Tag Archives: affirmative action

Tell me why it’s not racist to oppose Black Oscar categories

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Good comedy is like sociology only better. Today’s edition: Race and gender.

In Chris Rock’s monologue at the Oscars, he said this:

Hey, if you want Black nominees every year, you need to just have Black categories. That’s what you need. You need to have Black categories.

You already do it with men and women. Think about it: There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting.

C’mon. There’s no reason. It’s not track and field.

You don’t have to separate ’em. You know, Robert De Niro’s never said, “I better slow this acting down, so Meryl Streep can catch up.”

No, not at all, man. If you want Black people every year at the Oscars, just have Black categories. Like Best Black Friend.

If you say, “Where does it end?”, then tell me why you don’t oppose the gender categories. Tell me why it’s not racist to leave the acting gender categories unquestioned but oppose race categories. Not making that argument, of course, just asking the question.

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Quick correction on that 90-percent-of-faculty-are-White thing

The other day I saw a number of anti-racist people tweeting that “nearly 90% of full-time professors are White.” As I have previously complained when 90% of the full professors at my then-school (UNC) were White, I was interested to follow up. Unfortunately, that popular tweet turns out to be a stretched description of a simple error.

The facts are in this Education Department report from May, which was reported at the time by The Ed Advocate, and suddenly started going around the other day for unknown reasons. The “nearly 90%” is the Ed Advocate’s description of 84%, which is the percentage White among full-time full professors, which the original report in one place accidentally describes as just full-time professors. Among all full-time instructional faculty, in fact, 79% are White. So the headline, “Study: Nearly 90 Percent of Full-time Professors Are White,” was a conflation of two errors. It presumably became popular because it put a number to a real problem lots of people are aware of and looking for ways to highlight.

Here is the original chart:

whitefac

The problem of White over-representation among college faculty is not that apparent in this national 79% statistic. Consider, for example, that among all full-time, full-year workers age 40 and older (my made-up benchmark), 71% are non-Hispanic White. Among those with a Masters degree or higher, 77% are White. So faculty, nationally and at all levels, don’t look that different from the pool from which they’re drawn.

The 84% full professor statistic reflects the greater White representation as you move up the academic hierarchy. And that’s not just a question of waiting for younger cohorts with more non-White faculty to age into the professoriate. Because the pipeline isn’t working that well, especially for Black faculty. Which brings me back to my old UNC complaint, which focused mostly on Back under-representation. In 2010 I noted that the North Carolina population was 22% Black, while the UNC faculty was 4.7% Black. But full professors at UNC were just 2.4% Black, while the assistant professors were 7.5% Black. Is that the pipeline working? Well, only 4.5% of the recent faculty hires were Black.

I went back to check on things. As of the 2014 report (they’re all here), the update is that UNC has stopped reporting the numbers by rank, so now all they say is that 5.2% of all faculty are Black, and they don’t report the makeup of recent hires. So take from that what you will.

And what about further up the pipeline? I previously shared numbers showing a drop in Black representation among entering freshmen at the University of Michigan, from 10% to 5% over the 2000s. The trend at UNC is in the same direction:

unc black studentsOf course we always need to be cautious about numbers that support what we already know or believe. Some people will respond to this by saying, “but the point remains.” Right, but if the number is irrelevant to the point, there’s no need to use the number. Plenty of people can say, “In all my undergraduate years, I never had a Black professor,” or some other highly relevant observation.*

On the other hand, others of us need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that progress on under-representation is just happening out there because everyone thinks it should and it’s just a matter of time. That common assumption allows defensive administrators to do write thinks like this caption (from UNC’s 2011-2012 report):

unc1112

This is misleading: There was a big increase in Hispanic students (North Carolina has a growing Hispanic population) and Asian students, and marked drops in Black and American Indian students. But “overall, steady increase” is an easy narrative to sell.

If they scaled that chart from 0 to 12 and dropped Whites, “overall, steady increase” would look like this:

uncscaled

* I think I had three great Black professors at Michigan: Walter Allen, Robin D. G. Kelley, and Cecilia Green, each of whom changed my life forever. Sorry if I’m forgetting someone.

Related posts:

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Michigan Black college completion falters (with consequences)

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that Michigan voters have the Constitutional right to ban the state’s government from using race-specific policies. The immediate implication for Michigan, and other states, is for university admissions polices. So now if the state wants to pass a law allowing children of alumni easier admission to the University of Michigan, it’s a simple act of the legislature; but if they want to consider race in their admissions, they will need to amend the state constitution.

The University of Michigan has been at the center of national affirmative action debates for several decades (at least since I arrived there in 1988). I previously reported that court decisions against the state’s affirmative action policy led to a precipitous decline in Black students entering the University in the 2000s, as shown in this graph:

That’s just the University of Michigan, an important school, but only one. (The New York Times has a graphic showing enrollment trends in a series of states with affirmative action bans.) For the whole state of Michigan, Black college graduation rates fell further behind the national average over the last decade. Here is the percent of Black 25-29 year-olds who have completed college, from 1970 to 2012, nationally versus in Michigan alone, for women (left) and men (right):

michigan-black-grad-rates

Source: 1970-2000 Decennial Censuses and 2010-2012 American Community Survey, via IPUMS.

During the 2000s, the national-Michigan gap widened from 2.3 points to 4.1 points for men, and from 3.4 to 4.8 points for women.

I am not expert in the legal arguments over this, so I can’t analyze the decision (here’s one good take). But regardless of whether it’s bad law, I think it’s bad policy.

Yesterday in a tweet I picked on the new, data-heavy news operations run by (from left to right) David Leonhardt (NY Times Upshot), Ezra Klein (Vox), and Nate Silver (Five Thirty Eight) for having very White-looking staff teams:

thenewteams

I don’t know any more about what goes into their hiring decisions than I do about what goes into University of Michigan admission decisions (and I know they have staff beyond these featured writers). I’m sure they all want talented people with a wide range of perspectives and skills. But the outcome in both the media and college situations is bad. It limits the perspectives presented, undermines progress toward racial-ethnic equality, and contributes to the inertia that stymies the potential of future leaders.

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The less things change, the more they stay the same: Michigan edition

The Black Student Union at the University of Michigan is protesting against the campus administration. One of their demands is 10% Black representation on campus.

The story in the Michigan Daily brought me back to my freshman January in Ann Arbor, in 1989, 25 years ago this week! It was the university’s first “Diversity Day,” a ham-handed response to student demands that the university celebrate Martin Luther King Day by canceling classes. At the time, the United Coalition Against Racism was demanding 12% Black representation.

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What a great photo, by Robin Loznak.*

The story of Black representation at Michigan is long and rather sad, in the intervening decades involving multiple Supreme Court cases (Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003), and then a ballot measure that banned affirmative action, which is before the court now.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS Data Center (which has this useful tool), the University of Michigan’s full-time undergraduate student population was 4.4% Black in 2012. The states’ 18-24 year-old population is 18.9% Black.

How does that compare to other big state universities? Using that NCES tool, and IPUMS.org’s 2012 American Community Survey data tool, I made the same comparison for the 30 largest 4-year state universities in the country (just enough to include my own, UMD). Those below the red line have higher Black representation in the state 18-24 year-old population than in the university. Those above the line… just kidding (click to enlarge).

blackstudents

Percent Black among 18-24 year-olds in the state, and among full-time undergraduate students in the university (30 largest 4-year state universities, 2012).

The three schools piled on top of each other are Cal State Fullerton, UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Here’s the data in a table:

blackstudents-table

Michigan trend addendum

Dan Hirschman has provided data on the trend for Michigan from 1975 to 2009. Here is his note (from the comments), followed by my graph of the trend:

Black students at the University of MIchigan have been demanding – and needed to demand – 10% enrollment all the way back to the late 1960s (for a an overly detailed history, see here, starting on page 23). In the mid-1960s, after the first affirmative action programs were initiated, black enrollment rose from less than 1% to a bit more than 3%. At that point, there were actually enough black students to effectively organize and make demands (like increased minority enrollment). By the early 2000s, black enrollment actually approached 10%. Then the Supreme Court decision restricted the undergraduate race-based affirmative action program and the 2006 ban gutted it entirely, and we’re where we are now. So, the overall similarity of present and historical demands masks significant variability, and gains that have been lost.

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* A few days earlier, January 13, 1989, I wrote an op-ed for the paper in support of a proposed mandatory course on racism for arts college majors which never came to pass — the essay is actually here in the Google News archive of the Michigan Daily, where I got this screen shot.

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