What Exactly Did Justice Scalia Say About Black College Students?

There is a lot of confusion over the Supreme Court justice’s statement he made during the court’s hearing on an affirmative action case.

Justice Scalia

Notorious for his conservative — and sometimes, controversial  views, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia set off a scorching round of criticism after a statement he made during an oral argument over affirmative action at the University of Texas.

Media outlets, including Mother Jones, The Hill and Quartz, reported Scalia suggested that African Americans belong in inferior colleges, accusing him of racism.

However, after the release of the court transcript, some pointed out the justice’s words were taken out of context. Scalia was addressing G. Gregory Garre, the attorney defending the University of Texas’ policy of considering race among other factors for its admissions program, when he stated 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 less  a slower-track school where they do well," he said, according to the transcript. "One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don't come from schools like the University of Texas."

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While a lot of people are criticizing him over the remarks, others pointed out he simply referred to a theory which is, coincidentally, as controversial as Scalia himself.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, says Scalia didn’t imply that African-American students are less intelligent than whites.

"What Justice Scalia is referring to is the 'mismatch theory' popularized by Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander in their book," she told CNN. "The idea is that if a student is admitted to a school they are not academically prepared for then they will not perform up to their own potential. This is a theory  contested, of course  but I don't want people to get the idea that it means that all black students are not as smart as white students, or even that they are not as well prepared across the board."

Michael McGough, editorial writer for the LA Times, noted Scalia was making a reference to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by Sanders in the Texas case, adding it is “silly to suggest that Scalia was being racist when he clumsily invoked the mismatch theory.”

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The firestorm surrounding Scalia is understandable since it came at a time when racial tensions are high in colleges across the country, and Scalia previously sparked backlash from civil rights activists in 2013 when he referred to Section 5 of the Voting Acts Right as "the perpetuation of a racial entitlement.”

However, considering he was merely quoting a brief, the statement cannot be considered as his personal views.