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%
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.
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