April 11, 2015

JEFF YANG: The Sad Racial Farce of Mindy Kaling’s Brother:

Recently, however, Kaling’s brother Vijay Chokalingam unveiled a project of his own, and while it has been getting a lot of attention, it hasn’t generated quite as many laughs — either from observers or from his famous sibling, who told him it brought “shame upon their family.”

You see, Chokalingam revealed that, as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, he engaged in a daring (his view) or ridiculous and offensive (pretty much everyone else) scam: He applied to medical school claiming to be African-American.

Chokalingam had spent his college years as a “hard-partying frat boy,” and achieved a less than stunning 3.1 GPA. Upon facing graduation and exploring his med school options, he realized that fellow Indian-Americans with his grades were getting turned down from the universities of his choice — but that “black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants with my grades and test scores were much more likely to gain acceptance.”

This revelation led him to make the decision to pose as a black man, both to “dramatically improve” his chances of admission, and to illustrate the unfair advantage that blacks and other underrepresented minorities receive when applying to prestigious schools.

To accomplish this goal, Chokalingam shaved his head of its naturally wavy black locks, trimmed his “long Indian-American eyelashes,” checked “black” under the optional race/ethnicity declaration and submitted his application to 14 schools under his childhood nickname “JoJo.”

He received invitations for in-person interviews at 11 schools, results that he claims support the notion that African-Americans garner special privileges that are unavailable to whites or Asians. And now that the statute of limitations on his act of fraud has expired, he’s looking to write a book on his experiences, titled “Almost Black: The True Story of an Indian American Who Got Into Medical School Pretending to Be an African American.”

Sigh.

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