One of the things that stuck out to me about Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation was the sneaking suspicion that even if everyone knew she was the best of the bunch, they’d still give her a hard time. It’s one of those hunches that people downplay if you can’t prove it “objectively.” But from time to time, we have the receipts.
Tracey Meares, who went on to become a top legal scholar at a little school named Yale Law, was snubbed the title of Valedictorian for reasons that look racial even to people that “don’t see color”:
[A] school secretary meticulously had been calculating numbers and grades. Meares’ counselor, Pauline Betts, told her she had the No. 1 rank.
“(The secretary’s) records indicated that given the requirements of the titles of valedictorian and student rank, Tracey had the highest rank in the school and had therefore earned the title of valedictorian,” Blackwell said.
All fair and good right?
At some point, Blackwell added, a school dean had been in Betts’ filing cabinet, rifling through Meares’ records. Afterward, Betts put a lock on the cabinet so no one could gain entrance.
Springfield High had typically had a valedictorian and a salutatorian, but nearer to graduation, it opted for “top students” for Meares and Heather Russell, who was white. The school didn’t start naming valedictorians and salutatorians again until 1992.
“It was not an individual act,” Blackwell allowed. “That’s what makes it systemic.”
“No Title For Tracey” is a documentary that details how Tracey’s valedictorian title was stolen from her and the fight that followed to get it back. I think that this showcases an important part of affirmative action and equity discussions that often get left out. The folks of color that are excelling in their chosen spaces deserve to be there. And to do it all with grace? Could not have been me. If this happened to me, I would have been Facebook poking each and every person who believed the propaganda and thought I was stealing #2’s spotlight. That may also be why I was only salutatorian at my high school.
A Springfield High Grad Was Snubbed The Valedictorian Title. 38 Years Later, She Gets The Honor [State Journal-Register]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.