Paul R. Lehman, Justice Scalia shows poor judgement in biased commentsDecember 11, 2015 at 5:09 am | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, desegregation, discrimination, Disrespect, education, Equal Opportunity, Ethnicity in America, justice, Justice Antonin Scalia, Prejudice, race, racism, segregation, skin color, U.S. Supreme Court, White on Arrival, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, discrimination, ethnic prejudice, ethnicity, European Americans, Justice Antonin Scalia, School segregation, skin color, white
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently made comments suggesting that African American students attend less advanced universities because they would do better academically, he was expressing a bias that was created in America as far back as the time of the founding fathers. The problem with Scalia voicing that sentiment was that it showed his lack of either knowing or understanding American history. What always happens when someone makes a statement about someone else, the focus is on the person making the statement and the motives involved. The people or person to who the statement is directed has the choice of ignoring it or responding to it. When the speaker does not want to accept responsibility for the content of the statement, he or she will usually invoke a “they” or “someone” as the source of the content. Justice Scalia used this technique when he stated that “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…”What he did not say was that he agreed with “those” who made the comment.
The first indication of Scalia’s ignorance of history has to do with the subject of Affirmative Action and its reason for being in American society. African Americans have been discriminated, segregated, arrested, abused, and killed for wanting an education. During slavery, it was against the law for an African American to teach to read and write, and against the law for them to learn. After slavery, conditions were invented that served to preclude African Americans from acquiring an education either by the governments, federal and states or by groups of European American citizens. A door to education was cracked slightly when the “separate but equal” law was passed, but history shows that no part of that concept was to be established and enforced with concerns for the quality of education received by the African Americans. Finally, after years of protest and demonstrations the Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” was not working and opened the public schools to all via Brown v. Topeka ruling. However, because of the systems of segregation and discrimination changes had to take place in order to put the ruling into effect—the story of school desegregation. All this historical information Justice Scalia should know.
Affirmative Action was not instituted for African Americans students to be able to attend school with European Americans; it was instituted to ensure that African Americans have the same opportunity to acquire the same education as European Americans. The court knew that the educational experiences encountered by African Americans were not equal, and they did not seek to make special provisions for African Americans who were accepted to schools—no schools lowered their standards to allow African Americans to attend. Affirmative Action simply provided an opportunity for African Americans to attend schools where they were in the past not permitted to attend simply because of the color. Justice Scalia should know this information. Evidently, he chose to ignore it; he preferred to offer a bigoted comment suggesting that African American students were not intellectually capable of succeeding in top-ranked universities.
Justice Scalia demonstrated an ignorance of his own ethnic history–his ancestry is Italian. He seems to have apparently abandoned his Italian heritage in favor of a Caucasian identity where he can demonstrate his ethnic bigotry without having to feel guilty for expressing feeling against others that were experienced by his Italian American ethnic group. Anglo-Saxon Americans did not want Italians, both from the South and North Italy coming to America because they were viewed as “racial undesirables, who were, according to men like Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard, as well as to their many allies in magazines, newspapers, and grassroots organizations, a biological, cultural, political and economic menace to the American nation.”(Thomas A. Guglielmo, White On Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945, Oxford University Press, 2003, p 59) One wonders if Justice was so immersed in European American society that he was deprived of the history of many Italians upon arrival in America.
In different places in his comments, Justice Scalia uses the terms black and African Americans; he needs to know that these terms are not synonymous—black refers to a color, not an identity, or a culture, although some people have tried to use it as such. African American identifies both an ancestral and cultural identity. So, when he stated that “I don’t think it stands to reason for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” to whom was he making a reference? Many students of color from many countries attend the University of Texas. If the Justice is speaking specifically of African American students, he should make that clear.
Ethnic bigotry is part of the fabric of American and has been since the founding fathers introduce it into psyche of European Americans—not at European Americans, however, practice bigotry, but they cannot ignore the fact of its presence in our everyday lives. For someone of Justice Scalia’s stature and standing, his comments show a lack of either knowledge or understanding of American history his while underscoring an attitude of arrogance expressed through bigotry. America deserves better representation on our highest court in the land than what we have been subjected through the comments and person of Justice Scalia.
The history of bigotry in America is no secret and especially to a Supreme Court Justice, so for him to make comments that smack of ethnic bigotry is disheartening. Certainly many Americans are bigots and do not know it because it they have been conditioned to view it as natural—anyone who does not look like them is different. But, for someone like Justice Scalia whose life’s interest is the law to express biased ethnic sentiments, it should give us great pause for concern about his sense of justice and fairness.