Dear Internet, comics don’t make up for bad facts


Artifice cofounder and Hipster Hacker Scientist Scholar, James, helps a student learn CSS. (Student’s face blurred to protect the minor.)


Okay, Internet, Artifice has an awesome Volunteer Coordinator—Hi, Anne!—and a much better schedule these days, so I’m going to try to be back forrealz this time. First up on my agenda as a smart-splainer on the world wide web: Buzzfeed. I know it’s not the height of well-researched journalism or anything, but the popularity of the articles on Buzzfeed make it important nonetheless. Which is why a recent one on the topic of white privilege really got under my skin. You take a really important issue that’s sensitive and needs to be explained logically and then murder the logic in it, but ad cartoons and Ye Olde Internet’s response is… “Rejoice!” Ugh. Problems are as follows:


When it comes to school, I’m 78% more likely to be admitted into a university because of my race. A POC with my exact same grades only has about a 22% chance.

No, no, no, no, no. A POC with the same grades as a white candidate has a 22% chance of being admitted (I assume, based on her research). The white candidate is not 78% more likely. These add up to 100% for a reason. And technically, what one can say about these numbers is that, if admitted with GPA X.XX, there is a 22% chance that that candidate is a POC.

Also, it’s not necessarily because of race, per se. Don’t get me wrong, there’s structural racism at work out the wazoo here. BUT, there’s a shamefully good chance that the school district a POC attends sucks, comparatively. I currently live in one of the most racially divided cities in America and work with Black youth at a not-good public school. Most of them are in honors, AP, or even IB courses. Usually this means mounds of homework such that college seems like a joke by comparison. They almost never have homework. They also can’t type, spell, or do basic algebra. It infuriates me that we’re letting these kids think that the world will see them as “smart” (which they are!) because they get C’s and higher at a failing school. Even with a great GPA, these kids would be nowhere near prepared to enter a place like my alma mater without the help of some of the wonderful programs out there, such as the Collegiate Scholars Program, in which we are trying to enroll a student currently. 

Furthermore, about 63% of the country identifies as non-Hispanic white (don’t even get me started on these terms). While I’ve been unable to find what percentage of college applicants are white, I’m guessing it’s higher than 63%. In 1990, non-Hispanic whites accounted for 69% of the under-18 population; that number was 61% in 2000 and 54% in 2010. If every single eligible student applied for college, we would expect non-Hispanic white applicants to be, ballpark, 60% of the total and thus, ballpark, 60% of admitted students.

So, yes, it’s still possible that whites are disproportionately admitted and if that’s true, it is because of race, but it’s not likely to be overt racism on the part of the application reviewers as the Buzzfeed article seems to suggest.

    2.  STATISTICS!!!

Once I’m admitted, I’m more likely to recieve [sic] my degree.

Seeing as the article doesn’t actually mention what percentage of college attendees are POCs, I’ll fall back to the author’s probably misused figure of 22%. If 22% of people admitted are POCs, but 29% of people receiving Bachelor’s degrees are POCs, THEY ARE DOING BETTER THAN WHITES at receiving their degrees. The author is not “more likely to [receive her] degree” because of her whiteness, she is more likely, if receiving a Bachelor’s degree, to be white. Which we should expect, given that white youth are still a majority in this country. There is no structural racism at work in these figures (which isn’t to say it isn’t there—don’t get me started on City Colleges and their horrific “pay for 2 semesters of math that don’t count toward a degree” model) and in fact, they reflect a commitment to seeing youth of color through to graduation. Yay!

    3.  STATISTICS!!!!!!!!

The likelyhood [sic] that I will go to prison in my lifetime is about 4 – 11%. A POC’s chances run to about 44 – 50%.

DEAR GOD, SOMEONE GIFT THIS WOMAN A MATH BOOK AND A WORD PROCESSOR WITH SPELL CHECK NEXT HOLIDAY SEASON! I’m not going to touch the “44 – 50% likelihood” that a POC will go to prison (not be arrested—go to prison) with a 10-foot pole because even that couldn’t correct for all the error I assume is in there. Hinky things about this section: (a.) She thinks the “likelyhood” [sic] that she will go to prison in her lifetime is 4 – 11% and 11% is the percentage of the prison population that is white. (b.) She also cites a POC’s lifetime chances as half of the 88% of the prison population that is non-white. What’d she divide by two for gender or something? Cuz that makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of effed up shit in the justice system with regard to profiling, sentencing, etc. But what she should have said is that if in prison, there is an 88% chance that the inmate is non-white. That’s 8 times more POCs in prison than whites, even though 63% of the population is white. It’s messed up enough without contorting the statistics.

    4.  I don’t trust any of her data by this point, but if it’s true that “A white male with a criminal record is 5% more likely to get a job over a man of color with a clean record,” that’s hella messed up.


    5.  It literally ends with “And fucking educate yourself!!”

The irony. It burns.

While I applaud Ms. Kapp’s efforts–really, I do–I cannot believe The Interwebz (mostly) uncritically accepted her clearly misguided statements as gospel on such a complex topic. A much better article for an honest look at white privilege is this one. And in the future, let’s not pop-ify important topics, yeah?


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