I must relate that I was unsurprised by the comments of SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia regarding his belief that maybe Affirmative Action is doing a disservice to African-American students as it provides an entryway, albeit very tiny, to many of this nation’s elite colleges and universities. According to Scalia, this entryway often dooms African-American collegians because they are incapable of succeeding in highly competitive schools. Clearly the insinuation is that African-American collegians would be better off at a “slower-track school” that does not push them toward, and beyond, lofty academic goals.
I believe that I am perfectly positioned to offer some form of commentary regarding this matter as I am a graduate of a ‘predominantly white institution’ — with 4 degrees to boot — that many would consider academically rigorous, I know very well the rigors and challenges that one must initially confront, and then conquer, if they desire to matriculate from such an institution. I am also currently a tenured professor at a Historically Black College that an individual such as Scalia would consider less rigorous.
My tenure as a student and professor has taught me that much of this talk regarding ‘academic rigor’ is little more than smoke-and-mirrors that so-called elite use to obscure the reality that the collegiate experience should be considered a reciprocal experience; meaning, that it returns to you what you put into it. Put simply, if you approached your academic with the utmost seriousness, you will emerge well-prepared in your field of choice. Whereas, if you chose to be overly social, you will most likely have fabulous memories and eagerly look forward to the annual homecoming events, however, your degree, if you managed to secure one, will be of little utility to you or any potential employer.
Scalia has found himself in as much of a fire-storm as a man with a lifetime appointment could find themselves. From his perch on high, Scalia publicly related the following. “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 slower-track school where they do well.”
Those elitist individuals who attribute the collegiate difficulties of African-Americans to mental slothfulness are ironically displaying one of the primary reasons for the alluded to academic problems. Anyone who has dealt with African-American students in a collegiate setting will relate that the lynchpin between their success and failure, regardless if they are at a local community college or an Ivy League institution is mentorship.
Personal experience has taught me that it is crucial that African-American collegians find a mentor who is willing and able to guide them toward their respective professional goals. Despite what individuals such as Scalia believe, there is possibly no greater display of the truth and wisdom behind the African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” than African-American collegians existence in an unfamiliar space.
It is frightening that an individual holding the power of Antonin Scalia does not comprehend this fact. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) expressed the following from the Senate floor this past Thursday “It is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation’s highest court. Scalia’s endorsement of racist theories has frightening ramifications, not the least of which is to undermine the academic achievements of African Americans…The only difference between the ideas endorsed by Trump and Scalia is that Scalia has a robe and a lifetime appointment. Ideas like this don’t belong on the Internet, let alone the mouths of national figures.”
One would think that a figure such as Scalia would know better, however, his recent comments, when combined with previous statements, definitively prove that he doesn’t. May heaven help us.
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015.