Abigail Fisher’s Whiteness

Abigail Fisher, a white woman with red hair dressed in a suit, walks down steps of the US Supreme Court after arguments had been heard in her suit against the University of Texas.

I’ve written about Abigail Fisher and her court case multiple times on this site (some examples: here, here, and here). In case you haven’t heard anything about her before, here’s a quick snap shot from one of my posts:

Abigail Fisher was denied admission into UT over 4 years ago. She has since attended and graduated from LSU and now works as a financial advisor. Yet she is still legally challenging that, because race is a factor in admissions at UT, she did not have a fair shot at getting in since she is white. UT, from the outset, has said that her test scores were so mediocre that had she been black, she still would not have gotten in.

Pro Publica has a new piece at The Atlantic Wire about this case titled, “Race Didn’t Cost Abigail Fisher Her Spot at the University of Texas.” And while the entire thing is excellent and should be read in full, I want to highlight this section:

It’s true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

Neither Fisher nor Blum mentioned those 42 applicants in interviews. Nor did they acknowledge the 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s who were also denied entry into the university that year. Also left unsaid is the fact that Fisher turned down a standard UT offer under which she could have gone to the university her sophomore year if she earned a 3.2 GPA at another Texas university school in her freshman year.

Because here’s the thing. There is literally nothing at all special about Fisher EXCEPT HER WHITENESS.

Her whiteness is why this case started and people believed it to have merit (white people cannot wait to dismantle affirmative action because it is an affront to the power and privilege they receive simply by being white).

Her whiteness and the privilege it carries is the reason the media has not paid attention to the facts from Pro Publica that I quoted above.

Her whiteness is, as I have written before, the reason that people believe her life experience over ALL the evidence that says that people of color are discriminated against systemically and on a regular basis.

Her whiteness, therefore, is the ONLY reason this case is at the Supreme Court.

And so, while her lawyer and she are bemoaning her whiteness as if it was some sort of liability, the truth is that this case is holding on for dear life to the coattails of her whiteness in order to win in both the court of public opinion and the highest court of this land. 

I am so tired of this case and I am so terrified of its ramifications for people who have actually been hurt by the system due to the color of their skin.

Abigail Fisher comes from a family of money and a background of comfort. Abigail Fisher has graduated from LSU. Abigail Fisher works at a financial firm in Austin. Abigail Fisher will, for the rest of her days, receive benefit that she has not earned because she is white while her counterparts whose skin color is darker will face punishment they have not earned because of theirs. And, quite possibly, she will never recognize this because she will walk around unaware of the way privilege works and unaware of the way she has used hers to harm the lives of other people.

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4 Responses

  1. Shane Thomas says:

    Thanks for writing this. Especially the way you use empirical facts to cut through the BS from Fisher’s side of the argument.

    However, I don’t want to single out Fisher for castigation, as this is a symptom of the wider issue of white privilege. As you say, the potential ramifications of the case is what’s more alarming. The worry for me isn’t so much that Fisher wins her case, but that so many people want her to win.

  2. I can’t help but hold Fisher at least partially culpable here. While white privilege is the larger, systemic problem, her being the name and face of this court case means that she is playing an integral part in making white privilege more entrenched (if SCOTUS rules against affirmative action).

  3. Shane Thomas says:

    Oh, I agree there. I’m not saying that one should let her off easy. My point is that we shouldn’t turn her into a cause celebre. If she loses this case, I don’t think it really does much good. It just stops things getting worse. The key thing is to use this as a springboard to make the issue of privilege (not just white) more overt.

    Not accusing you of not doing that btw. This is by no means an attack on what you do in your work (of which I’m a big fan). But I worry that if she loses, many white people who aren’t on her side, but also don’t fully acknowledge their privilege may think, “Fisher’s lost. That’s that issue done with, Right, what’s on TV.”

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