The other day I was discussing the notion of what is "fair" in majority USian thinking.
In the US, it is considered fair if the very top echelon of the disadvantaged population succeeds at the level of the bottom slice of the advantaged distribution.
And if any individual of the top echelon of the disadvantaged population should happen to achieve up past the middle of the advantaged distribution? Well clearly that is unfair and evidence of reverse discrimination!
I was not familiar with the details of the Abigail Fisher (#StayMadAbby) case under consideration by SCOTUS (see Scalia) this week when I wrote that. I have learned a few things.
The University of Texas has a policy of accepting the top 10% of in-state high school graduates. This accounted for 92% of the slots when Ms. Fisher was applying for admission. She was not in the top 10% of her class.
Her qualifications were mediocre at best: A GPA of 3.59 and SAT scores of 1180/1600.
So she was less than amazingly qualified and was fighting for one of the 8% of the remaining admission slots for non-top-10% applicants.
There is more though, which is a real kicker. Again, from the Salon article. There were:
168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s who were also denied entry into the university that year.
So if she had been admitted, they would have all had a case that she was stealing their slot.
It gets better*.
It’s true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.
Ms. Fisher is suing on the basis of those five black or Latino students who were admitted. They had worse grades, you see, so she deserved to get in. And was discriminated against solely on the fact that she wasn't black or Latina. Except 42 white students also were admitted with worse grades. So if anyone took her slot it is 42:5 THAT IT WAS A WHITE STUDENT.
And of course had she been offered admission, there were 168 individuals with the same claim against her that she is making now.
Reminder. This is not just one woman's disappointed whinging and viral YouTube video.
This case has wended its way all the way up to the highest court in the land and is being considered by our SCOTUS Justices.
She is the best possible plaintiff. Because the details of this case underscore how true it is that "fairness" in this country is that which only just barely allows the disadvantaged to draw (almost) even with the very lowest attaining members of the advantaged populations.