THE DOUBLE HARVARDS: Few embellishments left behind!

FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2022

Seeing the glass very empty: When Storyline crawls upon the land, few embellishments get left behind.

The story must be made better—or possibly worse. Consider a throw-away characterization found in a front-page report in the New York Times about Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The report began with a somewhat murky account of an incident which occurred while she was an undergraduate at Harvard. We'd say that a type of embellishment lurks in the highlighted description:

GREEN (3/21/22): Ms. Coakley and other longtime friends from Harvard said the reaction of their classmate, now Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, was emblematic of how she navigated one of the most elite and white institutions in the country—after being discouraged from even applying. In the end, her experience at Harvard illustrates how Judge Jackson, 51, has long recognized how America’s conflicting views of race and justice shape the world around her. She has embraced her identity while refusing to let affronts to it distract her.

Is Harvard "one of the most elite institutions in the country?" The school is certainly viewed that way, and so the answer is basically yes.

That said, is Harvard also "one of the most white institutions in the country?" Applying normal rules of interpretation, that seems to be what the highlighted descrpiton says.

It's hard to know what such a claim even means, but it makes the preferred story worse. That said, just how "white" is Harvard today? According to a somewhat comical set of Harvard College statistics, this is the racial / ethnic breakdown of students who were admitted to the class of 2025:

Students admitted to Harvard College, Class of 2025:
African American: 15.9%
Asian-American: 25.9%
Hispanic or Latino: 12.5%
Native American: 1.1%
Native Hawaiian: 0.5%

According to the somewhat comical Harvard graphic, the school apparently didn't admit anyone who is "white!" 

(For the record, we're looking here at students who were granted admission, not necessarily at those who will attend.)

Harvard grads—and New York Times journalists—can probably do the math. Those numbers seem to mean that something like only 42% of admitted students were non-Hispanic white. (We're subtracting a couple of points for kids who are biracial.)

We'll guess that most people would be surprised to learn that modern-day Harvard College is so less-than-thoroughly white. We'll guess that you could find quite a few institutions which are actually a bit more white—for example, the editorial board at the Times.

That said, embellishment is the reliable norm when Storyline conquers the land. Tribunes will reliably make the preferred story better—or they'll make it even worse.

Briefly, let's be fair. Harvard College wasn't non-white to that extent when Judge Jackson studied there in the class of 1992. Then too, there's the question of Harvard Law School, where the future Justice Jackson studied next.

After Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court was consented to by the Senate, the New York Times interviewed eight black women who are currently enrolled at Harvard Law. Just like that, a bungled statistic made the preferred story worse:

QIU (4/8/22): The hostile questioning Judge Jackson faced at her confirmation hearings was all too familiar, some women said, reminiscent of their own experiences in classrooms and workplaces.

Her nomination also highlighted the relative rarity of Black women in the legal profession. Only 4.7 percent of lawyers are Black and just 70 Black women have ever served as a federal judge, representing fewer than 2 percent of all such judges. As of October, about 4.8 percent of those enrolled in the law program at Harvard, or 84 people, identified as Black women, compared with just 33 Black women in 1996, when Judge Jackson graduated.

Those statistics are “isolating,” said Mariah K. Watson, the president of the association. “But there’s a comfort in community. There’s a comfort in shared experience. And now we have a role model who’s shown us what it’s going to take.”

We've highlighted the bungled statistic. Let's start with a presumably accurate statistic—one which is simply a bit misleading, in a Storyline-friendly way.

Presumably, it's true! Presumably,  fewer than 2 percent of all federal judges have been black women.

Of course, that takes us back through the sweep of American history, during the bulk of which no women, of any race, were federal judges at all. The statistic makes the story seem agreeably worse, but it has nothing to do with the state of the matter today.

We'd call that a (somewhat) misleading statistic. The bungled statistic concerns the state of the matter at Harvard Law School today. 

We're told that only 4.8 percent of those enrolled at Harvard Law are black women, even today. The Times links to these official statistics, where one can see that the proffered percentage is bungled. 

To wit:

Among the 1510 students for which the law school lists a race or ethnicity, 858 are listed as "white." The other 652 are listed as "people of color."

(The school lists no race or ethnicity for its 157 "nonresident alien" students. For an additional 80 students, the school lists race / ethnicity as "unknown.")

Of the 1510 students for which the school lists a race or ethnicity, it does list 84 as black women. (The school lists an additional 46 students as biracial women.) Those 84 black women are actually 5.6% of the total, a percentage which may start coming close to matching the percentage of black women in the national population. 

None of this speaks to the sense of isolation such women may feel at this school. But when Storyline starts to conquer the land, the outright errors, and the omissions, will tend to make the preferred story better—or, as in this case, will tend to make things seem worse.

Little of this is Judge Jackson's doing or fault. That said, our tribe's reporting of her nomination and confirmation has strongly tended toward Storyline—toward Storyline all the way down. 

The questioning was "vicious," we say. It was "shocking" when  a senator we think of as white dared to try to "educate" her, given the fact that she's black.

In the way the story has been told, the story is littered with markers of racism—racism real and invented. Our "journalists" keep making the preferred story worse. We insist on seeing the glass very empty, not as increasingly full.

In the process, we dwell on real or imagined insults to Senator Booker's "Double Harvards," even as we ignore the needs of low-income kids nationwide. We dote upon the talented tenth. The others—all those good, decent kids—can pretty much hang in the yard.

We leave you today with the dueling narratives we mentioned yesterday. Do black women still have to be twice as good—possibly even three times as good—to get an even shake?

For that, we turn to a quartet of Double Harvards. We refer to Judge Jackson and her three undergraduate roommates, all of whom went on to Harvard Law.

Four out of four got admitted to Harvard Law School! Based on their subsequent achievement, we know of absolutely zero reason to think that they shouldn't have been.

That said, when you consider those four admissions—when you look at the admission statistics we've posted above—are you sure that black women still have to be twice as good to get an even break from institutions like Harvard?

Our utterly ridiculous, performative tribe will tell the story that way forever. But setting Storyline to the side, is that story still true? 

For a final marker of societal progress, we'll turn to one of the eight women at Harvard Law to whom the New York Times spoke. 

Her name is Abigail Hall; she's plainly a good, decent person. When she spoke to the Times, a hint of that preferred Storyline may perhaps have broken through:

QIU: Abigail Hall, 23, had always wanted to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, but she conceded that “if I have to be second, I’m fine being second to K.B.J.”

“She’s had to meet every single mark and she hasn’t been able to drop the ball,” Ms. Hall said. “And that’s something that’s ingrained in us, in terms of checking every box, in order to be a Black woman and to get to a place like Harvard Law School.”

For starters, good for Hall! Despite what Charles Blow said in his recent column, she already knew that she, a young black woman, could someday serve on the Court. 

That said, a certain hint of an old Storyline may appear in that reference to checking every box. Do young black women still have to be twice as good? According to this profile, the following is also true of this self-confident young woman:

Abigail chooses Harvard after been accepted by over 15 other Law Schools: Columbia Law School,  University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Cornell Law School, University of Chicago, Law School, University of Virginia School of Law, Vanderbilt Law School, Duke Law School, Notre Dame Law School, The George Washington University Law School, Emory Law School, Howard University School of Law, Temple University–James E. Beasley School of Law, University of Miami School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, Tulane University Law School.

Young black women may even be in demand at these elite institutions! It's no longer 1955, unless you insist on reciting the childish offerings pimped by our own failing tribe as it stumbles ahead with its current moral panic.

The Double Harvards are doing OK. Low-income kids, maybe not.

The horrible, dumb elites of our tribe care, or at least pretend to care, about those in the first group. As we noted last week for the ten millionth time, those decent, deserving low-income kids are still being totally left behind wherever our hapless journalistic elites crawl about on the land.

Simply put, we simply don't care. According to some political observers, some voters are starting to notice this fact, in an array of groups.

Still coming: Some odds and ends


  1. Somerby wants to show that Harvard is not one of the most white institutions in the country, so it uses statistics for today, not for 30 years ago when Jackson would have been there. That is plainly dishonest. A few paragraphs down, Somerby says: "Briefly, let's be fair. Harvard College wasn't non-white to that extent when Judge Jackson studied there in the class of 1992." If so, why present the misleading statistics in the place of prominence in his essay? Then Somerby has the nerve to go on and chastise a journalist -- after making, not a bungle, but a deliberately misleading use of stats!

    1. The quote was "one of the most elite and white institutions in the country" - present tense.

      So Somerby asked, "Is Harvard 'one of the most elite institutions in the country?'"

    2. The quote was actually "navigated one of the most elite and white..." so I retract my last comment, apologies.

  2. "Young black women may even be in demand at these elite institutions!"

    Whoa, "may even be", dear Bob? Please, stop being coy. We know and you know how things work in this world. Two words: affirmative action.

    ...otherwise, why did our dear Pocahontas check the 'Native American' box in her application...

  3. Wait until the imaginary Republican voters, who care about something other than bigotry and white supremacy, you know, the ones that Rationalist can't name, find out Republican politicians have focused on making abortion illegal, not speaking about gays in schools, and are suppressing the votes of minorities, instead of focusing on the rigged economy and how they can help Rural republican voters economically. Republicans may never get another vote in any election. LOL.

    1. The victories recently won in Republican states did not really organize evangelical bigots, they just organize regular people. You know how there are regular people living all over the world that don't match a feverish description you want to smear them with.

    2. 1:17,
      Agreed. They vote for Republican bigotry, because they don't really care if the economy is rigged.

    3. It's worse than that. They know nothing about economics.
      It's purely coincidence, "Let's go Brandon!" makes way more economic sense than supply-side.

    4. "You know how there are regular people living all over the world that don't match a feverish description you want to smear them with. "

      I do. What kind of close-minded shitheel would think LGBTQ+ people aren't regular? Even worse, what kind of fascist would be okay with them being ostracized by society?

    5. “The Others” want them ostracized. But just like slavery, I’m sure Somerby considers that just a regional difference that “urban” progressives should respect.

    6. The thing about OP here is that they are not interested in being accurate, or having productive debate. They are interested in denigrating Somerby and anyone that dares to support him.

      That is their defined goal and then the "logic" they use is simply to find any means to that end.

      This isn't supposition, it's self-evident from their absolute thinking and politicized way of viewing every issue.

      And they love to take a swipe at me and state ridiculous things like that I have to name the Republican voters that aren't bigots. Are they going to recognize the names of these voters that I know? Of course not but to them it's scoring a logical point. Good times.

    7. Or perhaps the commenters are trying to set the record straight because they disagree with him?

      I possibly know some Republicans who might not be bigots, but they outsource the bigotry to their politicians and media people, who are busy trying to prevent minorities from voting and outlawing gays again. That I think is the implication of the somewhat hyperbolic comments.

    8. Well thank you mh! Despite also writing "possibly", "might" and "implication", "somewhat"... have written "hyperbolic". Cheers!

      I hope you have a good weekend.

    9. Rationalist,
      Nice call out of mh's hyperbole. There's no way he knows any Republicans who might not be bigots.

    10. Rationalist,
      Can you really call them "Republican voters", if they won't vote for Republicans because they don't care for the bigotry?
      OTOH, if they are still voting for Republicans despite the bigotry, at east tell us what it is about the Republican Party they support.

    11. So many people are turned off by Democrats these days. The party has become the party of big business and pretty much totally under corporate control.

    12. It's odd that you have all this opportunity to flip red states and mostly what's holding this back is a refusal to acknowledge it's possible, because everyone in Texas likes to chew on straw.

    13. There's 50 states and two big parties. It's easier to just paint the whole country red and blue, but Georgia and Republicans are not a perfect venn diagram. There are conservatives in New York as well, despite it being a blue state. There's also people with a mix of politics that don't fit neatly into a single label.

    14. It is even worse than the comments suggest. Republicans will suffer, economic hardship, etc., as long as people of color are suffering worse.

      This is always what the American Dream has been about. You wage slaves will not get anything but a tiny piece of the pie, but right wingers guarantee it will always be a slightly bigger piece than what people of color get (that dollar in a White person's pocket is only 15 cents in a Black person's pocket).

      Meanwhile, 60 people hold as much wealth as half the world population.

      Y'all support Somerby and Republicans, right wingers, etc. if that is your compunction, but you are getting conned and scammed.

    15. Nobody here really likes Republicans. There's just a dispute over how to intelligently gather the clout and respect to defeat them. For Bob this means being respectful to everyone, seeing an example. For me personally, the Christian right is a mess and I'll settle for Texans and Georgians who agree with me. I don't want to show them respect, I would rather not think of them at all.

    16. 6:55,
      Do you suppose Republicans are calling the Democratic Party "communists", because they are mouth-breathing morons, who don't understand anything at all, or is it because they are lying in service of bigots?
      Inquiring minds want to know.

    17. Rationalist,
      I'll buy that not all Republican voters care about bigotry, as soon as you can show that not understanding basic economics and being a bigot are mutually exclusive.

  4. "The statistic makes the story seem agreeably worse, but it has nothing to do with the state of the matter today."

    First, no black person considers their lack of representation among judges to be "agreeable."

    Second, the statistic is true. The reasons do not reflect well on white people who excluded blacks from the vote during that long time period, jury service, work as prosecutors or attorneys, and ultimately service as judges because of this blocked pipeline to citizenship. Somerby wishes to minimize this long period by claiming that it is not true now and thus is a statistical bungle by Qiu. That does not excuse history and the wrong done to black people, including black women, which was correctly stated by Qiu. Somerby says: "We'd call that a (somewhat) misleading statistic." Well, given his deception at the beginning of the essay, he ought to know.

    Then he goes on to claim that Qiu bungles a statistic by considering as black, only those explicitly stated to be black by Harvard. That is the correct way to report, since she cannot know whether those listed as people of color or decline to state are black in the sense of African American, the people who have been historically excluded from participation in our legal system and full citizenship. And yes, it is a small number. It is not correct to include foreign students because they have no legacy in the USA and were not affected by the 13, 14 & 15th Amendments and failure to enforce them until the 1960s-1970s. Given when those amendments were added to our constitution, the failure up until now to include a black woman on our Supreme Court is egregious, unconscionable. And Somerby fiddles with stats as if any number he came up with would contradict this obvious and shameful history.

    And this is what white supremacist attempts to cling to white power look like. It is bigotry and Somerby should be ashamed to advance such arguments.

    Needless to say, Qiu has not made mistakes and Somerby's accusations against her, which can besmirch her career, are just plain evil. She wasn't wrong, she didn't do anything to him and she doesn't deserve such treatment.

  5. If I were to say that Somerby's arguments are gone with the wind, it would be an obvious reference to a novel that was critical of the North and defended the South during the civil war, a revisionist historical romance.

    When Somerby says in the context of a discussion of civil rights and equal educational opportunity "The others—all those good, decent kids—can pretty much hang in the yard." Somerby is using a phrase that refers to lynching. He isn't talking about laundry. He is alluding to the Jim Crow practice of terrorism against black people that kept them from asserting their rights in the South following the end of the Civil War up until the renewed civil rights movement (initiated in the North) in the 1950s-1970s. And we have only just now passed a federal anti-lynch law!

    This isn't cute or clever of Somerby. It is majorly offensive. It is a way of thumbing his nose at civil rights and the aspirations of black people, in this case black women, by camouflaging his animosity toward black people, including those black kids who Somerby calls deserving but left behind when he became a full-time comedian.

    This is ugly and it is covert but it is obvious to those who are the target of racism in our culture. Somerby has no excuse for writiing this stuff. And clearly, he is no liberal. Far from it.

    My personal belief is that he DOES read his comments and that when we complain about what he writes, it makes it all the sweeter for him, because it is a form of acting out, much like the passive aggressive shit he pulled with his mother.

  6. It would be interesting to see an interview with a Black woman, who isn't in the elite. After the questions about role models and all that, they could start talking about what now materially changes in her life? The conversation could go very off script.

    1. I'm asking the media to include poor people, I don't know how racist that really is.

    2. Poor people do not have the time or energy to become experts in things reported in the media.

      The media issues reports about poor people, loves to put the-poor-person-on-the-street on camera for on the fly interviews, but right wingers think poor people are yuck and push the false narrative that those on the Left are virtuous only in a performative manner.

      1:27 the material changes are obvious, the SC is going about the business of banning abortion, getting rid of environmental protections, blocking universal/single payer health insurance, protecting gun ownership, banning contraceptives is in the works, reversing Loving is quite possible, on and on, oof dude, let's just charitably say you are having an off day.

    3. Well, I'll say you're half right, the court does affect poor people. It's a good thing to have Jackson on it. But, reality check, she's not rebalancing the court. One liberal in and one liberal out.

      I see your point about expertise but you don't have to be an expert to say what your struggles are.

  7. The Democratic party, apparently led by Joe Manchin, now has nominated a predatory mortgage lender to a top banking job. The housing bubble wiped out massive amounts of black wealth and there's so little accountability. But tell me about how Harvard is white.

    1. Which nominee are you talking about?

    2. Barr

    3. He has Elizabeth Warren’s support. And he has published: “His first book, Building Inclusive Financial Systems, published in 2007, is about the obstacles that households, the rural poor, and micro-enterprises face when trying to meet their financial needs.

      In 2009, Barr published Insufficient Funds, which was co-edited by former Ford School Dean Rebecca Blank. The book is about the results of a 1,000-person, in-depth field research study conducted in Detroit. It found that low-income families pay more for financial services and supplement mainstream banking services with alternative lenders, such as payday lenders and pawn shops.”

      It isn’t clear that he’s just another elitist Dem who doesn’t care about low-income kids, or whatever nonsense Somerby keeps claiming.

      And your comment is typical of how Democrats get hammered from all sides.

      When they praise Judge Jackson, they get hammered by Somerby for only caring about elites. When they (Elizabeth Warren for example) advocate Medicare for All, Somerby and Kevin Drum attack progressive Democrats for being too left for the general public.

      And when progressives attack Manchin, Somerby attacks the progressives. No winning!

    4. Yes it's only the federal reserve board, which is in charge of mortgage relief. I can't believe I got suckered into a silly distraction like his actual record, instead of obeying Queen Democrat.

    5. What will Barr do, or not do, that you will disagree with?

    6. The fed has the power to speed up or slow down the economy with interest rates.

      They also decide mortgage relief. So that's the biggest reason he shouldn't be there. He's a predatory lender getting a job in the government. That's not right. We can't reward him for trapping people in debt. Did anyone bother to check if they even paid it off?

  8. So, what WAS the breakdown of white students in 1992,
    a point slightly managed by Green's claim, though it's actually not that hard to see that was what Green
    was talking about in this article? (An article
    that is something of a puff piece anyway.)
    If BOB was actually interested in what he is
    pretending to be interested in, surely he would
    let us know. It's probable that's not the easiest
    statistic to put your finger on, but can we
    seriously believe Bob really tried?
    Jackson's appointment to the Court was close to
    a done deal from the start, it was highly
    unlikely any Democrat was going to vote against
    her. So the story, it could fairly be argued,
    was somewhat overplayed from the outset. The
    historic significance of the first black female
    Justice is not deniable, though the constant
    harping on these firsts is an obvious consideration
    thrown at the black demographic in liberal
    news outlets. It shouldn't make us crazy to
    admit such things.
    What DID make this more newsworthy is the
    crude behavior of the Republican Senators
    who overwhelming voted against this obviously
    qualified choice (and no, Clarence Thomas, for
    instance, was never obviously qualified for reasons
    that had nothing to do with Long Dong Silver).
    Into the general file of such crude behavior,
    we must now include Bob's.

    1. Yeah it is weird that Somerby focused on this article, completely ignoring all the articles that discussed how Jackson's sentencing was the norm, and that the kid in the case Repubs (who have an extraordinarily high number of child molesters in their ranks) got worked up about turns out was psychologically assessed as not being a pedo, not a danger to children, even Hawley's kids.

      If I had a cherry farm, I'd hire Somerby!

  9. One black woman who was twice as good got accepted at multiple schools. Another black woman who was only 1-1/2 times as good didn't get accepted anywhere. Why? Because you have to be twice as good to be considered at all. There is competition for the top black students, but there is not the same competition for those who are not at the top. Whereas white students can get accepted despite mediocre grades and scores. The point is that many white students don't have to be twice as good as anyone else to get in. They have to be related to an alum.

    Note that Jackson was counseled not to apply to Harvard despite being twice as good, the top student in her high school.

    "A study of thirty elite colleges, found that primary legacy students are an astonishing 45% more likely to get into a highly selective college or university than a non-legacy. Secondary legacies receive a lesser pick-me-up of 13%."

    "Having a loose connection such as great aunt Merle, a grandparent, or a sibling qualifies you as being a “secondary legacy” and can be slightly helpful in the admissions process. A direct parental connection means that you are designated as a “primary legacy” which can be a major boost to your admissions prospects.",me%2Dup%20of%2013%25.

    Somerby seems to think that no one should care about those top black students because they have it made. But how did they get to be top students? What kind of help and encouragement made a difference for them before they were seniors? When you ignore top students they don't apply to top schools because they tend to lack the academic self-confidence and don't have any perspective on their competitiveness. They don't know that top schools will compete for them so they apply to lesser schools where they may pay more in tuition (Harvard is well-endowed in contrast to mid-range schools) and receive a degree that will open fewer doors for them. But Somerby and his white frat bros will love that because it will leave more places for their less qualified white male peers to occupy those Harvard dorm rooms.