Once upon a time right now

A black high school student did everything she was supposed to do, graduated at the top of her class, and then found herself “co-valedictorian.”

The article’s author details similar cases.  Larry Christopher, 1973:

… Larry Christopher was determined to have the highest grade in his class and was set to be named valedictorian of his Stephens, Arkansas school. In a sudden unexpected maneuver, administrators at Stephens High School decided to factor in grades from correspondence courses an 11th grade white student had taken between her sophomore and junior years in order to deny Christopher his spot as top senior in his class.

Adrienne Brown:

In another case, a black senior, Adrienne Brown, was denied the right to be named as the valedictorian because the school determined that she had taken too many AP courses and thought it would be unfair to the other students.

Dennis Harris:

Nine years ago at another Little Rock school, two white students from a school district in another state were allowed to bump Dennis Harris from his top spot. The school district they came from weighted A-grades in AP courses with six points rather than five, a violation of the state’s law for determining how to calculate averages for valedictorians.

And it’s not like we haven’t heard this before.  Commenter more cowbell adds her own experience.

So meritocracy?  Yeah, not so much.

4 thoughts on “Once upon a time right now

  1. This stuff makes me sick. There is enough to overcome, simply in achieving. But there are so many times in school where you learn that it doesn’t matter how well you do, as long as you’re brown it’s not good enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if this type of treatment influences the disproportionate demographics in high school dropout rates, as well.

    Meritocracy = fantasy.

  2. I once asked my mom (who mostly has same-ethnicity health care and service providers) how she selected her internist, who is a black woman. She said, “I figured she worked ten times as hard to get half as far.”

  3. Man, that is sad. But true. And ultimately *should* serve minority service providers well, since they are more likely to be on top of their game, but still – I know a bunch of people who would never think to go to a black doctor. And may not have ever met one.

    I attended a friend’s graduation this summer and Louis Sullivan spoke about the persistent lack of minorities in the medical profession, specifically in relationship to population representation. I think he said black people only make up ~4-5% of MDs, despite being ~13% of the US population. He also referenced numbers for Latin@s, which I don’t recall.

    Personally, I am super-happy I didn’t go to MedSchool – I would’ve hated being a doctor. But I’m definitely going to try harder to encourage the young black people I know to achieve in the STEM fields (regardless of the backlash they get from frustrated white people).

    But this also brings up a question: Communicating that black people have to work “twice as hard to get half as far” used to be something that was a foregone conclusion in black homes. Children were taught this as they grew up, and they expected it to some degree. My dad tried to communicate that to us, but he wasn’t very firm about it, partly (I think) because he figured that times were changing. But it turns out that times haven’t changed that much. And I’m seeing that most of the young black people that I know have heard the concept, but weren’t actually raised that way. The question is – Should we still be communicating this to our children as a strong message?

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