Lino Graglia, dubbed the “most controversial law professor in America” in 1997 by Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka, is again garnering headlines for his remarks on race.
The 82-year-old University of Texas law professor recently sat down with Gary Younge, a Chicago-based correspondent for BBC Radio 4. Graglia’s interview ran in a special report on Fisher vs. University of Texas, the suit brought in 2008 by then freshman Abigail Fisher, a white woman who believes she was denied admission to UT because of affirmative action. The case could end affirmative action policies at America’s public universities.
What does Graglia believe? He told the BBC that black and Hispanic children are less “academically competent” than their white peers, and affirmative action is bad. “Admitting them to schools with large gaps in qualifications is not the answer,” he said.
Asked to explain this gap by Younge, Graglia replies, “It is the case that the single parent household, the children born outside of marriage today is approaching three quarters in the black population. I can hardly imagine a less beneficial or more deleterious experience than to be raised by a single parent, usually a female, uneducated and without a lot of money.” In response, Younge then notes that he himself is a black man raised by a single parent, and the pair has this awkward exchange:
Younge: What you’re saying, without wanting to make it overly personal, is I’m black, I was raised in a single parent family. You’re saying I am likely not as smart as a white person of the same age?
Graglia: Well, from listening to you and knowing what you are and what you’ve done, I suspect you’re rather more smart. My guess would be that you’re above usual smartness for whites, to say nothing of blacks.
Listen for yourself here:
The substance seems to differ little from what Graglia said back in 1997 in the wake of the Hopwood v. Texas decision, when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the university could no longer consider race as a factor in the admissions process.
Here’s Burka’s summary of Graglia’s remarks back in 1997:
What the 67-year-old constitutional law scholar thinks is especially dishonest is the use of racial preferences under the guise of helping the disadvantaged, who are seldom in fact the beneficiaries. “Race is not a proxy for disadvantage,” he says. His conviction that affirmative action is a euphemism for racial discrimination led him to say, at a September student forum—that blacks and Hispanics “are not academically competitive with whites,” and that they “have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace.” In another time or place, these remarks might have passed unnoticed. Sprinkle a little sympathy, stir in some hedging words, and they are not so different from what many authorities on race in America are saying today. (Glenn Loury, a prominent black economist, wrote in a recent issue of New Republic: “Unless we candidly acknowledge that a pathological and debilitating subculture exists within our inner cities—a culture that robs its adherents of any chance to break away from their marginal status—we will be wasting our time.”) But Graglia’s comments came at the worst possible time for UT, the exact moment that the landmark 1996 case of Hopwood v. Texas took effect and the university became ground zero in the nationwide battle over affirmative action.
So, how did UT’s officials react to Graglia’s comments back in 1997? Here’s Burka:
It turned out that there was one thing UT’s leaders could do about it, and that was vent their frustration upon Lino Graglia. The university’s critics could do the same. In the days that followed Graglia’s remarks, the Reverend Jesse Jackson flew in to address an anti-Graglia rally: “isolate him as a moral and social pariah … . We are not the problem. He is the problem.” UT leaders and faculty joined in a public shunning of the law professor. The chairman of the board of regents and the chancellor of the university called Graglia’s comments “abhorrent,” a Hispanic regent called for the suspension, both the main UT faculty and fifty members of the law school faculty adopted statements disavowing Graglia’s views, his own dean publicly rebuked him, and still the furor would not subside. Students attended teach-ins. The New Yorker magazine even dispatched a writer to the provinces to see what all the fuss was about.
Graglia, in an interview with Burka later that year, was not exactly contrite:
“They say that what I said was painful and insulting,” Graglia said. “It’s racial preferences that are painful and insulting. They are absolutely destructive of a multiracial society.” He folded his arms across his chest as if to shield himself against further criticism. “Liberals are bad losers,” he said. “They aren’t used to losing.”
In the sixteen years since Hopwood (a similar case, which was decided in favor of the white female plaintiff who was challenging UT Law’s affirmative action policies), UT’s policies have shifted several times. In 1997, The legislature approved the top ten percent rule in reaction to Hopwood, in an attempt to achieve ethnic diversity without using affirmative action. In its 2004 admissions cycle, the school reintroduced race as one factor in its process, after the Supreme Court in 2003 ruled in Grutter v. Bollinger that the University of Michigan Law School had a “compelling interest” in maintaining a diverse student body.
And now, with UT’s affirmative action policies garnering national attention again as the country waits for the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. Texas, Graglia appears to have sought out the spotlight again with his remarks to the BBC. (He also expounded on his views in October in two opinion pieces in the Statesman and the Texas Tribune.)
Gawker‘s Cord Jefferson penned a short item on the BBC interview on Monday afternoon and it had amassed more than 500 comments by early Tuesday.
“Ugh, this guy again,” Gonzalo Cordova blogged at Comedy Central’s Indecision Forever upon listening to the clip. He then went on to note that a certain U.S. president is black and was raised by a single mother.