Dorner, Mismatch Theory, Affirmative Action
Buzzfeed relays background from a man who attended Navy officer training school with Christopher Dorner. Justin Gombos described Dorner as “a man’s man” and as friendly and bubbly. A couple of passages stuck out to me:
On the weekends, they drank at the downtown Seville Quarter nightclub. The only time Gombos remembers Dorner losing his temper was when he was out at night in civilian clothes and Dorner wore an earring. Navy dress code forbids earrings. The two bumped into a superior officer who confronted Dorner about the jewelry.
“That officer kind of cornered him, and said, ‘Look, everyone knows you’re in the Navy, you can’t wear that,’” Gombos remembers. “Chris just became really defensive, but he knew better than to pop off to a superior officer. In the cab ride home, he vented on me. He didn’t think it was racist, but I think he felt a magnified feeling of being a minority.”
Perhaps an early example of carrying a hammer and seeing everything as a nail. What did that grow into?
But Gombos, 34, did not recall Dorner dwelling in particular on race or on discrimination. In Navy officer training, in fact, Gombos remembered Dorner holding other black officer candidates to a higher standard than their white colleague, drawing at least one to complain about the intensity of a workout. Dorner was sensitive, in particular, to any suggestion that he was a minority just there to fill a quota.
“That particular guy was pulling the race card, saying ‘people are being hard on me because I’m black,’ and Chris stopped him and said, ‘The only reason you’re still here is because you’re black,’” Gombos said.
After finishing officer school, the friends attended separate aviation schools. Gombos went to Corpus Christi, Texas and Dorner headed to Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
While Gombos completed his training and became a pilot, Dorner did not finish flight school. He dropped out for academic reasons.
“Technically, the Navy calls it ‘subject to attrition,’ but the Navy thought enough of Chris to keep him on as a reservist,” Gombos said. “Normally if you don’t make it through flight school, they send you home.”
Many compelling arguments have been made that one drawback to affirmative action is that it puts minorities in over their heads. They are placed on the fast track just to fill some quota and to assuage some administrator’s guilt. This is called “mismatch theory” and has been argued most recently by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr. If minority students can’t keep up with the school work and see their white/Asian peers excelling while they struggle, they suffer more harm than if they’d just attended schools that better fit their test scores.
Surely plenty of people of all races fail out of officer training school so maybe Dorner, in his mind, attributed his failure to something other than his race. But given that he seems to have been the type of guy who looked at the world through a prism of race, one wonders how he handled his academic failure given his awareness of the military’s affirmative action policies. Dorner found a position in the reserves and then later was hired as an LAPD cop, so maybe his bitterness, if there was any, was masked by these new gigs.