So it turns out the best part about writing about race on the Internet is the slow trickle of racist email never goes away!  While I am happy to ignore the comments and the tweets, I feel obligated to respond to those who send emails.  After all, they took so much time and effort to track me down; the least I can do is expend a few words to explain to them why their logic is both flawed and racist.  Today’s email comes from a gentleman named Bruce:


Dear Isa,
I should think it might have occurred to you that had you NOT checked the Hispanic box on your application to Cal-Tech that you very well might not have been admitted and thereafter disenfranchised there. This is the problem with admitting less qualified people to elite colleges and universities. They feel alienated afterwards because they’re not up to competing with the contemporaries they find themselves with.
Oh, Bruce, what a wonderland you’ve offered in these few lines!  First of all, your suggestion that I should have denied the basic fact of my heritage so that non-Hispanic white people can be more comfortable with my – and their own – level of achievement.  That’s both really empathetic AND totally practical, amirite?  (Hint: no.)  I mean, if you carry this logic to its fullest conclusion, it’s just like how black people could stop racism all by themselves if only they just stopped being black!  That would TOTALLY work!  (Hint: it wouldn’t, and also, it is super racist.)


Also, Bruce, way to make a shitload of unfounded assumptions about my experience at Caltech!  First of all, while I was a student there, I was never made to feel incapable by anyone at Caltech.  Students at Caltech are exceedingly proud to be attending one of the most difficult undergraduate institutions in the world, and there is a strong awareness that admissions to the place are, in fact, notoriously meritocratic – the common saying amongst upperclassmen, reassuring overwhelmed freshmen, is that only those who belong at Caltech manage to get in.  (If you google “Caltech admissions meritocracy,” you’ll find a ton of links on largely conservative sites, referring to it as the only pure meritocracy in American higher education.  Sorry my actual life experience doesn’t square with your fantasy of unjustified affirmative action, Bruce! (Hint: I’m not at all sorry.))


Because here’s the thing: unlike, say, Abigail Fischer, who somehow managed to whine her way to the Supreme Court even though the University of Texas repeatedly pointed out that her GPA and SAT scores were below their admissions cutoffs, my shit was more than good enough.  GPA, SAT I, SAT IIs, APs – all my numbers were well within the range for Caltech acceptance, not just for “minority” acceptance (I don’t think Caltech has sufficient data points there to even generate anything of statistical significance) but of acceptance, period, as in white people (or Asian people!).  Lay all my shit out and what you found was an exceptional record, full stop; and that’s why I got into Caltech, and that’s why Bruce’s assumption that because I was Hispanic, I *must* have necessarily also been unqualified is some straight-up racist BULLSHIT.



Man, if I have learned anything in the past couple weeks, it is that racists really suck at logic!