What a difference five words can make. In a tweet promoting my latest story, I said that some Asian-Americans are not checking the Asian box on college applications "to avoid what they call discrimination." That prompted an interesting question from a cat I had not met named Jabari Bell, who tweeted, "what's the difference between 'discrimination' and 'what Asians call discrimination'?" He included another brother I had not met, Professor Dumi Lewis (his real name is even fresher than that), in the tweet.
This is an important question. It's hard to tell on Twitter, but I think what these dudes were saying was, "Why you half-stepping?" Why not call the proverbial spade a spade?
I tweeted back that since some disagree that Asians are discriminated against in college admissions, I qualified the statement. The colleges themselves, for example, strenuously deny any discrimination (although they would not comment for my story, cough cough). More importantly: If you believe that admission to elite schools should be based solely or primarily on test scores and GPA, then yes, it's easy to call this discrimination. But if you believe that admissions decisions should include other factors in order to assemble a university environment full of different types of people with different skills, experiences, interests and abilities--and that all of the people admitted under this scenario have the ability to be academically successful at that school--then it's harder to call it "discrimination."
Dumi and Jabari had some interesting challenges to my statement. I'd rather let them voice these in their own words rather than describe them myself. I'm eager to hear and learn from what they have to say in a more nuanced space than Twitter. The comment section is below, brothers.
One more thing, though: This question get to the heart of how I do my job at The Associated Press. My goal is to introduce and explore topics that shed light on race and ethnicity in America. Hopefully I can talk about new things, or new aspects to old things (the Asian admissions story was one of those), or introduce readers to people and places they probably would not have otherwise encountered. I specifically avoid taking sides. That's for columnists. I'm a reporter. So to simply call this Asian admissions situation "discrimination" goes against my AP DNA. I'm not saying I don't have a personal opinion on whether or not it's discrimination--I'm saying that expressing this opinion (even subtly, in a Twitter post) would hinder my goal of bringing various people of various beliefs to the table of contemplation and consultation.
So Dumi and Jabarai: What say y'all?
Jesse Washington is a Senior Writer for ESPN's TheUndefeated.com