Vijay Chokalingam, the author of Almost Black – How I Posed as Black to Get into Medical School and brother of comedian Mindy Kaling, sits for an interview with Merion West to discuss affirmative action.
I had a chance to speak with the controversial author, graduate school admissions consultant, and brother of TV star Mindy Kaling, to gauge his thoughts on the matter. During the course of the conversation, he described the race-based federal policy of affirmative action as the “Jim Crow of our time.”
During his undergraduate years at the University of Chicago in the late 1990s, Chokalingam, a self-described “hard-partying Indian-American frat boy with a mediocre GPA” became disillusioned about his medical school admission prospects when he realized that all of his older Indian friends were being rejected from medical programs. Making matters appear even worse, their resumes were more impressive than his own.
According to Chokalingam, these circumstances ultimately prompted the desperation-driven college student to do the unimaginable. Already dark skinned, Chokalingam shaved his hair and trimmed his eyebrows, joined the Organization of Black Students, and began referring to himself as “Jojo.” As far as graduate school admissions officers were concerned, Chokalingam became African-American when he checked the box on his application.
“There was statistical evidence that an African-American student with my grades and test scores was very likely to get admission to medical school, whereas an Indian applicant was unlikely to get in,” he explains.
Chokalingam maintains that his efforts to take advantage of affirmative action policies worked. Despite his poor standardized test scores and a mediocre GPA, he achieved what would have been impossible had he chosen to apply as an Indian American. He ended up accepting an offer to study at the St. Louis University Medical School, but dropped out after two years and enrolled in UCLA’s business program.
When asked about the past election, the Donald Trump voter believes that the outcome of the Fisher v. University of Texas decision—which effectively allowed affirmative action to continue in its current form—contributed to Trump’s victory. To paraphrase his words: Millions of people saw the government condoning a policy designed to help underrepresented minorities at the expense of white people and Asians, and these angry citizens voted for the populist-like Trump as a reaction to the Court’s decision.
Today, Chokalingam runs a graduate school admissions consultancy based out of Los Angeles, California, but he strongly discourages anyone from trying to repeat his gamble with affirmative action.
However, he warns current college or graduate school applicants not to fall prey to the race-based admissions program if they are not the intended beneficiaries.
“If you are white, Asian or Indian, do not check the box with your race,” he advises, “admissions officers will use it against you.”
Vijay Chokalingam is the author of the book Almost Black: The True Story of How I Got into Medical School by Pretending to Be Black and currently works as a graduate school admissions consultant. He also writes extensively on his website AlmostBlack.com.