TheGrio Daily

The Merit Myth (Pt. 2)

Episode 10

“The American education system has never been color blind.” In part 2 of the Merit Myth, Michael Harriot continues to debunk the myth that everything white people got is through hard work. 

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Michael Harriot: [00:00:05] I’m Michael. Harriot is a world-famous wypipologist. And this is TheGrio Daily.

[00:00:11] Today, we continue our conversation on The Merit Myth.

Michael Harriot: [00:00:15] Race based admission policies mean unqualified minority students get accepted to college. That is simply not true. While university might allow, like Black students with lower test scores a grades to gain interest, colleges do not accept students who fail to meet the college’s minimum qualification standards. So like, for instance, let’s say a college had to have 1000 SAT score to get into the college, like they’re not letting Black students in with 800 SAT scores. What they’re saying is, okay, out of this pool of students who scored more than an 800 on the S.A.T., we’re going to make sure that we have a diverse class. Right. So some of those students might be Black students with a 1050 versus a white student with an 1100. Right. The best white students, they don’t have to worry about it. They’re not getting kicked out of classes. Mediocre white people, really, who complain. Right. Knowing those four things, like people still hate affirmative action and they use this thing called the merit myth to justify their argument.

Michael Harriot: [00:01:31] So the first thing to know is that the American education system ain’t never been race neutral. It never been color blind. White children get a better education. It’s a fact supported by hundreds, if not thousands of studies by education researchers, including the 2014 report by the Center for American Progress that showed that minority and low-income children get the least qualified teachers in 2012, schools across the country spend an average of $334 more on white students than they did on students of color. A 2015 study revealed that school funding decreases proportionately to the number of Black students at the school. In other words, the more Black students out of school, the few offers the school gets white. A 2016 national education report revealed that elementary schools with high minority populations have fewer librarians and smaller libraries. Remember we said that earlier? In fact, the poorest, mostly white districts on average have eight times as many libraries and librarians as the wealthiest high minority districts. Yet the abundance of data showing that inequality of America’s education system, but, we expect all that data, all those inequalities, all that racism in America’s education system to magically disappear after you graduate from high school and that everybody’s equal. Right.

Michael Harriot: [00:03:03] So when you are choosing between a Black student with a 1050 SAT score and a white student with an 1100 SAT score, chances are statistically that that student, that Black student, got less funding. He literally attended a school with fewer books. The teachers were statistically more likely to be less educated, and yet they are basically even with the white students. So if you are handicapping on the basis of reality, you would have to admit that a Black student with a 1050 is probably smarter because they have achieved more than a white student with an 1100 score. But the second thing is merit is subjective, right? The people who oppose affirmative action and race conscious admissions, they always say that “universities should only admit students on basis of merit.” They always say, “Oh, man, the college only should consider merit. They should only consider grades and standardized tests” and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And for them, you know, these tests and these test scores, that should be the end all, be all. But you got to solve this. But what exactly is merit? So besides all that stuff we said, we know that standardized college admissions tests are not a determinant of how well you’re going to do in college that are even determinative of how well you did in high school.

Michael Harriot: [00:04:50] Mostly what they determine is how rich your parents are, right, and what kind of neighborhood that you grew up in. According to a 2017 report by the Brookings Institute. White students outscore Black students by more than 100 points on the most popular college admissions test, the S.A.T. But, if you examine the tests by income instead of race, S.A.T. scores reflect that the children of richer and more educated families tend to do better than the poorer families. The combined SAT score of students for families who make more than $200,000 a year is like 400 points higher than students from low income families making less than $20,000 per year. And we also know that Black college students are as likely to find employment as white high school dropouts. And the average white college graduate has five times the wealth than the average Black college graduates, according to the Economic Policy Institute. We can shift the conversation to economic inequality and class. One question we’ve never addressed is why a Black family so much poorer? If we were to get a group of basketball players and ask them what method the NBA scouts would consider the tallest players would play like. Well, you know, I think we should just pick players by height and the smallest players. They’ll probably argue that ball handling is more important and quickness is the thing that matters. And shooters would say that scoring is the most important factor in being a good NBA player. And, you know, people who say, well, you know, I think we should hire people who have a big vertical leap. But the point is that the idea of merit is subjective and it often has no correlation to the ultimate goal, the academic success of a student. Whenever anybody mentions merit based admissions, what they really mean is things white people are good at.

Michael Harriot: [00:06:50] The biggest myth in college admissions is that college admissions, was ever merit based, it’s never been about grades or scores or even a standardized test or even accomplishment. Money, power and inside connections have always been a factor. A 2010 study of 30 elite colleges found that family connections to a particular institution outweighs athletic ability in grades and even the minority status. If we look at Harvard, which is like the gold standard of white people, schools, right? Most of who they admit are white people whose parents went to Harvard. Right. A recent lawsuit against Harvard, reveal the whole game. Ya’ll know Harvard like the gold standard. It’s supposed to be like “only smart people go to Harvard.” But that’s not true, right? A recent lawsuit showed that if you have a parent or a relative who went to Harvard, they’re admitted at a rate of five times more than non legacy students. And that’s according to the school’s own newspaper, The Crimson. And all the legacies are predominantly white because, you know, they didn’t really allow Black people in. The 2018 complaint says that 21.5% of Harvard’s white students were legacy admissions, compared to only 4% of Black students. And a 2004 study by researchers at Princeton found that having a parent who attended an Ivy League school was the equivalent of a 160 boost to a SAT score. Aside from legacy status donations, athletic scholarships, musical ability and dozens of other factors outside of academics can boost. Somebody says to get into like a real good college.

Michael Harriot: [00:08:38] But. Whiteness is the thing that will get you in statistically more than any kind of athletic ability, any kind of grades, any kind of standardized test. Private institutions across the country were founded by religious groups and organizations for the specific purpose of offering education only to the people in their group. Like Baptist colleges were for students whose parents went to Baptist churches, and the idea of a merit based education system has always been a myth. Right? Whenever anyone takes a peek behind the curtain, one thing becomes abundantly clear. Affirmative action has always existed for white people. Why? Because if white people didn’t have to compete against Black people for most of this country’s history, all of the white people who got into colleges were getting in all white affirmative action. Affirmative action has always existed for white people. Now, here’s the fourth point I want to make. The first, colleges are better colleges, right? The argument against building more racially diverse student bodies is seeing ways that, like, if you got all white people at a college who got 1800 on the SATs, it’ll be a better college. But, that don’t work like that. Right.

Michael Harriot: [00:10:01] So let me tell you the story. I went to a college Auburn university that had this huge engineering department. And every year they would have a race. They would create a solar car and have a race to see which team could create a solar car that lasted the longest and could win a race. And one of my fraternity brothers, he was in this contest, and they could not figure out how to get basically the sun. To produce enough energy to power something that could propel a car. Right. Because, you know, a car is heavy. But then there was this dude that’s like a 12 year old Black kid in the neighborhood. So this kid, he had a side hustle, right? He would build these tall bikes that were like six feet tall. And the only way you could propel them was because he created this system of chains and pulleys that made it easy to pedal the bikes. And, you know, this kid used to love to come and hang around our apartment with my frat brothers and one day he was like, “You should use chains, bicycle chains, like how I do it and just weave them through instead of just using, like, a pulley on a motor.” And the team kind of took that idea and ran with it and they won that race. And my point is. That a diversity of ideas, right? Like you could have all of the engineers in your pocket that you want. Right. But if all of them all have the same basis for learning, you’re not going to figure things out. Diversity is what creates a better educational environment.

Michael Harriot: [00:11:54] The merit myth really has nothing to do with race based admission policies. The reason they hate affirmative action has nothing to do with standardized test scores or how hard they work in school or even white feminists. What it’s about is they’re skewed white people. For the most part of this country have never had to compete, especially white males. They’ve never had to compete white. They’ve always had a version of affirmative action. But now they have to compete on an equal playing field, but not really. See, they don’t have to go to those underfunded schools. They don’t have to go to those libraries with fewer books. They still don’t have to compete. But they’re still whining because they’re looking for the future. They know that one day. They’re going to have to go head to head with Black people and nonwhite people all across this country. And they are deathly afraid of that. That’s. The real replacement with. We’re going to replace mediocrity with Black excellence. That’s the real replacement theory, and that’s what they’re really afraid of. But merit. Don’t tell me about no merit. Do you think all of those white people who were in all of those positions of power before 2022, do you think they were smarter? Do you think that white people are genetically engineered to be more intelligent than Black people? Do you think that there is a standardized test that was created to eliminate minorities and nonwhite people can somehow measure the value of a person’s brain?

Michael Harriot: [00:13:55] And the last thing I want to tell you about. Is the idea of intelligence. Right. So think about this. Right. Let’s go back to sports. Right. Because I like sports. Think about Steph Curry. Right. We say Steph Curry is athletically gifted because, you know, he can throw a ball into a hoop from a long way away. But what is hand-eye coordination? Right. He’s not bigger. She’s not stronger. What he’s doing when he’s throwing in a three pointer from half court while he’s fading away is really his mind has the ability to calculate a parabola faster than yours or mine in almost any white persons. And, to send that signal to his muscles faster. Right. That’s essentially what hand-eye coordination is. It is a form of intelligence. But that aint on no S.A.T. score. How about that little dude I was talking about who figured out himself without a textbook, without a manual, how to string those bicycle chains together to produce less resistance by what is essentially a series of pulleys and levers. That’s a form of intelligence.

[00:15:21] How about people who can hear a note and automatically mimic it with their voice? Now we call that talent. We call that an ability to sing. But that is essentially a form of intelligence because it is their brain telling their bodies how to reproduce a audio vibration. But that ain’t on a S.A.T Tests. And it’s curious that the only things that are on the S.A.T. is the things that white people do well, the things that they already have an advantage in because not because they’re smarter or better at math or better at English. But because they got more funds in this school, the libraries literally have more information for the students at those schools. And they think they have merit when all they have is whiteness.

Michael Harriot: [00:16:24] And as always, will leave you with another Black saying, remember, everything ain’t for everybody and whiteness just ain’t for me. Thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download the Grio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at thegrio dot com. [00:16:49][25.6]

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