We Can’t Address Systemic Racism If We Can’t Discuss It Without Backlash

Jonathan Zimmerman:

Do Black students receive lower grades in law school? If so, why?

It has now become dangerous to ask those questions. And that’s very bad news for anyone who cares about systemic racism — or freedom of speech — in the United States. We’ll never solve America’s glaring racial inequities unless we can also talk about them.

That’s the real take-away of last week’s imbroglio at Georgetown Law School, where adjunct professor Sandra A. Sellers was fired for saying that her Black students often underachieve academically. “I hate to say this,” Ms. Sellers told fellow adjunct David C. Batson, apparently unaware that she was still being recorded after a virtual class. “I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower [students] are Blacks … You get some really good ones. But there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.” …

What, precisely, was inappropriate about Ms. Sellers’ remarks? Some viewers objected to her jocular tone and to her use of the term “Blacks,” as opposed to Black students. But her statement reflected an important social fact: On the average, Black Americans get lower grades in law school than other racial groups do. They’re also less likely to pass the bar exam on the first try.