Recently Supreme Court Justice and noted delightful human Antonin Scalia claimed that affirmative action prevents African Americans from becoming scientists. As it happens, actual science-practicing scientists disagree, and have composed an open letter to SCOTUS saying as much.

According to Mic, Scalia voiced this argument in regards to the Supreme Court case Fischer vs. University of Texas, which examines the school’s affirmative action policy. More generally, he contended that “it does not benefit African Americans to — to get into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced, a less, a slower track school where they do well.”

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Drawing on this amici brief, Scalia directs his argument at the sciences and the opportunities for African Americans therein. The United States, the brief posits, “now has fewer African-American physicians, scientists, and engineers than it would have had using race-neutral [admissions] methods. It probably has fewer college professors and lawyers too.”

“Race-neutral.” That’s a cute and viable concept.

Meanwhile, a group of physicists and astrophysicists are speaking out against Scalia’s racist remarks with an open letter addressing the importance of diversity in STEM fields:

“We share the outrage and dismay already expressed by many other groups and individual scientists over the comments of Justice Scalia...Affirmative action programs that aim to bring the number of minority students to more proportional levels are an important ingredient in our ongoing work...Affirmative action is just one part of a larger set of actions needed to achieve social justice within our STEM and education fields.”

The scientists moreover interpret the lack of diversity in science as a failure of the discipline — not the student: “We embrace the assumption that minority students are brilliant and ask, ‘Why does physics education routinely fail brilliant minority students?’”

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The letter has currently collected over 660 signatures and will ostensibly be sent to SCOTUS after circulation.


Contact the author at rachel.vorona.cote@jezebel.com.