Recently, the Supreme Court discussed the case of Abigail Fisher v. The University of Texas, which is the tale of a poor little white girl with subpar grades and test scores not getting into the University of Texas because about 4% of the students are black. Yep, you read that right: a white girl with no qualifications couldn’t get into a mostly white university because a small amount of black kids attend it.
Making this absurd case even worse is that fact that on Wednesday, December 9, Justice Antonin Scalia (of the “same sex marriages aren’t Constitutional” fame) basically said that black people don’t belong in “elite” white universities because they have substandard secondary educations so they should just go to “slower” black universities instead. Think I’m being a lying, lying, overly sensitive liberal? Well, here are his comments (which you can also listen to here):
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs points out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe some – you know, when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks, admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less.”
So here’s a very brief rundown of what’s wrong with Justice Scalia’s statement:
- Let’s pretend that instead of being a racist old white man, Justice Scalia was instead solely referencing the “mismatch theory,” which is the idea that a student that comes from a lower performing secondary school will be at a disadvantage in a higher performing university. However, research such as that done by Sigal Alon is showing that the mismatch theory isn’t true. In fact, people that seem to be beneficiaries of race-based affirmative action clauses are better integrated academically and socially and more likely to complete their degrees.
- Justice Scalia seems to be insinuating that historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) like Howard University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College are somehow worse than public universities like the University of Texas. However, all of these schools do very well, with Spelman College, the highest ranked HBCU in the country, having a graduation rate of 67 – 76% (depending on your source) and a student-faculty ratio of 10:1. By comparison, the University of Texas’s graduation rate is 52% and its student-faculty ratio is 18:1. So why does he think that HBCUs are worse than public colleges?
- He ignores the racial, financial, and legal restrictions that made it unlikely or even impossible for black students to attend non-black colleges. Until 1951, black students were barred from non-black schools and faced violence or even death if they tried to attend. Even after the passage of Brown v. Board of Education, black students still couldn’t attend schools – either because the universities wouldn’t let them, the communities wouldn’t let them, or they were otherwise discriminated against. So if he’s claiming that black scientists don’t go to non-HBCUs and never had and are much more comfortable at HBCUs, he’s completely disregarding the horrible discrimination that black people faced (and continue to face) that made that situation occur.
- Claiming that black students should go to black schools because of their supposed inability to go to a non-HBCU is just another way to demand separate but equal facilities. That was struck down as unconstitutional in 1951. It doesn’t work. It’s not a good idea. It’s inherently discriminatory.
- Claiming that all black students struggle at non-HBCUs is a gross generalization and contributes to the stereotype that black people are less smart and capable than white people. Yes, some black people struggle with schools and tests – but so do some white people (Case in point: Abigail Fisher.). As over 300 years of systematized racism (and the amazing #StayMadAbby) have shown, black people are not dumber, less motivated, lazier, less focused, etc. than white people. If it seems like black people and schools with high black populations perform poorly, it is always due to outside conditions like lack of funding, lack of good teachers, and having instability at home – but non-black students struggle in these exact same situations. There is just no truth to the vicious stereotype that black people are less capable than white people.
So fuck off with your racist nonsense, Justice Scalia and Abigail Fisher. Accept that black people exist. Accept that they are worthy of going to college. Accept that some of them might be better, smarter, and more capable than you. But first, seriously, fuck off.
* Photo taken from: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/gay-marriage-supreme-court-scalia-dissent