Cal Tech admissions

The other day, Victor Davis Hanson posted a piece on the lies our society is constantly telling itself. It seems to me that there is an underlying lie behind this:
After spending most of the book roundly criticizing the admissions practices of many of the nation's most prestigious colleges, Golden turns to what he considers a model institution: The California Institute of Technology. Unlike other leading colleges, Caltech does not allow the prerogatives of privilege -- whether wealth, fame or legacy status -- to affect who gets in. In stark contrast to other top institutions, Caltech believes that it is possible to raise the funds necessary to maintain a great university without using admission as a bribe, and its own distinguished history supports that belief.

But the Caltech admissions policy, though exemplary in its integrity, is not without problems. In no small part because of its narrowly conventional definition of merit (primarily scores on standardized tests, grades and rank in class), it has been notoriously unsuccessful in enrolling African Americans; in 2004, just one out of 207 Caltech freshmen was black (for purposes of comparison, the black proportions of the undergraduate student body at MIT, Stanford and Harvard -- all of which use a more flexible definition of merit -- were 6, 10 and 8 percent, respectively). .( Via TaxProf )
The underlying lie is, of course, not that African Americans are inherently less capable than whites. But it is that the schools African Americans mostly go to are not competent, or that their socialization discourages them from the science geekdom required of Cal Tech students, or both.

The underlying lie is the refusal to answer honestly the question: why aren't more African Americans ready for a career at Cal Tech?