Dear Justice Scalia,
I am a second semester sophomore at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University, where this past semester I wrote a 15-page paper entitled “The Future of Race-Based Affirmative Action: Will Affirmative Action be Affirmed?” So, I couldn’t scroll past your comments on social media without pausing to realize what you said. I felt insulted, outraged and belittled.
“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,” Scalia said, “as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school … a slower-track school where they do well.”
You then went on to say, “most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.”
Your passive-aggressive racial remarks to black students were insensitive and demeaning. Your comments even sparked the hashtag #StayMadAbby, a series of tweets highlighting black student success and graduation photos at the University of Texas and universities across the nation.
As a Supreme Court Justice sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution, how could you say that blacks should go to a “slower-track” school? Is this Plessy v. Ferguson all over again?
Blacks do not need separate-but-equal facilities. Instead, we need access into the all of the nation’s institutions and people who affirm our right to be there. Blacks have only legally had full equal access to the American education system for 61 years after the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which, notably, was argued by Justice Thurgood Marshall. Marshall wanted to attend the University of Maryland School of Law, but did not apply because of segregation and instead earned his law degree from Howard University School of Law, a Historically Black Institution.
Despite this history, Black students excel in higher education. We graduate from the nation’s top schools to become engineers, doctors, journalists, lawyers, politicians, and even presidents!
Affirmative action is not the only means to admitting black students. Is it so hard for you to believe that a black student could earn the right to admission into the University of Texas?
Although considering past inequities, the current racial climate, and low minority enrollment, some race-based affirmative action is necessary to give all students an opportunity for an equal chance they never had.
Although predominantly white institutions (PWIs) across the nation graduate black students, one cannot deny the tremendous impact Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) have on Black students and this nation. These institutions produce leaders such as Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. (Morehouse College); astronauts such as Dr.Ronald McNair (North Carolina A&T State University); journalists such as Oprah Winfrey (Tennessee State University) and countless others.
As a proud student of North Carolina A&T State University, an HBCU, I want you to know that black students do well regardless of where they choose to attend college.
I chose to attend an HBCU. Some questioned my decision and told me I would do better at a university like Penn State or Temple (PWIs). This insulted my intelligence. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my high school class and maintain a 4.0 GPA while serving as a leader on my campus and in my community, as I would at any university.
In a Nov. 5, 2015 article entitled “N.C. A&T remains nation’s top producer of black engineers,” the Greensboro News & Record reported NC A&T State University is the top producer of black undergraduate engineers.
“A&T also was the top producer of African American undergraduates in parks, recreation, leisure and fitness studies. A&T was ranked No. 2 in the nation in undergraduate degrees awarded to African Americans in agriculture, engineering technologies and mathematics and statistics. Its journalism and mass communication program ranked in the top 5 in African American graduates.”
Regardless of what university black students choose to attend, they should be given the opportunity to make that choice.
An Advanced Black Student on the Fast-Track to Success
Kristen Shipley is a sophomore at North Carolina A&T State University serving as a 2015-2016 White House HBCU All-Star. She writes for her university newspaper The Register and for her own leisure, volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club and plans community service for the Honors Program. Kristen promotes all things Black excellence, HBCUs, social justice and natural hair. Follow her on Instagram (@perfectlyks) and Twitter (@perfectlyk).