Why would you want to do this?

Kyle Kashuv, a student who had been admitted to Harvard University, has had his admission rescinded after it was revealed that he had made racist remarks on “text and Skype messages as well as in a shared Google document for a class study guide two years ago” that apparently made “threats against Jews and racial slurs in reference to African Americans.”

His comments were revealed recently.

“The more prominent he got, the more I was bothered by his hypocrisy,” Ariana Ali, one of Kashuv’s classmates, said about him recently. “He pretends to be this God-fearing, squeaky-clean type, but everyone who knows him knows that’s not who he really is.” Who he really is, according to Ali, is a bigot. According to another classmate, Kashuv “used the N-word frequently,” both in text messages and in person. A different classmate said, “He was obsessed with ranking which women were most attractive, by race. Out of nowhere, he’d go, ‘Wanna hear my racial ranking system?’ ” Political disagreements are one thing, Ali said, “but Kyle’s behavior was way, way over the line.” Ali had several more anecdotes attesting to this. She also, as they say, had the receipts.

On Twitter, Ali posted a video of Kashuv and some of his classmates chatting on a Google Doc in December, 2017. They were supposedly studying for their A.P. American-history midterm, but, around midnight, the review session went off the rails. At first, the attempts at humor were innocent enough. (On one page, the names of the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party were changed to “Fed boyos” and “Demdem Reppy swag.”) But Kashuv’s contributions were more unhinged. He referred, in capital letters, to “my jewish slaves.” Elsewhere, he wrote the N-word eleven times in a row. “I’m really good at typing” the word, he explained. “Practice uhhhhhh makes perfect.” The same day that Ali put the video out on Twitter, Kashuv posted a statement announcing his resignation from Turning Point. A few days later, he tweeted another statement. He acknowledged having used “callous and inflammatory language,” but he didn’t apologize. A Turning Point spokesperson called Kashuv’s comments “unacceptable” and “un-American.” (Kashuv declined to comment.)

After the comments were revealed by a classmate, he apologized for them to Harvard, saying that he had ‘grown’ since then and that the university should have taken that growth into account. They clearly did not agree.

Apart from the question of whether the university should or should not have revoked his admission, what struck me were the reasons he gave for why he had made the offensive remarks in the first place.

On Monday Mr Kashuv took to Twitter to say “we were 16-year-olds making idiotic comments, using callous and inflammatory language in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible”, and added that he “immediately apologised” for the two-year old exchanges.

“I’m embarrassed by it, but I want to be clear that the comments I made are not indicative of who I am or who I’ve become in the years since.”

Ah yes, the old “What I did and said is not indicative of who I am” ploy.

I can understand young people trying to make a splash among their peers by being “as extreme and shocking as possible” but I do not understand why he felt that it had to be done in racist terms. Why not do so by streaking across the sports field, a time-honored act designed to gain attention? Why not take a stand against popular culture icons? When I was 16, saying that the Beatles were a third rate band or that The Catcher in the Rye was a boring book would have been utterly shocking. I am sure there must be current-day equivalents.


  1. DonDueed says

    Saying the Beatles were a third-rate band would still be shocking.

    On the other hand, I never thought very highly of Catcher.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    A Turning Point spokesperson called Kashuv’s comments “unacceptable” and “un-American.”

    Au contraire, TP: what other nation features such language so prominently?

  3. daniel rosetti says

    Unfortunately, making wildly racist statements may well be the only readily shocking thing for kidss today. Recently, a stand-up comic ( I can’t recall who) was discussing the changing mores and taboos in comedy. 60yrs ago, you could say anything about any race or ethnicity to get a laugh. That was ok. But cursing on stage could get you in trouble (both legally and with some drunks who were mad you cursed in front of their wives). Now that dynamic is completely reversed.

    That’s not to say it excuses this little monster, who I hope enjoys his local community college experience, but if you want to shock, that’s where we are.

    Besides, what’s the thing in our current balkanized culture that will do it? Arguing over the 3 Spiderman actors? Kanye’s not all that? What? Harry Potter sucked?

    Not today. Break out the N word….but ya gotta really feel it, y’know?

  4. sonofrojblake says

    I can think of few other words that more reliably indicate that the speaker/writer is from the USA than the n-word. It is as American as mass shootings or chanting “USA, USA”.

  5. Allison says

    Paul Durrant @4:

    I’m uncomfortable with holding an 18 year old accountable for things said when a 16 year old.

    If you’d said “5-year-old,” I might have agreed with you, assuming he went on to become a decent person.

    But 16 years is old enough to be aware of how harmful stuff like what he said is. Indeed, from the description above, it seems clear to me that the harm was kind of the point of what he did. And it wasn’t a one-time thing, either, from the description above. He was evidently known for making hateful, racist and misogynist comments. And don’t forget his membership in an organization whose purpose is to bully people who express ideas it doesn’t like. It sounds like a consistent pattern of behavior. You are what you do, not what you say you are, so a hateful bigot is what he is. His “this isn’t who I am” is a flat-out lie.

    And I see no evidence yet that he has changed his ways. When you’ve done something awful, I’m not going to believe that you have changed until I see, over a long period of time, changed behavior and acts to counteract the damage you’ve done. All too often, I’ve seen people do awful things, then apologize when they’re caught, and then go on to do the same awful stuff but just more carefully.

    I’m not going to say that 16-year-olds, or 18-year-olds, or even 65-year-olds cannot ever become better people. But apologies when you’re caught aren’t reform. You have to actually change. And accept that it may take a long time before people will believe that you’ve changed, and that some people never will.

  6. ridana says

    FFS, he was working for Turning Point. Why would anyone believe he’d changed from being a racist?

  7. says

    “And I see no evidence yet that he has changed his ways.”

    It does seem that in this case the 16 year old racist is now an 18 year old racist. And it’s reasonable to reject him on that basis.

  8. VolcanoMan says

    I dunno…I was an idiot when I was 16. Most notably, I CHOSE to read Atlas Shrugged and wrote an essay (my ELA term paper no less) that essentially, uncritically supported the beliefs Ayn Rand expressed in the book. And (lo and behold), I did it because those beliefs SHOCKED me, and I wanted to get some secondhand shock value, a sort of social contact high by expressing support for the Objectivist “philosophy.”

    After about 6 months as a bona fide libertarian, I started to encounter challenges to the philosophy of “rational self-interest” that people like Rand promoted, ideas that led me to question why we value certain kinds of contributions to society but not others, and how empathy, co-operation and self-sacrifice have produced some of the most incredible human achievements in history. By the time I was applying for colleges, I had gone full 180 and ended up a socialist. And that’s where I stand today, almost 2 decades later (with some natural evolution and development of my politics).

    Granted, I wasn’t throwing out racist slurs like this moron, and I could at least partially demonstrate that my beliefs had changed (though since my high school years were about 10 years removed from the rise of social media, my views weren’t exactly widely known, or available to anyone who searched my name on Altavista)…but I understand the impulse to differentiate yourself from everyone else, to stand out by saying socially-unacceptable things. So while I’d like to see some proof that he’s actually a different person now (and who knows how he got admitted to Harvard in the first place…given what we know about legacy admissions, and people donating money to get their kids into the Ivy League, he may never have deserved a spot there in the first place), if he is a legitimately well-rounded, intelligent, hard-working student, if I was Harvard, I might contact him in a year out of the blue and ask him to re-apply. In this way, having no foreknowledge that he’d be given another shot at a Harvard degree, if his current, true character is really radically different from that 16-year old idiot, he’ll have shown it, unprompted by the knowledge that what he did would be judged by the Harvard admissions people.

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