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Rep. John Lewis on Justice Scalia's Comments in Fisher Oral Arguments

December 10, 2015
Press Release

"I was shocked and amazed by Justice Antonin Scalia's comments in the Fisher v. University of Texas case yesterday.  His suggestion that African Americans would fare better at schools that are "less advanced" or on a "slow-track" reminds me of the kind of prejudice that led to separate and unequal school systems--a policy the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional decades ago.

            "Justice Scalia is supposed to be very well read, but he seems to have neglected study in African American history.  Is he aware that the current head of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, the noted astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson, graduated from the University of Texas in 1983, before affirmative action was struck down? 

            Does he know the story of Henry Sampson, the nuclear engineer, whose invention of the gamma-electric cell made the cell phone possible?  He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1965 when affirmative action was likely in place.  Dr. Charles Drew, the founder of the modern-day blood bank, attended Amherst on a football scholarship in the 1930s, and his medical innovations helped saved the lives of front line soldiers in World War II and are still saving lives today. 

            "These are only three of a host of examples which prove African Americans can not only compete in the best schools in the nation, even in applied sciences, but they can excel and even surpass some of their classmates and colleagues, if given a fair opportunity.  Justice Scalia's evident bias is very troubling to me.  It leads me to question his ability to make impartial judgments in this case."