Trump or Obama: Who do you think was the better student

Below is an article from our Affirmative Action Media Monitoring Project. These articles represent a wide variety of views. These views do not necessarily represent the views of AAPF but instead are intended to provide you with an overview of the current affirmative action debate. May 2, 2011

By RosaMaria Pegueros

“Trump Pivots From Obama’s Birth Certificate to College Grades: Says the President needs to explain how he got into Harvard” --so reads the headline immediately after President Barack Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate.

Reality show star and financier Donald Trump can play stupid games that feed the appetites of the slow-witted and small-minded Fox Network viewers, calling into question the president’s place of birth and even his practice of Christianity. But there is one thing, aside from his color, that one cannot question about Obama: his intellectual brilliance. That the buffoonish Trump, a child of privilege and showman à la Barnum and Bailey, now attacks the basis of Obama’s authority, is simply ludicrous. It can, however, be read in a more sinister light: here comes the attack on affirmative action.

Former President George W. Bush was a graduate of Yale and Harvard; I never heard Donald Trump question W's college standings even though it was news to no one that W was an indifferent student. At Yale, he was a "legacy” admission, that is, the child of an alumnus who is given special consideration because of his status. By the time W applied to the graduate school in business at Harvard, his father was president of the United States. As the late governor of Texas, Ann Richards, once said about the elder Bush, “Poor George. He can't help it - he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

One of the ways that racists and conservatives have attempted to discredit the achievements of people of color has been to attack affirmative action and those who have benefited from it, attempting to embarrass those who are seen as its beneficiaries. Originally, the mandate for affirmative action grew out of executive orders by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Affirmative action can be seen as a distillation of the intent of these major pieces of legislation. Finally, students of color would not be barred by their skin color or ethnic backgrounds from attending any college or university in the country, nor would they be relegated to sitting on a chair in the hallway instead of in the classroom with the white students.  But with these attempts to remedy discrimination against nonwhites came the backlash that has continued to bedevil the application of affirmative action standards.

Affirmative action is perhaps the third most controversial issue faced by the Supreme Court, after abortion and gay rights, and considered a “must change” by conservatives.  When I started college in 1968, affirmative action was brand new. It didn’t take long before I got that message that we students of color were occupying seats that should have rightfully gone to white students.  It made no difference how well I did in school; I was taking somebody else's “rightful” place. I grew a thick skin, but some notable figures did not.

The most famous of these is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A native of Pin Point, Georgia, he grew up in hardscrabble circumstances. Instead of being proud of his achievements, Justice Thomas is shamed by having been helped by affirmative action. He has chosen to identify as a conservative.  The distinguished African American jurist A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., took Justice Thomas to task for that choice, asking “just whose values are you seeking to conserve?” The elevation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, filling the seat of Justice Thurgood Marshall, a great hero of the civil rights movement, has been a source of sorrow and consternation to the African American community and all those who fought for civil rights.

At the very least, conservatives would like educated African Americans, Latino-Americans and other nonwhite groups to feel apologetic for the hand-up offered by affirmative action. What they really want is for us to cede the advances we have made in educating and raising the standard of living for our peoples. They would want us to return to the way things used to be, when the sons of the wealthy attended the best universities to be given their “gentlemen’s C’s.”

This is President Barack Obama’s sin: he not only attended, he excelled. His father was not a white alumnus of an Ivy League college who sent the school a nice contribution so his dimwitted son could get some fancy letters after his name. Oh no. Obama was left to be raised by his mother, a white woman, who, when things got tough, accepted food stamps so she could keep her mixed-race boy fed. Ultimately he was, as many poor children are, raised by his grandparents: his white grandparents who loved their grandson even though he was half black; the smart little boy who grew up to go to the best schools in the country, to graduate with the highest honors, and eventually, to become the most powerful man in the world.

Ooooo, those anti-miscegenation, white hoodwearing, good ol’ boys are steaming mad about having a smart black man in the White House; THEIR white house.

Tough. And if Donald Trump wants to see his grades, President Obama should say, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”  Who do you think was the better student?

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