When I was in 5th grade, my father and I made a bet; I bet him that I could achieve straight As through high school graduation. The wager? A new car of my choosing. The catch? If I got even one "B" grade, the deal was off. Needless to say, I graduated as Valedictorian of my senior class at J.W. Sexton High School in Lansing, Michigan, and I received my prize of a brand new blue Honda Accord Coupe (blue because I had already committed to attend the illustrious Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia - you may have heard of it - it is the greatest institution of higher learning for women of color in the United States of America). I took the work ethic instilled in me by my father from the day we made that deal, and propelled myself through Spelman College to graduate Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. That same work ethic granted me acceptance to the Emory University School of Law, the greatest law school in the state of Georgia, and now, a legal career of which I am extremely proud. What I, and many other black students and graduates around the country (dare I say, the World) would like you to know is that we are intelligent and extremely intellectual human beings that deserve a chance to excel at every level and on every playing field. What I need you to know is there has never been a goal I set my sights on that I did not achieve; no dance too big for me to not receive an invitation. I need you to know all of these things, but in reality, I know you know them. I know Abigail Fisher knows them. The University of Texas and every other school in the land knows them. How do I know you know them? Because of the 47 people with identical or worse credentials than Ms. Fisher and also not provisionally admitted to the University of Texas, only one of them was black (42 of them were white and four Hispanic, but I believe you also know this). I know you know these things because there were 168 black and Hispanic students whose credentials were better than those of Ms. Fisher, and even they were not provisionally admitted. Which means the argument that a black person "took" Ms. Fisher's "spot" is, at best, silly. It really makes one wonder why Ms. Fisher thought she was so exceptional. The truth of the matter is she was not exceptional. She was not good enough. Her grades were not good enough. She didn't put in the hours to be great, but instead relied on her privilege (both legacy and white) to get her into the University of her choosing.
What I do know, Justice Scalia, is that your remarks, while they may reflect your personal opinion, are not only dated, but simply incorrect. There are no statistics to back up your statements that black students may do well at, how did you put it? "slower-tracked" schools? I understand these statements came from a brief filed with the court, but you repeated them, which makes you accountable, Justice Scalia. I believe you to be too intelligent to believe otherwise. It is so interesting that you made these remarks in the Year of our Lord 2015, because I established a foundation this year for young students who have been told similar things by people like you throughout their young lives - that they should settle, that they should go to trade school, that they should not have the audacity to dream of one day going to the greatest and most prestigious institutions this world has to offer and one day come for your seat on the Supreme Court. You have, as if these students needed more examples, proven once again that organizations like Decoded are necessary. Students need people in their corner to push them to be great, to come and take your seat. Only then can we hope to erase ignorant and misguided statements like yours from the pages of history. Don't be afraid of our excellence, Justice Scalia; we sure aren't afraid of yours. #Decoded #blackexcellence #Spelman #Emory #wemadeus
Bejidé Davis is a Lansing, Michigan native and Class of 2005 graduate of J.W. Sexton High School. Ms. Davis is currently a corporate attorney in New York City. In Fall 2015, Ms. Davis, along with Jasmin Brown and Mar-Kayla Bonds, launched Decoded, a Michigan nonprofit organization focused on inspiring hope in young students through mentoring and various other programs. For more information about Decoded and how you may donate or volunteer, please visit the Decoded GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/decodedinc), the Decoded Facebook page (www.facebook.com/decodedinc), and follow Decoded on Twitter (@infodecoded) and Instagram (@decodedinc).
Editor’s Notes: Ms. Davis’ opinion piece was in response to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks about African American students. Recently, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about race-based admissions, a controversial case, Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas, which centered on practices at the University of Texas.
Scalia questioned whether some minority students are hurt by the policy because it helped them gain admittance to schools where they might not be able to academically compete.
"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," Scalia said during oral arguments.
In response to Scalia’s comments, there was an outcry from many including some members of Congress regarding his comments.
This was printed in the December 27, 2015 - January 9, 2016 edition.