One of the enduring myths of white privilege and resentment towards non-whites is the false equivalency of affirmative action with reverse discrimination. There is a sense among some racially unempathetic whites that any effort to reverse centuries of discrimination against people of color by opening doors that would otherwise be slammed shut in their faces is unfair and that true equality is only achieved through color-blind admissions policies in higher education.
While the idea of college admissions being completely free of any bias outside of academic merit is admirable, the realities of the structural racism in our economy, primary educational funding, and culture in general mean that unless active corrective measures are taken to rebalance unequal opportunities, inequities that have persisted for decades will only continue.
The perfect example of the racism that has only gotten more blatant in the Trump-era comes from the experience of Drake Johnson, a California teen of bi-racial origin. Johnson proudly posted about his acceptance into Harvard University in a Twitter post featuring pictures of him wearing a Harvard hoodie sweatshirt.
Little did the high school senior know that his Twitter feed was being stalked by a man named George Clayton, a former member Texas State Board of Education, who is trying to regain his seat on that institution.
Clayton replied to Johnson’s tweet with a congratulation covered in racist innuendo.
Congrats. Were you admitted on merit or quota?
— George Clayton (@SBOEDist12) April 20, 2018
One has to wonder whether Mr. Clayton randomly replies to the tweets of the fully-causcasian sons and daughters of Harvard alumni inquiring whether they were admitted on merit or as legacy admissions.
The accusations that the practice of ensuring a minimum of diversity among the student body means that more qualified white students fail to achieve their ivy league dreams ignores the fact that all students are evaluated on more than simply academic achievement, as the high school students desperately padding out their extra-curricular activities with every possible attention-grabbing option can tell you.
Johnson admirably replied to the offensive tweet with a classy response that the racist former educational supervisor did not deserve.
Thank you! Valedictorian, ASB President, World Champion, good SAT, and a couple handfuls of other involvements, so I would think merit?
— Drake Johnson (@_littledrizzy) April 20, 2018
Johson told The Dallas News that he put some careful thought into his response to Clayton.
“I wanted some subtle way to prove him wrong, but not be aggressive,” Johnson said. “I thought that was the best way to civilly defuse the situation and clearly show I was accepted on merit.”
Another high school student saw the exchange and outed Clayton as a serial Twitter troll.
The day that people can congratulate students of any background for their acceptance into college without a not-so-subtle questioning of the suitability of their merits will be the day that color blindness in education will have been achieved.
With his offensive tweet, George Clayton only proved why affirmative action is still needed in American universities and that racism is alive, well, and thriving thanks to the example of our regressive president.