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Vijay trawled for threads about his sister and shamelessly name-dropped that he was related to her (Update: link no longer active).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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  • mischling2nd

    Blackface? Are you kidding. The man is very dark-skinned.

  • theguy126

    Yes, it would be reasonable to say he probably recovered because of the antibiotic. No, it is does not have sufficient statistical power to become widely accepted, because almost everyone would demand you repeat the trial on at least several more people before the t-test reveals a very high chance that the effect is real rather than a coincidence. The common accepted value is a probability of 1% or lower of coincidence, which is easily achieved via some statistics formulas when you just perform the experiment on a few more people.

    The same applies to this one-man study. I’m not saying affirmative action isn’t real. I’m not even saying affirmative action isn’t harmful. In the overall scheme of politics, I’m probably on your side. The only thing I had a problem with, was your misuse of statistics. Your logic is dodgy, trying to use this one-man study as evidence that the effect exists when you could instead just point elsewhere, and citing the extremely irrelevant figure of “435%” (the amount of claimed increase) as if that number had ANYTHING to do with the actual chance that there IS an effect in the first place.

  • DManSA

    It is sickening how people like you twist and manipulate data to support your false claims. I have read through your articles on AA, and 90% of what you say is wrong, based on manipulation of data and research papers. It is disturbing how you lie to support you claims. This website is run by a liar.

  • MinnMom

    She’s assuming that all blacks have excellent LOR’s, EC’s, etc. that for some strange reason is absent among whites and Asians. There’s no evidence that Asians and whites have a poorer profile with respect to EC’s and LOR’s. In fact, if you browse through mdapplicants, it shows the opposite. But mdapplicants is self reported so it cannot be used as evidence. But the data from AAMC is objective and that clearly shows that whites and Asians need a higher GPA/MCAT to have the same chance for acceptance.

  • MinnMom

    Exactly. I don’t understand why this is so hard. The average GPA and MCAT of an Asian or white kid rejected from Med school is higher than the avg. GPA and MCAT of a Hispanic or black kid admitted to med school. This whole nonsense about “holistic” admissions is a ruse to exclude qualified Whites and Asians in favor of URM’s. At this point, it’s an open secret. Most premeds are aware of this, med students are aware of this, and from what I’ve read from former admissions officials even acknowledge it.

  • MinnMom

    Most med students apply broadly. In fact, Asians and whites apply to many more schools than URM’s. Maybe Asians are concentrated on both coasts but that is not the case with whites. Besides, many state Universities will only consider residents from that state. They will not entertain any applicants from out of state.

  • Again — you are placing more emphasis on MCAT/GPA than do most post-secondary schools or admissions officers. These numbers are mostly used to set a lower threshold to identify a large pool of qualified applicants. Subsequent review is then used to whittle that pool down to applicants that receive admission. BECAUSE GPA and MCAT are largely unimportant in this secondary layer of review, you would expect that the result would be that some students are admitted with lower GPA and MCAT than some who are not admitted, and also says nothing about the admitted student being ‘less qualified’ than the non-admitted student.

  • This whole nonsense about “holistic” admissions is a ruse to exclude qualified Whites and Asians in favor of URM’s.

    No. Holistic review exists because GPA and MCAT — like most standardized tests — don’t tell you the whole picture of a candidate.

  • MinnMom

    There are only a finite number of attributes Med Schools look for, namely, GPA, MCAT, EC’s, LOR’s. You are assuming that all Black and Hispanic applicants have excellent attributes while Asians and Whites do not. How can you make that assumption. In fact, most white and Asian applicants know that more is expected of them and do what it takes. The AAMC data is very clear and nearly everyone acknowledges that blacks and Hispanics are admitted to Med schools on a lower standard.

  • MinnMom

    But what makes you think that blacks and Hispanics have attributes that are absent in Asians and whites? Holistic admissions was the same excuse used by WASPS to exclude Jews from selective Universities in the 40’s & 50’s and Ivy Leagues are using it against Asians.

  • MinnMom

    Thank you. I am the mother of a South Asian boy. He had an MCAT score of 40, was ranked #1 in all four years of undergraduate, worked three years in Immunology at a world-renowned facility (2 as part of SURF), 4.0 GPA, did all the usual EC’s (like volunteering in a third world country) was an EMT; yet he did not even get a secondary from most Ivies.

  • MinnMom

    AMCAS only verifies your MCAT, GPA and SSN. They don’t verify your race.

  • Mel

    You seem confused. Someone’s color does not define their racial identity.

  • MinnMom

    What does that have to do with acceptance rate. Med students are advised to apply to a broad set of schools both geographically and difficulty of getting in.

  • MinnMom

    The threshold for receiving a secondary for a white or Asian student is higher than that of an URM. Something like more than 40% of black applicants are accepted even if comprise only 5% of the applicants. And while whites comprise 60% of the applicants, their acceptance rate is not commensurate with that. How do you explain that disparity. This lower standard is reflected in the attrition rate – 7% for blacks and 1% for whites and Asians. Secondly, the primary reason for blacks leaving med schools is academic while Asians and whites cite other reasons.

    As I said, for your assertion to stand, Blacks and Hispanics must all have excellent EC’s, LOR’s while whites and Asians must not. But you have no evidence of that and that cannot possibly be true given the attrition rate and pass rate of Step1 of the USMLE. Moreover, only 60% of blacks complete med school in 4 years while that rate for Asians and Whites is 90.

  • The threshold for receiving a secondary for a white or Asian student is higher than that of an URM. So yes, GPA & MCAT do matter at least for whites and Asians. Something like more than 40% of black applicants are accepted even if comprise only 5% of the applicants. And while whites comprise 60% of the applicants, their acceptance rate is not commensurate with that. How do you explain that disparity? This lower standard is reflected in the attrition rate – 7% for blacks and 1% for whites and Asians. Secondly, the primary reason for blacks leaving med schools is academic while Asians and whites cite other reasons.

    What? Try that again, because whatever you are trying to communicate is being lost in the poor sentence structure.

    As I said, for your assertion to stand, Blacks and Hispanics must all have excellent EC’s, LOR’s and this intangible quality you speak of while whites and Asians must not.

    Actually, no, that is not the oversimplified conclusion. It is, however, the conclusion you are making when you by ignoring non-quantifiable metrics in your “analysis”; by focusing solely on GPA/MCAT, you ignore all of these other metrics.

    Blacks are 13 times more likely to fail the USMLE than whites.

    The vast majority of Black applicants are also attending lower-tier medical schools.

    Moreover, only 60% of blacks complete med school in 4 years while that rate for Asians and Whites is 90.

    The vast majority of Black applicants are also attending lower-tier medical schools.

    Your tendency to draw causative relationships between correlative data and race is frankly rather alarming.

  • No. Applicants who can afford to apply broadly, apply broadly.

  • That sucks for him and I’m very sorry to hear that. He is not, however, guaranteed a spot at an Ivy League university.

    Also, the most important piece of information that most people typically leave out, yet that is the single most important part of an application package: why does he want to go to medical school?

    If he did “all the usual EC’s”, then as much as he is I’m sure a very special kid to you, he is no different than the thousands of other applicants to Ivy League medical schools that the admissions board receives. There are THOUSANDS of students like your son, each deserving of a spot. What makes your kid special, MinnMom?

    You yourself note that he did everything exactly the same as every other applicant. So what in his package distinguishes him from Other-Minn-Mom’s son who also scored a 40, also ranked #1 in his undergraduate institution, also interned at a lab, also had a 4.0 GPA, and also did “the usual EC’s”?

    If I were an admissions officer, what makes your kid more deserving than the kid who achieved high on his MCAT and GPA but couldn’t volunteer at a world-renowned Immunology facility for three summers in a row because he had to go home and work a part-time job at Starbucks in order to help raise his three younger siblings?

  • I don’t. You however seem to think that there is some quality in Whites and Asians that is lacking in other minority students.

  • You just made my point for me, MinnMom. Not all applicants apply broadly. Those who can afford to apply broadly (regardless of race), apply broadly.

  • MinnMom

    Apparently you do because you keep insisting that GPA, MCAT, LOR’s, EC’S alone aren’t enough to capture the essence of a prospective student.

    It’s not as if AA recruits black kids from depressed areas like Harlem, South Central LA or the south side of Chicago. More than 2/3rd are foreigners and most of the rest are upper middle class kids. People such as Michelle Obama are the exception not the rule.

  • MinnMom

    Given that more than 2/3rd of blacksb admitte under AA are children of wealthy foreigners, that shouldn’t be a problem.

  • MinnMom

    What makes you think that kids admitted under AA work at Starbucks? As I’ve already noted above, most of these kids come from wealthy families. Additionally, practically every college college has a minority affairs department that not only offers financial assistance but also helps them every step of the way.

    And we opponents of AA have every right to expect colleges to treat all kids fairly. Both my husband and I are longtime taxpayers of Minnesota and it would be unfair for State Colleges to put the interests of a bunch of foreigners over that of the taxpayers of this state. Likewise, private colleges such as Harvard, etc not only receive tax breaks but also get millions of taxpayer dollars from NIH. So yes i do have a vested interest.

  • MinnMom

    BTW, there are not thousands of kids that get 40 on the MCAT.

  • What makes you think that kids admitted under AA work at Starbucks? As I’ve already noted above, most of these kids come from wealthy families.

    A majority of Black admits are from wealthy families. However, that is not the same thing as saying that every student who received additional consideration under race-conscious affirmative action consideration are wealthy. They literally do not publish the exact holistic review scores of every applicant, so you cannot know that what aspects of every Black student’s application package warranted their admission, let alone to what degree race was a factor.

    Additionally, practically every college college has a minority affairs department that not only offers financial assistance but also helps them every step of the way.

    So? I literally don’t follow why you are citing this. Are you arguing that minority affairs departments provide some sort of special golden ticket to graduate training?

    And we opponents of AA have every right to expect colleges to treat all kids fairly.

    They do. Holistic review is a fairer process than a system of only standardized test scores. Families of minority students are also tax payers and they have the same right to higher education access that your son does.