During my remarkably brief stint as a high school teacher, I worked at a charter school on the far south side of Chicago – one with a nearly all-Black student population– that purported to be a college preparatory school but was…decidedly not. One of my freshman students academically lapped his 120 or so grade-level peers in every way; I knew his talents were being squandered with the rigid education we were forced to give him.
The student asked me for a written recommendation to a selective enrollment high school – one of the state’s top five. I told him nothing would please me more, admitted to him that he didn’t belong at the “college prep” school and would deny saying so if he repeated it, and I wrote that letter. He got in the school the following year, and is currently finishing up graduate school. For a Black kid from the Low End of Chicago, a recommendation letter from a teacher could be the extent of the help he’d get getting to and through college.
I think about this whenever folks bitch and moan about affirmative action, or when the Abigail Fishers of the world flex their aggressive marble-complected mediocrity and blame their failures on us. I’m also thinking about him now as we embrace the schadenfreude of Tuesday’s major scandal: white folks are headed to the clink over a $25 million college admissions bribery scandal.
The FBI investigation, hilariously named “Operation Varsity Blues”, revealed a wide-reaching scam involving doctored test scores and payoffs to college sports officials, among other things. Disabilities were faked to get students extra time on entrance exams, and there’s even a yarn about applicants’ faces being superimposed over actual athletes in an attempt to land scholarships.
Among the nearly 50 people charged are Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, Mossimo Giannulli of the Mossimo clothing brand that your parents bought you when they couldn’t afford True Religion gear, and Giannulli’s wife Lori Loughlin, otherwise known as Aunt Becky from the original Full House show that I’d just excised from my childhood memories. Apparently, the couple dropped a cool $500,000 to get their daughter, Olivia Jade, into the University of Southern California. Olivia is an Instagram “influencer” with 1.3 million followers. Which, if nothing else, proves that being an “influencer” often means precisely d—.
Since Black folks thrive on the hookup and connections, I don’t know if many of us are truly disgusted with Huffman and Loughlin for using their money and influence to help their children, albeit illegally. But Black Twitter is still having fun with the whole thing…especially Huffman’s aged-like-beignets Twitter posts.
What are your best “hacks” for the back-to-school season?
— Felicity Huffman (@FelicityHuffman) August 25, 2016
If you are going to do the crime–for goodness sake, have a proper alibi. http://t.co/alxCefjqoC
— Felicity Huffman (@FelicityHuffman) December 22, 2014
Funny, Not Funny
Taken in a bubble, the whole thing is actually pretty hilarious. But it becomes less so when you consider that the system in place that gives white people a better educational shake over us is pervasive, insidious and seemingly interminable. I can stat you to death here, but I’ll just throw out a few: We have about one-tenth the wealth of white Americans. White men earn bachelor degrees at 11 times the rate of Black women. Young Black folks are still half as likely to have a college degree as their young white counterparts.
There’s also the evergreen issue of college admissions being unfairly biased against ethnic minorities and the ever-rising cost just to get a damn college education. Your punk-ass president – not one to go too long without doing something atrocious – just announced this week that he’s looking to deep-six the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
I’ve seen the fight for Affirmative Action play out legally and quite publicly at my own alma mater, the University of Michigan; the consequences of that eventually made the campus whiter than a “Big Bang Theory” binge watch party. We have miles and leagues to go to close the inequality gap, and we’re nowhere near in possession of the wealth that puts us in the position to pay for play, legally or otherwise.
Indeed, the idea of wholesome Aunt Becky in handcuffs is pretty damn amusing, but only in that laugh-to-keep-from-crying way. Because when the dust settles, her daughter will still be a USC student who probably actually doesn’t deserve to be there.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.