did all this just to drop out of medical school in two years.
“Cops harassed me. Store clerks accused me of shoplifting,” he added. “Women were either scared of me or couldn’t keep their hands off me. What started as a devious ploy to gain admission to medical school turned into a twisted social experiment.”
A social experiment that allowed Chokalingam to barely scratch the surface of the type of racial injustices that make affirmative action necessary for Black students.
“Chokalingam’s admitted experience as ‘a black man’ revealed the inherent cultural bigotries that feed systemic racism, but he chooses to sidestep, downplay, or flat-out ignore how the same racism that led to him being harassed by cops and store clerks keeps black applicants on the fringes of elite educational institutions for generations,” The Daily Beast’s Stereo Williams writes of the scheme. “It’s easier for him to tap dance for the right wing as the brown man who ‘gets it,’ while conveniently missing how ongoing racism makes affirmative action absolutely necessary.”