Denise Clay-Murray, Attorney At Law

If you suddenly hear that I’ve applied for law school, it’s because someone has finally forced the Supreme Court to acknowledge that leaving Legacy Admissions in place while getting rid of Affirmative Action is a form of racism.


Once upon a time, I seriously thought about becoming a lawyer.

Because, as my father would put it, I would argue with a tree, I figured that getting into a profession that had argument at its center might be a good fit for me. I had the LSAT Prep books and everything.

The plan was to write for a newspaper until I could raise the money for law school and then become a legal eagle. But then, I dated a lawyer and found out that whatever they do to you in law school makes you crazy and disorganized to the point that you forget how many girlfriends you have. So, I figured journalism was safer.

But thanks to the latest pronouncement from the Supreme Court, I’m entertaining the idea of going to law school again, but only under a specific set of circumstances.

The only way I’ll go to law school is if I have the chance to represent a Black or Latinx valedictorian who applied to, and was rejected from, the Ivy League school of their choice who is suing for losing their slot to a Legacy Admission.

In case you missed it, the Supreme Court, a group of people who have decided for some reason that the Constitution should no longer include the 13th or 14th Amendment and the protections that both provide, decided by a 6-3 vote that Affirmative Action, a program designed to level the playing field for people of color, but has instead benefitted White women predominately, could no longer be used for collegiate admissions.

(Oddly enough, this ruling doesn’t apply to the military academies. As Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson so eloquently put it as part of her 58-page dissent in this case, “The Court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore. Or put another way, the military academies need quarterbacks for their football teams and future cannon fodder.)

The irony of this whole decision is that the people that were used in this suit against the admission policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina were Asian. The argument made was, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, that by allowing race to be included in admission decisions, it was keeping Asians out of their dream schools.

Now, at some point I will probably write a column about the migraine that results when cognitive dissonance, people of color and White supremacy get together, but now isn’t necessarily the time.

But what I will say is the fact that the court didn’t include Legacy Admissions in the “meritocracy” argument is telling.

From John F. Kennedy Jr. to George W. Bush, America has been ruled by people who probably wouldn’t have gotten into an Ivy League school if their parents hadn’t gone there first. In fact, roughly 43% of Harvard’s freshman class is made up of the kids of kids who traipsed the commons of Harvard Yard at some point.

I’m not going to say that all of the people admitted as legacies didn’t have the grades or the test scores to get in, but if you go to Google right now and punch in “George W. Bush+Unity journalism conference+tribal sovereignty, you’ll see something that many of us who attended that conference are still shaking our heads about.

(You would think that a Harvard educated man would know that you don’t use a word to define a word, but hey…)

The fact that legacy admissions weren’t a part of the Supreme Court’s calculus here is no accident when you consider who legacy admissions largely benefit. With the possible exception of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, White people benefit from them more.

If the whole idea is to maintain the caste system that America has never admitted it has, keeping people of color, particularly the sons and daughters of the people the ancestors of those in power brought over in chains, is a must. I mean, who will we send to fight the wars we pick with other countries if these people are prepared to run companies instead of running from gun fire?

So, my hope is that a Black or Latinx student with a 1600 on the SATs, a 4.5 grade point average (weighted because of all the advanced placement classes) and a rejection letter from the University of Pennsylvania crosses my path. I’d love to march up to the Supreme Court with my briefcase and my nicest suit to argue on this kid’s behalf. It would be worth the all-nighters and mock trial prep I’d have to do to graduate from law school.

And because you are my people, Philadelphia Hall Monitor would get the exclusive interview when I make it so those who have never had to compete actually have to do better.

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