Mindy Kaling’s Brother Donned Blackface for 2 years in Twisted, Racist “Experiment”

vijay-chokalingam

(H/T M. Holt)

Did y’all know Mindy Kaling had a brother?

Yeah, neither did I. Turns out that the star of the hit comedy The Mindy Project has an older brother named Vijay. A quick Google search of his name reveals little: on the internet, he exists entirely in the form of short quotes (one to Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, the other to Parade, another to the New York Times) about how awesome his sister is. He is also listed as a surviving child in his mother’s obituary. On a fansite for The Office, Vijay trawled for threads about his sister and shamelessly name-dropped that he was related to her (Update: link no longer active). On Twitter, he has a scant 230 followers (at the time of this publication) despite having been on the microblogging site for four years as a self-described “anti-affirmative action hacktivist” (#tcot?). In his Twitter bio, he tells us that the most pertinent detail about his life is that he’s related to Mindy Kaling.

Yet, Chokalingam is making news today in super-Rightwing news media outlets: in early March, Chokalingam released details of a book pitch documenting his efforts to gain admission into medical school by donning Blackface fifteen years ago.

Yes, you read that right: Mindy Kaling’s brother says he wore Blackface for more than two years while applying to and attending medical school.

What. The. Fuck.

Vijay Chokalingam claims to have donned Blackface for two years in twisted, racist "social experiment".
Vijay Chokalingam claims to have donned Blackface for two years in twisted, racist “social experiment”.

Here’s the story: Vijay Chokalingam is the child of two health professionals who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. From 1995-1999, he attended the University of  Chicago — ranked #4 in the country — as an undergraduate where he majored in economics. In the summers of 1994-1997, Chokalingam also took summer courses at Harvard University’s Extension School, the school’s online campus. As an incoming freshman, Chokalingam was awarded a University of Chicago National Merit Scholarship and brought with him nearly 40 AP credits. Yet, as an undergraduate student, Chokalingam proved himself as simply “mediocre” (his words, not mine): by the time of his junior year, Chokalingam had a 3.1 GPA, had joined the campus Republican group as Treasurer (of course), and when he took his MCATs in August of 1998, he scored a 31Q.

For reasons that have surely been retconned into a “subversive” “social experiment”, Chokalingam submitted applications to medical school in the Fall 1998 while describing himself as “Black”. Chokalingam chose to submit his GPA, his MCAT score, and his essay (discussing his belief that doctors should work towards an “efficient and profitable medical system” by not forgetting the “business aspect” of medical care) to 26 top- and middle-tier medical schools around the country while disguising himself as a Black man named “Jojo Chokalingam” (Jojo is Chokalingam’s middle name).

In his blog/book website — a totally retro Web 1.0 design that looks like it was constructed by a pimple-faced 13 year old who just installed the freeware version of Macromedia Dreamweaver off of an old trial CD of AOL Online he found in his parents’ basement — Vijay claims that his subsequent admission to St. Louis University School of Medicine (ranked #57th in the country) was evidence of affirmative action’s “less stringent” standards for minority applicants.

I call total and utter bullshit.

In the tall tale that he is spinning on conservative news this week, Chokalingam neglects a few critical details. First of all, Chokalingam fails to emphasize that he was rejected from or waitlisted to most of the medical schools he applied to: Columbia University, Cornell University, George Washington University, Mount Sinai, University of Nebraska, Nobay, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rochester, University of Pennsylvania, Washington University, University of Wisconsin, Yale University, and Case Western. In addition, Chokalingam withdrew his application from a few schools midway through the application process, likely when he realized that rejections from these schools would go against his anti-affirmative action agenda; those include: Vanderbilt University and Harvard University.

Finally, Chokalingam makes hay out of the fact that he received an invitation to apply from other schools based on his MCAT score — mostly lower-tier schools such as Ohio University’ School of Homeopathic Medicine  — without noting that he likely received those letters for no other reason than because his MCAT score actually was within the range acceptable to these schools. As anyone who has taken any sort of standardized test — SAT, LSAT or MCAT — knows, exam providers sell our information to low-level schools for the purposes of recruiting applicants, and unsolicited invitation letters and other materials are sent regardless of one’s score. Chokalingam is literally trying to make a big deal out of his junk mail.

Rather than to emphasize that Chokalingam-in-Blackface was ultimately rejected from thirteen medical schools — a whopping 93% of those he applied to — Chokalingam would have us focus on the fact that he was accepted into a single medical school: St. Louis University School of Medicine. Of course, he concludes, he only got in because he was (playing at) Black, right?

st-louis-university-er

There’s one problem with that assessment: St. Louis University School of Medicine isn’t that great a medical school (sorry, SLU grads).

Chokalingam’s application, while mediocre, is not weak enough to disqualify him from finding a middle-tier medical school — such as SLU — that would accept him having nothing to do with whether he lied or was honest about his race. His MCAT score was a 31Q which put him in the top 17th percentile of test-takers, and within a point of the average MCAT score of SLU’s incoming freshman class.  Although his GPA was lower than the average GPA of those admitted to SLU, he was applying from one of the top undergraduate institutions in the country (GPA is weighted during holistic review according to quality of undergraduate institution) and his academic record suggested that his GPA was low but improving. Also, as an economics major who has interned in a political campaign, Chokalingam hailed from an unusual academic background that would have caught the eye of admissions officials.

There is absolutely no conclusive evidence that Chokalingam was accepted to SLU because he lied in his application about his race. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that had Vijay Chokalingam submitted the same application under his actual name and race, he wouldn’t have been accepted anyways; the image embedded above from Chokalingam’s website is misleading, because he provides no evidence that he was ever rejected from medical school while being honest about who he is. Holistic review assesses all factors about a candidate in a non-determinative manner and would have considered his low GPA alongside, for example, the fact that he had an interest in politics and was a National Merit Scholar. Holistic review simply does not treat race as a determinative factor.

(To complicate the matter, Chokalingam freely admits that his Blackface failed to convince schools he interviewed with. So how could he have been accepted into medical school by lying about his race, when no one was fooled by his racial makeup?)

Herein lies the problem with this twisted “social experiment”: its utter lack of scientific rigor. When scientists conduct social experiments, they provide appropriate controls — the same resume, for example, submitted under different ethnically-coded names — so that we can account for confounding factors. Chokalingam’s story is an “experiment” without a control: it is literally impossible to draw any conclusions from his narrative other than how much of a pure racist Chokalingam is. This may be why Chokalingam has failed to do anything more meaningful with his life: he ultimately washed out of SLU after two years attending in Blackface as “Jojo Chokalingam”. Having I guess never learned the basics of the scientific method, he is now a “resume coach“.

On the question of Chokalingam’s racist asshattery, however, this “social experiment”‘s results are highly convincing. What kind of an asshole lies to medical schools to try and become a doctor? What kind of a racist thinks that donning Blackface — Chokalingam says he shaved his head and trimmed his eyelashes to pretend he was Black; I guess the shoe polish was still in the mail — is acceptable behaviour? What kind of desperate social hanger-on name-drops his famous sister at any given opportunity, and revels in his status as an AAPI wedge minority? Who yearns for social acceptance so much that he’s willing to play the token “model minority” minstrel for the Conservative Right?

Clearly, the only person who would do all of this is someone who’s entire life has only been relevant as a distant orbiter of his much more interesting sister, Mindy Kaling. Vijay Chokalingam’s tall tale of Blackface — if not an utter fabrication — is merely the latest effort to distinguish himself as anyone more than “Mindy Kaling’s disappointing brother who really, really, really wants to be cool”.

Unfortunately, that shit ain’t ever gonna happen. Vijay Chokalingam, sit down before you hurt yourself, and someone page Mindy Kaling and tell her to come and collect her things.

Update: This post has been edited after I received some feedback from Snoopy.

Update (4/5/2015): In an interview with the New York Post, Vijay Chokalingam says that his sister does not approve of the social experiment, and is feuding with him over his latest disclosures.

“I love my sister to death,” Chokal-Ingam, 38, told The Post in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he and his comedienne sibling both live. But they’re fighting over his revelation. “She says this will bring shame on the family.”

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  • You’re right. I misspoke. I should have said the over one thousand students who score in the top 99th percentile of the MCATs (and the THOUSANDS who score in the top 95th percentile), since we know that for none of these standardized test scores is a difference of a few points actually meaningful: a 36 vs a 37 vs 38 vs. 39 vs. a 40 vs. a 41 doesn’t tell you anything about the test-taker other than the possibility that they might have wanted an additional cup of coffee that day.

    And what makes you think that scoring in the top 99th percentile of the MCAT should guarantee your choice of medical school?

    Have you considered that an applicant who scores well on MCAT and has a high GPA really just might not be a good fit for the school of his or her choice? That he or she might have spent so much time trying to achieve this high MCAT and GPA that they have spent no time at all developing any sort of additional dimension to their application package? An overemphasis on standardized test scores usually results in an applicant who thinks that those scores entitles them to higher education access; sometimes, the rest of their application package is very weak because they think a single number will get them into school.

    Hence, I asked, and you have yet to answer: why does your son want to go to medical school?

    The applicant who cannot provide a compelling answer to that question is not an attractive candidate who will offer something special to the school and its student community, regardless of his or her standardized test scores.

    Meanwhile, why is it so shocking to you that an applicant who performs less well on the MCAT/GPA might actually have a more interesting answer to that question?

  • BTW, 87.6% of applicants with your son’s combination of MCAT and GPA get into medical school. What exactly is the problem here? That he didn’t get admitted to the one school he really wanted to go to? You literally have no idea why he didn’t get into the school(s) of his choice; it’s a logical leap to blame the 31 minority kids who got into Harvard last year, because your son didn’t get the acceptance letter he wanted.

  • MinnMom

    I’m not clear on what you are not getting?
    1. Black applicants are 5% of the is total applicant pool and 40% of them are admitted.
    2. Asian students are 23% of the total applicant pool and only 20% of them are admitted.

    All MD schools follow a similar curriculum. Besides, 50% of med school is devoted to clinical and one is expected to learn from the residents and attendings. There is no evidence that more blacks attend lower tier schools than Asians.

    If the black graduation rate at 4 years is 60%, and if most of the attrition is for academic reasons, what other explanation could there be other than they were not prepared for the rigors of med school.

  • All MD schools follow a similar curriculum. Besides, 50% of med school is devoted to clinical and one is expected to learn from the residents and attendings. There is no evidence that more blacks attend lower tier schools than Asians.

    Actually there is, but it’s spread across three AAMC tables. It’s already explained somewhere in this comment thread and I invite you to read a more thorough explanation there, but the basic gist is this: a significantly larger fraction of Black students apply out of the Southern region of the continental United States than do Asian students, whose applicants are relatively evenly spread between East, West and South (mostly Texas), with the most applicants hailing from the West Coast than the other regions. The majority of applicants applying from the South apply to and are admitted to schools in the South (i.e. most are in-state students), where in general schools have lower average GPA and MCAT cut-offs and as we in general know is where most medical schools are state schools; by contrast, a large fraction of applicants admitted to West Coast schools are admitted as out-of-state residents. The most selective schools in the country are East Coast and West Coast schools.

    What this tells us is that a larger fraction of Black applicants are from the South, where applicants are more likely to apply regionally than is there a representation of such applicants within the larger Asian American pool. So to apply totally fake numbers to this for the sake of clarity (I literally don’t have time to go through these data again and pull up the real numbers for you), let’s say 60% of Black applicants are basically applying regionally to state schools in the South, where selectivity is lower than East or West Coast schools. Only 25% of Asian applicants are applying regionally to state schools in the South, whereas an additional let’s say 25% are applying as out-of-state students to West Coast schools. When one then considers acceptance rates in Black vs. Asian students, one would expect that Black acceptance rates would be higher than Asian students since more Black students are applying to less-selective Southern state schools, and more Asian students are applying as out-of-state students to elite West Coast or East Coast schools.

    So yes, your assumption that all applicants across the country are basically part of the same large pool of applicants who are all applying to the same medical schools and therefore that the the admission rates by race should be meaningful is flawed. Your assumption is one that neither passes Occham’s Razor test nor is upheld by the data presented. It is, however, a conclusion one must draw by considering the AAMC data in a more complex way (it requires sifting through all 25 of the published data tables and considering the larger patterns of the various conclusions one can draw from each), so it’s not surprising that most people miss it.

    If
    the black graduation rate at 4 years is 60%, and if most of the attrition is
    for academic reasons, what other explanation could there be other than they
    were not prepared for the rigors of med school.

    Except, that’s not an attrition rate. That’s showing that some students take an additional year to complete their training. These aren’t drop-outs but kids who want more time. That could be academic. That could easily also be students who are taking smaller course workloads spread over longer periods of time because they are balancing med school against some other draw on their time, such as parenting or a job to pay for tuition. To assume it is academic related betrays some biases you are bringing into the discussion.

  • mischling2nd

    What does then? Blacks have a history of claiming people who do not look black, don’t want to pretend to be “black,” and have predominate ancestry from another racial group (Anatole Broyard, Jean Toomer and many others). Why are they so upset when a dark-skinned Indian claims to be black. It makes more sense than claiming someone who looks totally white.

  • MinnMom

    Firstly, I don’t answer questions. Secondly, my son has already completed med school and well on this way to a great residency. Thirdly, by your logic, somehow URM’s are able to provide compelling answers and have these nebulous qualities that whites and Asians lack. Lastly, it’s obvious that you are not familiar with medical school admission. Ask anyone that’s been through that process and they will tell you that there’s a huge difference between 36 & 41 and if an extra cup of coffee could elevate a mediocre MCAT score, everyone taking the test would be doing it. Avg. MCAT at SLU is 32 while it’s 36 for Harvard so you can tell where the extremes are.

  • MinnMom

    Of course they don’t publish the exact “holistic” scores are for two very good reasons; 1. they don’t exist and 2. There would be a outcry from the public. So according to you, black candidates have this “holistic” quality that somehow eludes most whites and Asians.

    Families of URM’s are also taxpayers and should have the same right to attend medical school as any student. The problem here is they have an advantage and it’s arbitrarily discriminatory towards same groups of people. It’s not a level playing field.

    Finally, I’ve already wasted more time than I care to on this. I’m not going to convince you and you certainly are not going to convince me. Fortunately, more and more citizens are becoming aware of this atrocity and the tide is turning. Even the Asian American community, which is liberal on most issues, fought against the repeal of the AA ban in college admissions in CA and won. Americans including myself don’t have a problem when a college chooses a URM over a white or Asian when they have similar credentials. The problem is AA is no longer practiced the way it was intended.

  • MinnMom

    Just to clarify, my son was not upset at Harvard at all. In fact, he interviewed there for residency but chose to go elsewhere. And just so you know, we’re first generation immigrants and English is our second language – hardly what one would consider privileged. His jobs in Immunology were procured on his own not through some connection. It is becoming obvious that you really don’t know much about med school admissions at all and I have neither the time nor the inclination to waste any more on this subject.

  • The experiment of the different elements will be going up on the different various things. It will be going up on the different techniques. This is the large websites of the different techniques for the new development.

  • John27

    “Color does not define their racial identity” is a very biophobic statement. Your race is your DNA.

  • John27

    “Affirmative action” is racist. All Vijay did was demonstrate that fact.

  • John27

    If he identifies as black then he’s just as black as Bruce Jenner is female.

  • John27

    Anyone who doesn’t accept Vijay as a black man is an intolerant bigoted transphobe.

  • John27