Im a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in journalism. I currently hold a 3.8 GPA, am a member of the honors program within the colleges communication school, have made the deans list various times, and am a member of two national honors societies.
Im also part of the 4 percent black student population at my university that enrolls more than 50,000 students each year. Did I get here on my own merit? Although I know the answer is yes, some would argue differently.
I worked hard in high school to get here and I continue to work hard as a college student so that I can not only graduate in four years, but maintain my high GPA for both personal and professional reasons. Just to be clear, however, my situation is not unique. Of my black classmates and peers, I can say that weve all had some major academic or personal accomplishment while at this university.
Recently, however, Im starting to feel as though our achievements are looked over, especially when I hear comments from a U.S. Supreme Court justice suggesting that black students should go to less advanced schools.
Antonin Scalia, the longest serving justice on the Supreme Court, had the nerve to discredit the hard work of black students at my university by suggesting they would benefit from attending slower track schools, rather than elite universities.
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 lessa slower-track school where they do well, Scalia told said during oral arguments in the UT case this week during oral arguments for the Fisher vs. University of Texas case which is now being heard for the second time. Abigail Fisher was a student who was denied acceptance into UT-Austin and claimed her rejection was because she was white.
come from lesser schools where they do not feel that theyre being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. And I dont think it stands to reason that its a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.
Instead of earning the lionization we deserve for succeeding at one of the best public colleges in America, were seen as part of a quota that has not only been accused of dragging the schools national ranking down, but also being told that UT-Austin is just too good or too hard of a university for us.
Whenever I hear comments like this, the phrase affirmative action usually isnt too far behind. I would maybe expect to hear Scalias argument in the days of Eugenics, but not as we enter the year 2016.
Following Scalias remarks, students and alumni were quick to respond to social media with the hashtags #BlackTexasEx, referring to the universitys Texas Exes alumni organization, and #StayMadAbby, a nod to Fisher’s Supreme Court case.
Scalia missed the point on black college students big time. Not only was his comment offensive and not backed up by any sort of logic or reasoning, it was blatantly racist.
Im also curious why black students specifically were targeting in his claims when UT-Austins student population is made up of 55 percent minority students overall. In case Scalia didnt know, at schools like UT-Austin, black students are already underrepresented. We shouldnt have to walk around campus feeling like were only present because we satisfied some sort of quota. Say what you want about affirmative action, but we made it here on our own merit.
Critics of affirmative action often argue that the policy backfires against, rather than benefits, minorities because it places unprepared students in elite academic settings that they may not be used to.
Affirmative action was created to give people like me opportunities, and thats what the entire system is about. Every student should get an equal playing field when it comes to obtaining an education, succeedingand even failing.
Alexandra Samuels is a third-year journalism major at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a breaking news correspondent for USA Today College. She enjoys discussions on race politics, sexuality, and Chance the Rapper.
Image via daveynin/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)