Racial Bias in Peer Review?

Currently, Fisher v. Texas is being decided at the US Supreme Court. As I was thinking about the case today, I recalled an issue that we had with the Journal of Equity and Excellence in Education (E&EE) regarding a manuscript about the Top 10% plan and the historical access of Latina/os to UT-Austin. We sought out the journal due to its focus on social justice issues and were quite surprised when the manuscript was rejected because of a racialized review. Here is an excerpt of a letter that we sent to the editor of E&EE, (to which the editor never replied):

The biggest disappointment I have with Reviewer 2 was acceptance of “unjust and oppressive structures” [a quote from their rejection letter] implicit in their review.  There were two egregious examples. Despite acknowledging “Latinos are under-enrolled at UT (and every other flagship),” Reviewer 2 made the assertion that it was “unrealistic” and “laughable” that Latinos should be represented at the University of Texas at Austin relative to their population in the state. Unconscionable. The justification was that the “Latino population has changed over time” due to immigration. Since immigrant Latinos are not “at-risk” (This probably being the most offensive proposition noted in the reviewer’s comments) for attending college, our sample was amiss. Clearly, the reviewer needs to reference, (but not review) the paper I recently co-authored on the DREAM Acts and the common (and wrongheaded) critiques of denying immigrants equal access to higher education…  I have to be honest and say I am truly disappointed in E&EE for allowing this “social construction of an unequal hierarchy” [another quote from their rejection letter] in the review to stand.

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