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Eloquence and arrogance

12/18/2015, 6:59 a.m.
On the same day that President Obama gave a stirring and historically grounded commemoration regarding the 150th anniversary of the ...
Julianne Malveaux

By Julianne Malveaux

On the same day that President Obama gave a stirring and historically grounded commemoration regarding the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 13th Amendment that “abolished” slavery, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia chose to disregard tenets of equality and opportunity from the bench during the Fisher v. University of Texas hearing when he suggested that African-American students would benefit more if they went to “lesser track” schools. 

His verbatim comments:

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do slower-track school where they do well,” Justice Scalia said. “One of the briefs pointed 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.”

What does Justice Scalia mean by “lesser schools?” Does he suggest that African-Americans at the university, most in the top 10 percent of their high school class as required by Texas law, can’t compete with their peers, similarly situated students at the top of their classes? 

Abigail Fisher, who brought this lawsuit, was deficient, and judged as so. She was not in the top 10 percent at her Texas high school. According to the Top Ten Percent Plan in Texas, any graduating senior in the top 10 percent of their graduating class receives admission to the University of Texas at Austin. More than three quarters of the slots at the University of Texas-Austin are reserved for that group of students — the best and the brightest of their high schools. 

Ms. Fisher didn’t make the cut. A middling student, she had not enough redeeming social value to be considered among the 8 percent whose admission is a function of the Personal Achievement Index (PAI) and Academic Index (AI). These are the folks who, based on their race, socioeconomic status, family background, extracurricular activities and other factors, stand out. These folks are not all African-American. In fact, of the 841 students who make up the 8 percent, only 47 of them scored lower than Ms. Fisher and only five of them were African-American. They are folks whose portfolio deserved special consideration.

Ms. Fisher is an ordinary white girl who was so seeped in white skin privilege that she fully expected to have her way. She is a whiner who has been enabled by the anti-affirmative action crowd. She is pushing a point because she cannot own her own deficiencies. She is attacking affirmative action because that is her excuse for being deficient and mediocre.

Lots of students don’t get into their first choice school. Most recover. They go to their second or third choice, graduate and manage their lives happily. From time to time, they may ruminate that they would have liked to have their first choice. They may show up at football games, cheering for the school they weren’t admitted to, or they may relish the success that comes to them despite their early disappointment.