Color Me Racist

By Garaudy Etienne, Class of 2017

By Garaudy Etienne, Class of 2017

One of my most vivid experiences from high school in West Orange, NJ was being called “monkey” or “n*gger” by fellow classmates when I first moved there. Growing up in Haiti, a country that is 95% black, and even when I lived in Belgium, I never dealt with this issue. It was pretty shocking that when I moved to the “greatest and most diverse country on earth” it was such a regular occurrence. As much as those kids’ comments were hurtful, I took solace in the fact that my future looked brighter than theirs. Soon enough, their words stopped having any effect on me. I had the world all figured out.

Looking back on my high school years, however, there is one particular incident that stuck with me. It was September of senior year. With a 2290 and a perfect score on the math and writing sections of the SAT, I was excited to meet with my guidance counselor to discuss my college prospects. When I arrived in her office, I was warmly greeted and asked what schools I was considering. I started off by saying, “Well, I want to be an aerospace engineer so I’m thinking schools with great engineering programs like MIT, Stanford, Princeton and Cornell.” She stopped me right there and said, “Wow… that seems pretty ambitious! You’re aiming a little high don’t you think? We should probably reduce the number of elite schools and throw some target and safety schools in the mix.” She specifically recommended that I drop MIT, Princeton and Stanford from the list, especially given the application cost burden on poor minorities like myself. Anyone who knows me knows there is very little people can do to shake my confidence. So, I threw everything she said out the window and proceeded to apply to every university that pleased me.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I truly understood the significance of that conversation. My counselor knew that despite recently immigrating to the US, I was near the top of my class. She knew my SAT score and knew that I aced every available AP class. Yet somehow, with all that information, she believed I wasn’t good enough for Princeton or MIT engineering. I later found out that she recommended Princeton to every other student in the top 5% of the class. Although I laugh at the situation now, this is the kind of racial discrimination that keeps me up at night. Here was a guidance counselor, wiser and more experienced, telling me that I was aiming too high but not the other students. This experience taught me a very valuable lesson. One should not blindly follow the advice of authority figures because even when they mean well; their unconscious biases may get in the way and lead to faulty advice. This is a philosophy I carry with me today, and I believe that it has helped me persevere during the recruiting process at Booth. Now for those of you who find yourselves in the position of the counselor in the future, I urge you to be aware of how your own biases may be clouding your judgment, especially when interacting with minorities.

Garaudy is a first year student who believes that when it comes to dancing... it’s not Rocket Science.

Brexit: the UK, Sovereignty and Immigration

By Matthew Mennell, Class of 2017.

By Matthew Mennell, Class of 2017.

On June 23, Britain, the ginger stepchild of Europe, will decide whether to emancipate itself from the rest of the European Union (EU) family in what has become known as the “Brexit” referendum.  On the pro-Brexit side is the mayor of London, Boris Johnston, whose policy on cake is “pro having it and pro eating it". He would like Britain to enjoy all the benefits of free trade while reestablishing sovereignty of parliament and control of immigration.  On the other side, David Cameron and the leaders of the mainstream political parties are in favor of staying in the EU.  First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon, has even suggested that a result in favor of a Brexit will spark a second independence vote for Scotland.

The stakes are high. Either outcome will impact Britain’s relationship with both its European neighbors and other major trading partners.  I personally find it difficult to believe that Britain – the world’s fifth largest economy, predicted to overtake Germany and Japan in the next 20 years – would be unable to negotiate favorable terms of trade with the rest of the world.  I assume that any new deals will look very similar to existing EU trade deals. Moreover, like Norway and Switzerland, Britain will continue to contribute to the EU budget and be bound by EU legislation to gain access to European markets.  To me, the EU debate is fundamentally about the issue of immigration; this is what concerns the average Briton and will swing the vote either way.

Free movement of labor is key to operating an effective free trade area like the EU.  It enables the labor supply to adjust dynamically across Europe, and be allocated where specific human capital is required to boost production. This helps to achieve the objectives of the common market, to make efficient gains from comparative advantage. Furthermore, free movement of labor helps to improve the living standards of the individual and reduces social pressures in Europe’s poorest regions.  

For example, London has benefited significantly from the influx of young migrants from Greece and Spain, where youth unemployment figures lie either side of 50%.  The capital has gained a pool of labor to fill jobs that few locals would be willing to undertake, while the migrants have gained valuable experience and improved their English language skills, making them more employable wherever they next choose to work.  

Boris Johnson (left) and David Cameron (right) representing the two sides of the debate. Courtesy of AFP

Boris Johnson (left) and David Cameron (right) representing the two sides of the debate.
Courtesy of AFP

So why is it that people are anti-immigration? My feeling is that pro-Brexit sentiment is akin to protectionism.  I am reminded of the open to letter to French parliament by economist, Frédéric Bastiat, who satirically puts forward the case to ban sunlight, for it is “flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price”. Bastiat goes on to make reference to “that haughty island” (Britain) not being burdened by the power of sunlight as much as France, an ironic metaphor for feelings toward immigration in Britain versus the rest of Europe.  Satire aside, the reluctance of the few to adapt to market conditions can significantly limit the benefits of free trade and immigration to society as a whole.  Anti-immigration policy is a negative-sums game where no “infant industry” arguments can be credibly advanced.

As a first generation immigrant to Britain, and someone who is exercising my free movement of labor this summer (I plan to intern in Amsterdam), I would encourage my fellow Boothies to work overseas and embrace other cultures. Immigration is an opportunity not a threat; it creates diversity, improves adaptability, and enhances competitiveness.  I shall be voting to remain in the EU this June.

Matt is a first year who will be representing the United Kingdom in the Eurovision song contest this year.