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Mindy Kaling's brother illustrates flaws of affirmative action
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By Andrea Peyser
April 24, 2015

Mindy Kaling's brother illustrates flaws of affirmative action

Vijay Chokal-Ingam is a member of a wealthy Asian Indian-American clan whose claim to fame is being the older brother of TV comedienne Mindy Kaling, the creator, producer, writer and star of “The Mindy Project.’’

Kaling, 35, told her only sibling that he will bring shame on the family, Chokal-Ingam, 38, said.

One day in 1998, the former frat boy, bred in Cambridge, Mass., was either drunk or hung over — he always seemed to be one or the other back then — when he came up with a wicked plan.

He shaved off his straight hair, trimmed his “long Indian eyelashes’’ and started going by the middle name he detested, Jojo, which his basketball-loving, Indian-born architect dad took from African-American former hoops star Jo Jo White. He dropped into conversations that he was a member of the University of Chicago’s Organization of Black Students, which he was. He checked off the box identifying himself as “African-American’’ on the medical-school entrance exam, but never concealed the fact that he came from money.

With that, the American-born Chokal-Ingam, whose mother, who died in 2012, was an Indian-born obstetrician-gynecologist, pretended to be African-American.

The scam, he said, was responsible for getting him accepted into medical school.

But here’s the most shocking part: For the first time in his life, Chokal-Ingam told me, he was racially profiled — but not always in the manner one might expect.


Mindy KalingPhoto: FilmMagic

Among other indignities he suffered, a security guard at a grocery accused Chokal-Ingam wrongly of shoplifting, then threw him to the floor and rifled through his bag after he protested his innocence. But even more troubling to him was the patronizing treatment he received from those who were trying to help him.

The secretary of the admissions director at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio casually called Chokal-Ingam an “affirmative-action candidate.’’

At Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, he was interviewed by the medical school’s director of the Office of Minority Affairs.

“What do you call it when you segregate applicants based on race?’’ Chokal-Ingam asked me. “It’s a form of legalized racism. It’s the ultimate form of discrimination to assume that one is disadvantaged just because he’s black, Hispanic or Native American.’’

Affirmative action, he said, draws resentment to its beneficiaries from whites and Asians — and it fuels the notion that people of certain protected races are less competent than others.

I agree. Affirmative action, effectively a system of racial quotas, hurts the very people it was meant to help.

“We’ve evolved as a country. We don’t need affirmative action anymore,’’ David Webb, 53, an African-American host of a Sirius XM radio talk show and founder of Tea Party 365, told me.

Chokal-Ingam’s university grade-point average was a mediocre 3.1 and his score on the Medical College Admission Test was a none-too-stellar 31. But in 1999, he was accepted into St. Louis University’s School of Medicine, and his name was placed on the waiting lists of three prestigious institutions. At the time, he said, students accepted into St. Louis U’s med school had earned average GPAs of 3.7 from institutions of higher education. (The med school’s communications director was quoted in The Huffington Post as saying that Chokal-Ingam’s race and ethnicity were not factors in his acceptance.)

After about 2½ years, he dropped out of med school and enrolled in the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, as an Indian-American, where he earned a master’s in business-administration degree. With partners, he formed Interview SOS, an LA-based company whose employees help clients write résumés and cover letters, and prepare for interviews for jobs, colleges and graduate schools — without lying about who they are.

But Chokal-Ingam said that he’s speaking out because he fears that public colleges and universities in California, in which affirmative action is now prohibited by law, will soon adopt the program.

He’s writing a book, with a co-author, to be titled “Almost Black — The True Story Of An Indian American Who Got Into Medical School Pretending To Be An African American,’’ and writes the AlmostBlack.com Web site.

Is he proud of himself? “Sometimes, only a liar can see the truth,’’ he said.

And the truth is that racial preferences help no one.

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