Institutional racism: “Mark the box corresponding to your race below”

Institutional racism: “Mark the box corresponding to your race below”

After Rachel Dolezal, the president of the NAACP’s Spokane chapter, was outed as being white rather than black like she claimed, many were left questioning why someone would lie about their race.


Portrait of Vijay Chokal-Ingam

Vijay Chokal-Ingam’s recent piece in the New York Post brought light to the controversies surrounding affirmative action. (

In April, Vijay Chokal-Ingam, brother of “The Mindy Project” star Mindy Kaling, wrote in the New York Post that he lied to St. Louis University about his race. When applying for medical school 15 years ago, Chokal-Ingam wrote on his application that he was black after first being denied admission as Indian-American.


To make his deceit more believable, he shaved his head, changed his name to Jojo on the application, and joined the University of Chicago’s Organization of Black Students. Chokal-Ingam went to such lengths because he was worried his 3.1 GPA and 31 MCAT scores wouldn’t be enough to get into medical school. After doing the math, he realized there was a much higher chance of getting in if he were to lie about his race.


The plan worked, and he interviewed at St. Louis University. He continued to lie about his race through the long admissions process and was accepted into the university. Now, Chokal-Ingam speaks out against affirmative action because of its promotion of racial resentment.


Pretending to be black isn’t the only race-related lie being told on applications.


In 2012, Yolanda Spivey hit her third year of unemployment as an insurance representative. She had 14 years of experience in the field, yet she had little luck getting calls for job opportunities. Spivey decided to make a new profile on a job search website.


She wrote her name as Bianca White and listed that her race was white instead of black. After creating a new profile with a different name and race, the calls and emails from potential employers started coming in frequently.


Spivey’s online profile experiment was both eye opening and disheartening. Chokal-Ingam and Spivey felt it was necessary to lie about both their name and race if they were to be accepted or taken seriously.


The documentary “Freakonomics” discusses a study that shows that the name on a resume can prevent someone from getting a job. This study proves that applicants with a more “black sounding” name are less likely to get a call back from an employer compared to those with a more “white sounding” name. This discrimination based on an applicant’s name prevents qualified candidates from having their chance at an interview.




The main issue isn’t that people are lying about their race, but rather the fact that some people have to lie about their race in order to be heard. As long as institutional racism is built into education systems and hiring practices, there will be people who feel it’s necessary to lie about their race.


Do you think lying about your race is unethical? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.

Devon Karbowski

Devon Karbowski graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2015. He received a BA in Writing Studies with an emphasis in Professional Writing and a minor in Philosophy. Currently, he is using his degree to pursue a career in freelance writing, proposal writing and social media management. The focal point of his MUI PR articles will involve public relations related topics.

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