To the editor:
Does Heather Mac Donald [“The Microaggression Farce,” Autumn 2014] not see how our nation was founded on oppression of “the other”—defined as those who don’t have power and don’t resemble the dominant power-holding group? Ignoring microaggression ignores the racial inequalities in our social structures and ignores the unequal power dynamics tied to race. All function to perpetuate oppression. As a UCLA student who identifies as being a student of color, I hope our campus community can have a fruitful discussion on the issue of race.
Los Angeles, CA
Heather Mac Donald responds:
UCLA is a cornucopia of opportunity, but Melody Liao only sees a system of “oppression.” It is unlikely that Liao came to UCLA fluent in phrasemaking like the following: “racial inequalities in our social structures and . . . the unequal power dynamics tied to race [a]ll function to perpetuate oppression.” Instead, she likely learned such rhetoric from her professors.
Every adult at UCLA is rooting for “students of color” to become doctors, lawyers, and computer scientists. Whole armies of administrators are fretting over the low number of engineering and biochemistry degrees awarded to UCLA’s “students of color.” But any “student of color” who does graduate with a biochemistry degree will find nearly every medical school in the country beating down his door with a scholarship offer, regardless of his GPA or MCATs. Ditto a “student of color” who graduates in merely the top half of his class with a political science degree. He will have his pick of law schools. Should he apply to UCLA or the University of California at Berkeley, he will have a chance of admission that is 400 percent higher than his academic qualifications and socioeconomic status would predict. If this is “oppression,” there are a million Chinese students who have been studying nonstop since the age of seven in the hope of experiencing it.
That this country accepted slavery and de jure racial discrimination for nearly two centuries after its founding, in outrageous contradiction of its constituent ideals, is obvious. To recognize that sorry fact, however, is quite different from asserting that “our nation was founded on oppression of ‘the otherֺ—defined as those who don’t have power and don’t resemble the dominant power-holding group.” Perhaps Liao reached this harsh judgment based on a deep historical understanding of how other political systems have treated “the other.” Perhaps she has evidence that African tribal societies, the Indian caste system, Chinese dynasties, the Muslim caliphate, the Aztecs, or the Comanche have been more welcoming of “the other.” Perhaps Liao has read deeply in political theory from Aristotle through Montesquieu and Locke, acquired a thorough knowledge of the European monarchies that were contemporary to the early Republic, and on that basis found the Constitution’s solution to enduring problems of power and political representation deplorably lacking. Perhaps. Or perhaps she has been spoon-fed an embarrassingly facile, historically ignorant caricature of America by a few gender studies and African-American studies professors.
A “fruitful” discussion would start with the facts: that blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately unprepared for admission to UCLA, thanks to high rates of truancy, juvenile delinquency, dropping out, disengagement from school, and gang involvement. They are admitted anyway, disproportionate to their average qualifications, because administrators are so desperate to create a racially “diverse” student body. Once admitted, many alleged beneficiaries of racial preferences struggle to keep up with their more prepared peers. If they cannot keep up, they are encouraged to attribute their difficulties to “institutional racism.” Rather than telling the truth about this iatrogenic system, UCLA’s administrators cultivate in their charges a racial chip on the shoulder that, if permanent, will handicap them for the rest of their lives.