How justices of the supreme court accidentally just made the biggest argument SUPPORTING affirmative action for university admissions

Pretend one of these justices is instead head of admissions for an elite university. Of course he got there by his single minded hard work and brilliance with help from no one. I am sure his family also rose to their success by their own boot-straps (with no benefits of some prior free labor…but that’s a whole other debate). Back to our head of admissions. Across his desk comes two applications. Both applicants are exactly equal academically (same test scores, same GPA, high-schools were ranked equally rigorous, they even took classes of equal rigor etc.), they play the same sports, have the same extra-curriculars. You get the point. They are the same. Except one thing is different. One looks more like our head of admissions and the other looks ….different…. a minority student. Lets pretend that in every case like this, the one who looks most similar to the person doing the admitting is accepted (and I won’t be upset if you interpret “lets pretend” to mean “this is historically what was happening before affirmative action mandates came along”). In my opinion, this would happen for 3 main reasons:

  1. The person doing the admitting is human. Human beings identify with, and are more comfortable with, other people that are similar to themselves (yes, this works both ways, and becomes a problem if the individuals in power are almost exclusively of one type over another).
  2. This person sees little value in diversity itself (this is despite the data demonstrating the great value that diversity adds to almost any enterprise and certainly in learning and education. ). To quote Justice Scalia himself “Maybe it aught to have fewer [blacks]” (pg 68, line 2  “It” being the University of Texas.  And this is not an isolated devaluing of diversity since Justice Roberts queries elsewhere “I’m just wondering what the benefits of diversity are in that situation?” (Pg 55, line 22).
  3. This individual really fundamentally believes, deep down inside, that the minority applicant is academically (and perhaps otherwise) inferior. Whether this is a conscious perception or unconscious doesn’t matter (although if you verbally state that African American students should go to “slower track” schools because they are academically not capable of the challenge it is hard for me to argue that you aren’t conscious of your feelings. Pg 67, line 15). This belief remains even when the data demonstrating that this is not the case is on the desk in front of him (the applications in my above hypothetical scenario).

So to answer Justice Scalias question on Pg 33 (line 6-8), Yes!  Because prior to Affirmative Action type mandates, ‘benefits” were already occurring, however they were universally slanted AWAY from benefiting minority students (so you have kind of argued FOR affirmative action if your question was meant to point out some unethical ongoings).  Except the forced “benefit” here is to correct the blatant, unfair, and unethical treatment minorities had been facing for years prior to it. To right the wrongs that would continue in many institutions if not mandated (Now. If you can change human beings into being unbiased, and without preconceived perceptions, and transport them to a place where they don’t remember the history that this nation was built upon….then yes, you can probably do away with these laws…but this is America…not utopia…so we can’t).

I respond to the inferences and statements made by these two judges, as I always have, by simply allowing my work and contributions to speak for themselves. It’s that “say what you want about me so I can prove you wrong” approach. It is surprisingly motivating. And I won’t allow those that feel this way (and I am sure I interact with many every day) to make me ignore the many wonderful people who DON’T feel that way and DO value diversity (and I interact with many people like this every day too). What remains sad is that whenever I realize that someone is the latter type of person, and is the type of person that makes decisions about every person based on their actual interaction with THAT person and not some whole group bulk judgement….when I meet a person like that….THAT is when I am surprised.  I wish it were the other way around.

To current the undergraduate Biology major….

-Who is upset by these Justices comments, but not surprised by them.

-Who is angry about having the college they matriculate at called “less-advanced” or “slower-track” (Scalia; Pg 67, line 14), but not unfamiliar with this opinion.

-Who is irate about whom these comments came from, but not discouraged by them, because they actually make a stronger case for the affirmative action that will ensure that he/she be accepted into the PhD program of that elite university after undergrad.

-Who finds the response of some people on this topic disappointing, but not unexpected.

  1. Continue to handle your business with the same focus and grace as usual.
  2. Continue trying doors until they open.
  3. Continue on to that PhD program in the elite university with the knowledge that the classes won’t be “too fast for you”. (Scalia; see pg 67, line 23)
  4. Continue to let your “life do the singing” as the song from my alma mater Hampton University proclaims.
  5. Continue doing what you are doing and pursuing your path “in spite of”, as you have been all along.

And regarding Justice Roberts statement about what you, as a minority student, could possibly contribute to a hard science class (Pg 55 , Line 17)?: Know that you will be called upon to lead the study group at times and to help your peers understand the material. And also be ok with the fact that at other times another may lead. Because when you are working on a PhD in the sciences EVERYONE struggles at some point and you survive collectively by drawing on each other’s unique talents and gifts. This is one thing I know for sure. And you can trust me on that, since I have actually taken a few physics classes in my time. But don’t just take my word for it, perhaps astrophysicist Jedidah Isler’s remarks can convince you

In the end I felt compelled to write this blog because I feel personally insulted and attacked by both justices statements during the oral arguments in the Fisher vs University of Texas supreme court case on December 9, 2015 (2015 people!).  But I was happy to read that Senator Harry Reid was also “deeply disturbed to hear a supreme court justice endorse racist ideas.” (   On the other hand, I am glad they said them “on the record” (audio here). This is not a criticism of either justice personally since they just said what many people we see everyday (in person or on social media) really feel and are defending loudly.  Those sharing these perceptions and perspective are entitled to their opinion and they certainly won’t stop my hustle, and young minority STEM students in training shouldn’t let it stop theirs. The thing that is most surprising about this is that the people who said it….out LOUD….are people who were hand-selected to pass judgment on others (some of whom may be minorities) in an objective, impartial and fair manner. A manner that should be based on the data and facts presented in front of them. That’s what personally has me worried the most………

… but for now, I’ll focus my energy on continuing to discover ways to destroy the cancers in our society that we can all universally agree upon are dangerous.

Note: the views and feelings expressed here are my own and not my employer