Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s suggestion, during an oral argument Wednesday, that black college students might be better off at a “slower-track school” where they “do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them” has sparked a national uproar.
That roar extended from Supreme Court chambers across First Street NE on Thursday morning, where Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) used his morning floor remarks to lambaste the Republican-appointed Scalia.
“These ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application, if not intent,” Reid said. “I don’t know about his intent, but it is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench on the nation’s highest court.”
During Wednesday argument in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging the school’s race-based admission standards, Scalia said: “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. 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. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer. Maybe it ought to have fewer. And maybe … when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less. And I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.”
Reid put the comments in the context of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s suggestion Monday that Muslims should be barred from entering the United States.
“Other leading candidates are proposing a religious test, tossing around slurs on a daily basis,” he said. “The top two Republican leaders in the United States” — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) — “have said they will support Donald Trump if he’s nominated, and now a Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice saying racist things from the bench. … Ideas like this don’t belong on the Internet, let alone the mouths of national figures.”
He added, “The idea that African American students are somehow inherently intellectually inferior [to] other students is despicable. It’s a throwback to a time that America left behind a half a century ago. … That Justice Scalia could raise such an uninformed idea shows just how out of touch he is with the values of this nation.”