The Black Collective & Allies, a group of faculty and staff at MU, emphatically opposes the ideological underpinnings reflected in the recent comments of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suggesting that black students may be better served by attending “slower-track” schools rather than elite universities. It is particularly distressing that Justice Scalia’s comments give credence to a flawed theory that the failure of black students at elite universities and colleges is based upon the misguided notion that it is their failure alone devoid of the structural and endemic barriers that prevent academic success for these students. Justice Scalia’s support of this theory resurrects a viewpoint that has long since been disproved. The language used to undermine affirmative action and denigrate the ability of black students to be successful at elite universities and colleges will have ramifications long after this case has been decided. Justice Scalia’s remarks reject the constitutional principle of equal opportunity for all and the court’s own precedent that diversity is a valuable goal for all. Instead, the comments support a system of higher education based on the idea of separate and not equal.
It is this attitude and bias that caused black students at MU to stand up and demand action to change the campus climate for students of color. Their protests were sparked by hateful acts of racism, but they targeted a persistent, underlying attitude among many that they do not really belong on this campus. Drawing on the courage and resolve displayed by the student protesters at MU, our group formed to promote an inclusive climate that reflects racial, sexual, economic and religious diversity where all students, faculty and staff can thrive. Moreover, we are committed to promoting the recruitment and retention of more black students and faculty.
Contrary to Justice Scalia, we recognize the enrichment and strength that diversity brings not only to institutions of higher learning, but to every part of our society. We join the growing chorus of voices from different political, social and cultural spheres in denouncing his position as one that will push our nation back toward a shameful past, rather than promoting progress toward a brighter future.
Stephanie Shonekan, on behalf of the Black Collective & Allies, a multi-racial group of MU faculty. Shonekan is chair of the Department of Black Studies at MU and an associate professor of ethnomusicology and Black Studies.