Race, Social Justice

Stay mad, Abby, I refuse to be underestimated

Black intelligence has been underestimated from the beginning of time.

The last time a white person called me articulate was three days ago. Her smile was beaming as she complimented me for delivering an impromptu speech on oppression without resorting to ebonics once. She looked so impressed with me. As I stood in the middle of my college campus. At an Ivy League institution. I thought that we black students were done having to prove ourselves worthy of the positions that we earn and yet, here we are in 2015, debating the use of affirmative action and the power of black intelligence.

Black intelligence has been underestimated from the beginning of time. To quote the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, in 1781, “the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”  If that quote is a little too dated, perhaps a quote from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from the year 2015 would be a bit more convincing of the fact that America underestimates and undervalues its black students. Justice Scalia apparently believes that black people, referred to as the “blacks,” belong in “a slower-track school where they do well.”

Let me assure you, Justice Scalia, I am doing just fine at Penn. No need to worry about me. Instead, worry about why Abigail Fisher, a white woman who has spent seven years of her life envying the examples of  #BlackExcellence that have been accepted into and excelled in institutions of higher learning, is still stressing over the fact that she got rejected from UT Austin. Worry about her recovery from the beautiful #StayMadAbby trend that black college graduates have used to refute the negative stereotypes that Fisher and Justice Scalia share. Worry about the achievement gap that Americans are facing due to an improper distribution of resources and the extremely low numbers of black enrollment in America’s most elite universities. We black intellectuals can wait.

As a public service announcement to all of those who try to undermine black success by ascribing all of our achievements to affirmative action, it’s not us, it’s you. We are not the reason that you did not get accepted. I had to laugh at the fact that when I got accepted into Penn, people immediately assumed that I got my spot by being an African-American woman. This school is 45% white and 7% black. I highly doubt that I took a white person’s spot, judging by the amount of white people who are here. I realize that that may be a tough pill to swallow, but blaming black students, who worked hard to get to where they are, for your personal underachievements is not fair. (I’m talking to you, Ms. Fisher.) Also, I should not have to reiterate the fact that affirmative action has done most for white women, historically. What affirmative action has done for black students is minimized the effects of the achievement gap that would statistically place them at a disadvantage. These black students are still required to work their behinds off to be considered competitive applicants. Once they are accepted into schools, they still have to face the challenges that lead to disappointing black graduation rates. Black intellectuals do not receive anything easily, so why should Abigail Fisher?

The bottom line is that black intellectuals are not to blame for white mediocrity. Our time is better spent studying than explaining ourselves to people who are afraid of our success. We are not required to qualify our achievements and it is unfair for others to force us to.  I find it especially troubling that a Supreme Court Justice feels comfortable enough to voice his subscription to the ancient idea that black people are inherently inferior. When court cases like these get brought to national attention, it is a large-scale insult to my race and to my personal successes. I earned my place, and no bitter white woman can convince me that I do not. So stay mad, Abby.

  • Kassidi Jones

    Kassidi is a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania, studying English and Africana Studies. They plan on becoming a professor. They're originally from Hartford, CT but spend most of their time in Philly. Their extracurriculars include performing with The Excelano Project, Penn's premier spoken word group, and trying to balance my responsibilities in many student groups focused on the development and improvement of the qualities of black lives.