WASHINGTON (NBC News) – Justice Antonin Scalia continues to come under fire from civil rights attorneys and black lawmakers for his comments suggesting African American students might fare better in a “slower-track school” rather than more competitive colleges.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about race-based admissions, a controversial case centered on practices at the University of Texas. Scalia questioned whether some minority students are hurt by the policy because it helped them gain admittance to schools where they might not be able to academically compete.
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well,” Scalia said referencing an amicus brief.
The criticism was swift.
“It is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation’s highest court,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor on Thursday. “Scalia’s endorsement of racist theories has frightening ramifications, not the least of which is to undermine the academic achievements of African Americans.”
Reid went on to equate Scalia’s comments to those of Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, whose incendiary rhetoric on Muslims and Latinos has also drawn condemnation.
“The only difference between the ideas endorsed by Trump and Scalia is that Scalia has a robe and a lifetime appointment. Ideas like this don’t belong on the Internet, let alone the mouths of national figures,” Reid said.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus called the comments “disgusting, inaccurate, and insulting to African Americans.”
“Thousands of black Americans have excelled in top tier universities. African Americans have achieved positions of prominence-including Justice Scalia’s colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas,” Butterfield said in a statement.
Scalia is no stranger to controversial comments.
During a speech last month to first-year law students at Georgetown, Scalia suggested—though did not advocate— that the Supreme Court’s decisions on gay rights could, by the court’s logic, apply to child molesters.