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Harry R.
Democrat NV

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  • Discrimination

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2015-12-10

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    REID. Mr. President, yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. In that case the plaintiff was challenging the affirmative action program the University of Texas has.

    During those oral arguments, conservative Justice Scalia asked whether affirmative action harms minority students by placing them in environments that are too academically challenging for them. Justice Scalia said the following about African-American students: ``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.'' Justice Scalia further argued that African-American students ``come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they're . . . being pushed ahead in . . . classes that are too . . . fast for them'' and that the University of Texas should not take really qualified African- American students because that means ``the number of . . . really competent blacks admitted to lesser schools turns out to be less.'' But that wasn't enough. This is what else he said: ``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.'' It is stunning that a man of his intellect--and I have always acknowledged his intellect, but these ideas that he pronounced yesterday are racist in application if not intent. I don't know about his intent, but it is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court Justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the Nation's highest Court. His endorsement of racist theories has frightening ramifications, not the least of which is to undermine the academic achievements of Americans, African Americans especially.

    Earlier this week I spoke about the Republican platform, which has a lot of hate in it. As we speak, Donald Trump is proposing to ban Muslim immigration. Other leading candidates are proposing religious tests, tossing around slurs on a daily basis.

    The top two Republican leaders in the United States have said they will support Donald Trump if he is nominated. And now a Republican- appointed Justice is endorsing racist ideas from the Supreme Court bench. The only difference between the ideas endorsed by Trump and Scalia is that Scalia has a robe and a lifetime appointment. Ideas such as these don't belong on the Internet, let alone the mouths of the Nation's leaders.

    The idea that African-American students are somehow inherently intellectually inferior to other students is despicable. It is a throwback to a time that America left behind half a century ago. The idea that we should be pushing well-qualified African-American students out of the top universities into lesser schools is unacceptable. That Justice Scalia could raise such an uninformed idea shows just how out of touch he is with the values of this Nation. It goes without saying that an African-American student has the same potential to succeed in an academically challenging environment as any other student.

    I firmly continue to believe the United States of America is the greatest Nation in the world because of our ability to embrace men and women of diverse backgrounds and provide them with the opportunity to succeed. Colleges and universities that welcome diversity provide their students with an opportunity many in the world can never hope to obtain. Learning with people from different backgrounds spurs creativity and innovation. Research has shown that increased racial diversity on campuses produces higher levels of academic achievement for all students, and Fortune 500 companies agree that embracing diversity is good for the bottom line.

    The Supreme Court previously has acknowledged that diversity provides a substantial and compelling contribution to our educational system. Yet Justice Scalia's comments paint a picture of two disturbing realities.

    Despite the progress our Nation has made on diversity and inclusion, there is still much work to do to ensure we are giving every American a fair shot regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. As a nation, we still have the responsibility to direct adequate resources to our educational system to prepare all students for higher education.

    Generations of discrimination and legally sanctioned inequality have produced racial disparities in our educational system--sad but true. These disparities must be addressed by embracing diversity in our schools, workplaces, markets, and neighborhoods while investing in adequate resources for all students, from pre-K to higher education.

    Our Nation was founded on the values of liberty, justice, and equality. Justice Scalia's distressing comments are a reminder that we must remain vigilant to safeguard opportunity for all Americans. Embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do, it is the American way.

    Lyndon Johnson said: It is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.

    It is our responsibility as a nation to open the gates of opportunity for all Americans, in spite of what Justice Scalia said yesterday.

    Mr. President, has the Chair announced the business of the day? The PRESIDING OFFICER. It has been announced.

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