GAPS AND MAN AT YALE: The microaggressions of Ivy League life!

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018

Part 1—As compared to the gaps of New Haven:
As far as we know, Andy Shallal had, and has, a perfectly decent idea.

Shallal is the founder of the Washington, D.C. restaurant-and-bookstore chain, Busboys and Poets, whose first location opened in 2005. Now there are six Busboys and Poets restaurants. Shallal has 600 employees.

Shallal's idea was to talk with his employees about race. In yesterday's Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai published a 2200-word portrait of the way the enterprise works.

From the report, it isn't entirely clear whether Shallal conducts these conversations as a way to improve the functioning of his restaurants, or just as a way to foster greater understanding. At any rate, Bhattarai sat in on several of Shallal's group discussions with new hires. One exchange went like this:
BHATTARI (5/20/18): [I]t is difficult, employees say, to chip away at intrinsic biases.

"As servers, we believe in stereotypes," a black woman in her 30s said during a recent training session. "Does that make us racist?"

Is it possible, she wondered aloud, to be a racist waiter but not a racist person?

(Shallal's answer: No.)

"How many of you have been surprised by a tip because you thought, based on a person's race, that it would not be good?" he asked. Almost every hand went up.

"We need to be more aware of what we bring to the table," Shallal said. "And what we bring is a lot of prejudice, a lot of preconceived notions and, yes, a lot of racism—whether we like it or not."
For ourselves, we almost surely would have answered that woman's questions differently. That doesn't mean that Andy Shallal doesn't have a good idea.

Is Shallal simply trying to foster understanding? Or is he also trying to reduce or eliminate the kinds of incidents in his restaurants which may be described as "microaggressions"—incidents which can turn into something much more serious, as occurred with the recent arrests of two men at a Philadelphia Starbucks?

We'll guess that he wants to do both. Regarding the desire to avoid possible microaggressions, we'll admit that we were slightly annoyed when we stumbled upon yesterday's report, which consumed the bulk of the front page of the Post's Business section.

We'll admit that we were slightly annoyed. It's because of the tedious research we'd been doing last weekend. And it's all because of Yale!

In the past few weeks, we've seen several more accounts of microaggressions committed against the poor abused students of Yale. It started when Yale police, rather politely, asked a graduate student to show them her college ID.

This led to an essay at Slate, in which a 2012 Yale graduate who now works for Google described the "unequal treatment" to which he was subjected when he was a student at Yale.

The writer described some undesirable experiences. That said, we'll have to be honest this once:

The writer had recently spent four years at Yale, gaining the highest type of credential our society provides. Given his current employment, we'll guess that he stands of the edge of admission into this country's economic elite.

We're going to be honest! Even after reading his account of life at Yale, he didn't exactly strike us as the wretched of the earth. This was especially true when we thought of the sacrifices made by those who came before him—by the people who suffered and died so that he could be one of the most privileged people in the history of life on the planet.

Such advantages don't mean that it's OK to be mistreated, or perhaps imperfectly treated, in some other way. But we'll have to admit—in the way he described his "unequal treatment" at Yale, his experience there didn't sound all that horrendous.

Meanwhile, in the face of his massive advantages, we couldn't help contrasting the microaggressions of which he complained to the situation of the black kids who are growing up in New Haven—the black kids who students at Yale may sometimes pass in the street.

Those generally low-income kids do not end up at Yale. Presumably, they deal with microaggressions too—but they're also saddled with this:
Where the average student stood
New Haven Public Schools, Grades 3-8, reading and math

White kids: 1.0 years above grade level
Hispanic kids: 1.6 years below grade level
Black kids: 1.6 years below grade level
Those data emerged from the recent nationwide study by Professor Reardon and two associates. According to Reardon's analysis, black kids in New Haven are performing 2.6 years behind their white counterparts, presumably by the start of sixth grade.

Those kids won't have to worry about going to Yale and being asked to show their ID on some lone occasion. They won't have to worry about microaggressions at Yale.

Instead, they have to worry about the major challenges facing their basic life prospects. These kids have a much tougher way to go than the poor abused students of Yale.

Once again, we need to understand what Reardon's numbers mean. Inevitably, his numbers are imprecise—but we should be clear about what the word "average" means:

In this context, it means that a substantial number of black kids in New Haven are more than 1.6 years below grade level at the start of sixth grade. (Elsewhere in Connecticut, the numbers for black kids are worse.)

They're more than 2.6 years behind the average white New Haven kid at the start of sixth grade. And in other parts of the Nutmeg State, white kids are substantially outscoring the white kids of New Haven, who comprised only twelve percent of the city's student population in Reardon's study.

When we read yesterday's report about Busboy and Poets, we thought about the endless supply of reports from our liberal and progressive world about the desire to eliminate various types of microaggressions. To the extent that Shallal can accomplish that task, he has a good idea, and he's running a good decent business.

That said, it has been two years since the New York Times reported on Reardon's nationwide study about racial achievement gaps. And right there where Busboys and Poets exists, his numbers looked like this:
Where the average student stood
D.C. Public Schools, Grades 3-8, reading and math

White kids: 2.7 years above grade level
Black kids: 2.2 years below grade level
Now that's an achievement gap—4.9 years at the start of sixth grade! That's the reality Reardon described, right there in our capital city, where we don't want restaurant-goers to encounter biased expectations concerning tips.

It's been two years since Reardon's study appeared in the New York Times. As always, the Times weirdly bungled its news report about the study. But the Times provided some fascinating interactive graphics which let us examine data from every school system in the country.

It's been two years since that report appeared in the Times. In that time, you have heard exactly nothing about what Reardon reported.

You haven't seen Reardon's report discussed on MSNBC. You have't seen it discussed at Slate.

Your favorite liberals don't discuss the burdens placed on the nation's low-income black kids. But those same favorite liberals won't stop talking about the indignities suffered by young black adults condemned to be students at Yale.

We read about every microaggression, every deeply offensive email concerning Halloween costumes. But what about the basic life prospects of the city's low-income kids?

If Andy Shallal can reduce microaggressions at Busboys and Poets, he has a good idea. That said, we progressives clearly care more about restaurant goers and Yale students than we do about struggling kids.

As the week proceeds, we'll look at the complaints which were voiced in that recent Slate piece. We'll also examine the achievement gaps which exist in our nation's liberal and progressive redoubts.

We liberals! We never hear about these gaps because we don't care about the people involved. We care about Yale and that's where it ends. Few things could be more clear.

Coming: The gaps on the streets where we live

Next week: Gaps and solutions


  1. This idea that if someone else is worse off than you are, you have no right to complain about your own problems, is flat wrong. There is no requirement that all of the world's problems be solved before those of Yale students can be addressed.

    Into each life a little rain must fall. Those kids in New Haven are not all living in poverty and misery. Some are having happy lives and doing fine. Some are not. Somerby seems to believe that one cannot be happy without doing well at school. I agree it is easier to achieve one's goals with a good education, but those scoring lower on the NAEP can still succeed on their own terms.

  2. "The writer had recently spent four years at Yale, gaining the highest type of credential our society provides."

    What is the highest type of credential? Is it an M.D. or a Ph.D.? It isn't a B.A. or B.S., the likely degree this journalist attained.

    Being stopped by police and asked for ID while doing what students do on campus, is more than a microaggression. It is harassment. Similarly, being mistreated while seeking coffee at a restaurant is harassment and discrimination, not a microaggression. A microaggression is having someone treat you with subtle disrespect, such as calling your white associate sir while not showing you the same respect. It is having a clerk imply that you cannot afford to buy the item you are asking about in a store. It is not an act such as calling the police on you for shoplifting when you have done nothing wrong. That is an actual aggressive act against you, not a microaggression.

    Somerby thinks that Yale students are too privileged by virtue of attending Yale and doing well at school to complain about anything in their lives. What an ass Somerby has become. Does he think Yale grads are never stopped for driving while black, never have the police called on them for entering their own houses, and so on? Education doesn't protect you from racial disparities like that.

    This is true for women too. Having a Yale degree doesn't protect you from being treated like your male colleague's assistant. It doesn't prevent you from interrupted or talked over in meetings. It doesn't mean your ideas will be listened to or that you won't be catcalled on the street or fondled in an elevator. It doesn't mean anything except that you have some level of skills and training with which to get a job or advance to the next degree program.

    Is a job where you are treated like the coffee boy better than the kind of job someone without a Yale degree can get? Depends on your temperament, but pretending that education eliminates discrimination is ridiculous.

    1. I don't think that Bob thinks that Yale students aren't permitted to complain about unequal treatment. I think he's questioning why our media outlets publicize these sorts of incidents but rarely deign to discuss the more serious issues affecting many more people in the community.

      I think that Bob's overstating the case a bit (I might have missed it, but he doesn't cite to MSNBC reporting about the Yale harassment), but his argument is different than what you're responding to.

  3. I wonder how much Somerby tips.

  4. Surely the point of that Slate article is that if discrimination exists even at Yale, it is still a problem for our society. It is also that access alone is not the goal, but acceptance of black students as legitimate students. That has not happened when such students are being treated as intruders on their own campuses.

    But Somerby trivializes this concern, as if racism is less of a concern for those breaking new ground by attending previously segregated institutions, because they are at least going to an elite school.

    Somerby sounds like the father who says "What are you whining about? Kids in China have it much worse off than you do. Shut up or I'll give you something to cry about." Showing more of that Malala-like empathy. Next he'll be saying that anyone above the 50th percentile on a NAEP test isn't entitled to complain about anything, privileged souls that they are.

    1. 12:03 PM will have you know, "I'm no ditto-head, I also believe trickle-down is the path to social justice."

    2. Weak stab at humor by the cliche-riddled phony progressive sloganeer.


  5. "For ourselves, we almost surely would have answered that woman's questions differently."

    Herein lies the problem. Somerby thinks someone shouldn't be called a racist, even when they are one. He perhaps objects to the idea that we all absorb the racism inherent in our society's culture, which makes us all racist to a degree. Maybe he wants to reserve that term for people who actively try to harm people because of their race. We'll never know because Somerby doesn't explain his own ideas directly. He hints, by saying cryptic things about quotes but won't ever commit himself to anything. But the hits add up.

    Like the waiter who wrote "beaner" on a Hispanic person's bill. Is that guy a racist? Well, he did something hostile to a person based on their race. Did he perhaps not understand that beaner is a derogatory term? Hard to believe. Is that a microaggression or an aggression? I think it is unlawful discrimination. Somerby probably thinks it is nothing because the beaner perhaps went to Yale.

    1. Bob is way too cryptic, but he has sometimes explained himself. As far as I recall, his point is that labeling someone a racist isn't constructive, even if it's true, because it tends to shut-down discourse.

    2. That would be easier to swallow if he didn't also think pushing back against bad faith arguments makes us "elitists".

    3. Did he say that he thinks pushing back against bad faith arguments turns us into elitists?

      That doesn't seem very logical.

      Maybe is suggesting the way in which we push back against bad faith arguments makes us sound like we are elitists.

      I would like to know on what you base that bit about the mere act of liberals pushing back against bad faith arguments on its own makes them elitists, period, full stop.

      I think it will be important to research and investigate as to if it is actually the way in which we push back. That Nuance could be very important because we are certainly viewed as elitist snobs. Dick heads. It is true that they hate us.

      I wonder if it is possible to find a way to change the way we argue against these silly, bad faith incredibly Orwellian bad faith arguments. Especially when those arguments were made to the rank-and-file.

      There has been some talk about trying to reframe these arguments in the perspective of the morality of the people to whom you were trying to make the argument, in this case the right-wing rank-and-file.

      I think a good first step is to always differentiate between the people at the top making the bad faith arguments and the rank-and-file who have been misled by them.

    4. "I wonder if it is possible to find a way to change the way we argue against these silly, bad faith incredibly Orwellian bad faith arguments. Especially when those arguments were made to the rank-and-file."

      Perhaps a media criticism blog, pointing out how the media allow the bad faith arguments to fester in the public eye through "he said/ she said", the false equivalence of the "both sides" schtick, and calling lies a "controversial" instead of the bullshit it actually is.
      Instead we get Somerby carrying water for phony Right-wing memes like "coastal elites looking down at those in flyover country".

  6. The breathtaking illogic of Somerby is once again on full display. Somerby "reasons" like this:

    Reardon's education report is not mentioned by Slate or MSNBC. Thus, "We liberals! We never hear about these gaps because we don't care about the people involved."

    He never tires of this kind of bogus assertion.

    As always, he chides "we liberals" for the behavior of the supposedly corporate, pseudoliberal media. He is once again equating the average liberal with the non-Fox corporate media, saying that their lack of concern demonstrates ours.

    I would also take issue with Somerby's untenable assumption that, because something isn't reported in Slate or on MSNBC that therefore liberals don't know about it. (How did the-only-true-liberal Somerby learn about the Reardon report? Ah yes...from the NYT. Surely, others read that as well?)

    A class in logic would benefit Somerby.

  7. Do you hope Mueller and "the chase" will bring Mr Trump down?

    Forget it.

  8. Comrades, why are we not more concerned about the damage David Dennison is doing to our great country? The signs are there. For instance, the Great One, Vladmir Putin, only scored 5 goals last game. Clearly he is losing the Motherland.

    Also, do you know where one can pick up a good potato vodka?

    1. If you're in St. Petersburg, check in with comrade Mao Cheng Ji.

  9. Leftists enjoy inflicting misery upon black people by telling them they are living in a racist society doomed. The life satisfaction of a leftist depends on the unhappiness of black people.

    1. Thanks.
      I just donated to BLM in the name of the Right-wing.
      Will you match my donation?

  10. I just have to note - in spite of the fact that the waitperson was apparently a horrible racist who had tip expectations based on race, they still apparently provided service that the person they were judging felt was worthy of a good tip.

    But never mind that, they are imperfect. Execute your prime function!

  11. ""As servers, we believe in stereotypes," a black woman in her 30s said during a recent training session. "Does that make us racist?""

    It's not "stereotypes" and it has nothing to do with racism, Bob.

    It's profiling. Perfectly rational attempt to deduce behavioral patterns based on the information available -- all information, including physical characteristics. That's how humans and animals survive in the world. That's why nature gave them functioning brains (lib-zombies are different, obviously).

    Profiling doesn't assert that people don't tip because their skin is dark. It just finds a correlation between skin hue (plus a million other characteristics) and the tipping patterns.

    1. "Perfectly rational attempt to deduce behavioral patterns based on the information available -- all information, including physical characteristics."

      That's how I realized Conservatives only make bad faith arguments.

  12. The major difference between White kids and Black kids in our schools is in family financial wealth. The average White family has over $100,000. The average Black family has less than $10,000. In most cities, the contrast is even greater with White households having over $150,000 and Black households having less than $2000.

  13. The incident at Yale that TDH refers to began when one Yale asshole (white) woke up another Yale asshole (black), who was sleeping in the common room at Graduate Hall. The first Yale asshole claimed that sleeping was not allowed in the common room. (This is very likely not a thing.) When the second Yale asshole refused to leave a spot she entitled to occupy, the first Yale asshole called the campus police to complain about a trespasser. The police showed up and asked the second Yale asshole for her school ID. Instead she showed them she had a key that opened the door to her room. For the good and sufficient reason that people sometimes end up with keys that don’t belong to them, the police insisted on an ID. Once they had the ID, the police went to check the enrollment lists on the good and sufficient reason that students who have left the university sometimes keep their IDs. And guess what? The second Yale asshole had somehow managed to arrange things so that the name on her ID didn’t match her name in the enrollment list. So it took the campus police a little longer to find out that the ID was valid.

    One might reasonably hope that someone had a quiet word with the first Yale asshole to tell her to become acquainted with her fellow graduate students and to stop trying to enforce nonexistent intramural rules. Likewise one might hope for a word to the second Yale asshole to sync her ID with her enrollment information. But one might also reasonably hope that exactly zero seconds and no column inches be expended to publicize the microproblems of smug, self-important, and over-privileged assholes resident at the Hall of Graduate Studies of Yale University.

    A stroll of about one mile will take one from the HGS to a New Haven neighborhood called The Hill, a contributor of children from grades 3-8 “saddled with” the achievement gaps noted in this blog entry. Among them probably not a single one as big an asshole as the two HGS residents. Nobody has done anything about conditions in The Hill for decades, except of course to make things worse by building the Oak Street Connector and allowing the Yale Medical School and Yale-Newhaven Hospital to take residential land out of circulation and off the tax rolls. But if we’re not going to spend time and press coverage on real problems like those in The Hill, at least we could forgo spending energy on assholes.

    1. 1. Are you sure the expansion of the hospital provided no jobs to people in The Hill.
      2. Are you at your best when awakened from a nap after working all night to finish a paper?
      3. Grad students are not automatically privileged, even at Yale.
      4. Your condescension comes across kind of assholey too.

    2. Discourteous AnonymousMay 21, 2018 at 11:35 PM

      Re: #4, with deadrat, that's a feature, not a bug.

    3. 1. The expansion of the Yale Medical Campus started in the early 2000s, when the unemployment rate for New Haven County was about 5%. That rate rose and then took off with the Bush Depression and only this year has returned to the 5% level. I doubt the gov keeps statistics by neighborhood, but you can be assured that The Hill lagged the county as a whole. So, no, I can’t say the expansion provided no jobs to people in The Hill. But, yes, I’m fairy sure it was no boon to the neighborhood. But hey, if you’ve got a list of jobs at the Yale Center for Stem Cell Research that went to Hill residents, hit me with it.

      2. I’m not my best at any time. What does this have to do with me? The sleepy Yale asshole apparently knew that the busybody Yale asshole wasn’t playing with a full deck. The smart play would have been to have picked up her papers and gone to her room, which was a short distance away. It rarely pays to engage with crazy people. But I understand that sometimes you don’t want to be bullied. The sleepy Yale asshole stood her ground. Fine. She videoed her micro-oppression at the hands of her micro-aggressor. Also fine. My objection is to anyone wasting news time on such a non-story.

      3. Grad students at Yale are automatically privileged. How do you figure they got to be grad students at Yale? In the underprivileged quota?

      4. Condescension? I was going for contempt. Are you calling me an asshole? OK, fine. I’m an asshole. How did this get to be about me? I’m either right or wrong, independent of whether I’m an asshole or not.

    4. Grad students are good at school. They also tend to live hand to mouth and spend all the time working at tasks most people wouldn't want to do. Most won't get a tenure track job (23% of faculty are on tenure track), even from Yale. So they'll work for a pittance at academic part-time jobs if they don't get discouraged and wuit first. Program attrition is 50%, even at places like Yale.

      These are 20-somethings and you are presumably an adult. I think you and Somerby should cut them some slack.

    5. You do realize, deadrat, that not all Yale students come from a privileged background. Yale seeks out academically qualified high school students from across the country and provides scholarships for those who can't pay. Most of these students end up in grad school. This contempt that you and Somerby exhibit is very in-MLK-like.

    6. Perry,
      They [graduate students] … spend all the time working at tasks most people wouldn't want to do.
      And for a broad swath of “disciplines” they spend all the time working at tasks not worth doing in first place. So what?

      Program attrition is 50%, even at places like Yale.
      What do you do, just make this shit up? Yale publishes statistics on its PhD programs. Median time to a degree is about six years. For 2005-2015, considering entering cohorts with 10% or fewer still-active students, the attrition rate never exceeds 20%. For entering years with no remaining active students, 2005 and 2006, the attrition rate was 15% and 19% respectively. Which means that 85% and 81% respectively were awarded PhDs. Go here:

      Most won't get a tenure track job
      Probably, but of those who got their Yale degrees from 2013 to 2017, about 75% were employed in 2018. Of those, about 30% of those were in business or government sectors.

      23% of faculty are on tenure track
      Not at Yale. Of the over 1200 full-time faculty, two-thirds are tenured or on tenure track.

      you are presumably an adult
      Well, I’m old.

      I think you and Somerby should cut them some slack.
      What “slack” would you like me to cut? I’m not telling these graduate students how to live their lives; I’m just saying no one should be wasting attention on them.

    7. Anonymous on May 22, 2018 at 12:25 AM,

      You do realize, deadrat, that not all Yale students come from a privileged background.
      Go ahead. Pull the other one. About 1 in 25 are from the top .1% in income; that’s the top one-tenth of one percent. The median family income is almost $200K. The top 20% in income make up almost 70% of the Yale undergraduate student body; the bottom 20%, about 2%

      Most of these students end up in grad school.
      Most? Have you met Perry? I think you two would get along. Of the plague that Yale College released on the world in 2017, only 15% went to graduate school. Only 4% were pursuing a PhD. Of the plague years going back to 2013, the highest percentage going to grad school was 20%.

      This contempt that you and Somerby exhibit is very in-MLK-like.
      I don’t think you should blame TDH for my contempt. Sure, it’s not worthy of MLK, but so what? My point is not that these students are contemptible — and I talked about only two — it’s that no one should waste a moment on their oh-so-untragic lives.

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