The University Record, July 17, 2000


The University Record welcomes letters from members of the University community. Those on topics of broad University interest will be given preference for publication. Letters should be no more than 500 words in length and must be signed. The editorial staff reserves the right to reject any letter and to edit and/or condense letters for publication. The editorial staff also may limit the numbers of weeks letters may be published on an issue, and the number of times any one person’s viewpoint on a single issue will be published. Letters may appear in small type. Organizations submitting material must include the name and address of an appropriate officer. Letters must be received by noon Wednesday to receive consideration for publication in the next issue.

Cohen’s ‘injustice argument suspect’

In his letter to the Record (June 19) arguing against racial preferences in admissions, Carl Cohen says, “. . . to give by race is to take by race—and every white student who would otherwise have been admitted but was rejected because his or her skin was the wrong color, was rejected 100 percent. Injustice is not excusable because it is done only to a few.”

Nicely worded statement, but off the point. The argument about race in this country is not really about skin color, since “whites” can be technically darker than “blacks” or “browns.” It’s not really about “ethnicity,” either, since most blacks and browns come from a variety of peoples and cultures. It’s about the hierarchy of categories we have created, where anyone with even a minute amount of African ancestry is called “black” and consigned to the most inferior status, and other “racial” groups are strategically placed between this and the most privileged “white” category. It’s this background, this context, that makes Cohen’s “injustice” argument suspect.

Considering “race” in admissions really means (or perhaps, should mean) considering the injustice that is done daily, as well as the historical effects of that injustice, and trying in some small way to rectify it.

Helen Fox, lecturer in English and the Residential College Social Science Program