Monday, June 16, 2003

How Michigan Imitates Brazil 

A student's lament:
"Gabriella Fracescutti, 19, has filed one of nearly 300 lawsuits against the State University because of its quota policy. She has dreamed of being a surgeon since she was a high school freshman -- 'I like blood,' she says sheepishly -- and studied during her entire senior year for the vestibular, the national college entrance exam. She did very well, scoring 82.5 percent, better than half the students admitted ahead of her. But her application was rejected, essentially because she is neither black nor poor.

"'I just don't understand how you can justify someone with a lower grade getting into the school, and turning me down. Why, because I have blond hair?' said Fracescutti, the daughter of an architect and a botanist. 'I have friends who are whiter than me and didn't study and didn't do well on the test, but they wrote down they were [black] on their application and they got in. My grandmother is black. I could have written down that I am black, but I didn't feel right about that. In a country like Brazil, everyone's blood is mixed together.'"

No word on how many points being black or poor are worth in Brazil. A quote from an admissions counselor in Brazil sounds like it could have come from here:
"The biggest advantage of this quota system," said Paulo Fabio Salgueiro, the admissions director at the State University [of Rio], "is that it has broken this myth of a nonracial society. Brazilians have by and large always believed there are no white Brazilians or black Brazilians, just Brazilians. But the debate over quotas has forced everyone to confront the fact that racism, discrimination and social exclusion are alive and well here."
But once again, the problem isn't one of race but one of economic disparities. As the article notes, perhaps unwittingly,
In a country where the distribution of wealth is more uneven than in virtually any other place in the world, the question of racial identity is hardly academic. Race does indeed matter here, sorting rich Brazilians from poor Brazilians in much the same way it does Americans and South Africans. To some, the country is a living, breathing rebuttal to the idea that racism will lose its currency as Americans increasingly intermarry and produce darker children.
So would universities support a program that targetted Appalachian poor white teens, complete with an Appalachian Student Center and an Appalachian dorm wing? Not likely. [Hat tip: PowerLine.]