Higher education was the focus of the High Court last week, as it heard arguments involving the case of a 22-year-old Texas woman who has a legal beef that’s about as big as a longhorn steer.
Abigail Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas in 2008 and sued the school for allegedly discriminating against her because she’s white. Fisher’s case has gone to the Supreme Court, where, if she wins, the future of campus affirmative action programs at colleges and universities across the nation could be in doubt.
I’m loath to admit it, but initially I was confused about the whole Abigail Fisher case. Florida and Texas aren’t incredibly dissimilar – death penalty advocates, Gulf Coast beaches, and strong minority populations – but as a blondish, blue-eyed Florida native whose name is equivocal to Apple Pie*, the only discrimination I’ve faced has been when people assume I enjoy Christmas-themed ugly sweater parties. (A rude awakening for my wardrobe.)
A cursory look at some of UT Austin’s admission standards shows that there is every reason to believe that Fisher just did not make the cut academically. In 2008, UT Austin set aside 75% of its incoming class for those who were in the top tenth percentile of their graduating high school class. The remaining 25% was set-aside for competitive minority applicants. That’s 25% of an incoming class set aside for combined minorities – in a state whose combined minorities make up 65% of the population. Abigail had a chance to be a part of the 75%, but her high school academic numbers didn’t make it past the cut-off.
Keep in mind, this is all happened in Texas – the state that was the hub of the national white supremacy movement in the 1980s, the state that once ceded from the Union to preserve “negro slavery” for “all future time,” and the state whose neighbor, Arizona, has a law on the books that would probably require a number of my fellow Brunet-García employees to provide proof of their immigration status to law enforcement at any time. Hence, my confusion.
That is, until I realized the obvious caveat to this supposed reverse racism case that I was missing – the added social disadvantage that Abigail lives with everyday: Abigail Fisher isn’t just white – Abigail Fisher is a ginger.
Red hair. Can you imagine how difficult her life has been to grow up in Texas with red hair? Facing countless sunburns, or else enduring the sky-high costs of sunscreen and uncomfortably greasy skin. Considering that, UT Austin may have been granting Abigail a favor – but who are they to take her flaming locks into consideration?!
To better understand the issue, I’ve consulted with Brunet-Garcia’s brave in-house ginger, Account Executive Anna Jaffee:
Sarah Bishop: Hi Anna, thanks for meeting with me. I’m sorry for everything you’re going through. Tell me, as a woman of red-haired color, have you ever felt discriminated against?
Anna Jaffee: Definitely. People are so mean to gingers in this world. It’s completely unfair, the way I’m treated.
SB: Describe how your childhood was harder than that of a non-ginger.
AJ: Well, first of all, other kids never have to be teased about their freckles, being called a carrot top, or compared to snowboarder Sean White. The day I realized I was a ginger changed my life forever. All of a sudden, no one would pick me for their teams. People used to yell things at me – things like I didn’t have a soul.
SB: Tell me how you felt to be less lovable to stepparents, teachers, and other authority figures.
AJ: One time I was in class, and my teacher decided to put up another student’s poem instead of mine. Mine was way better – you just have to trust me on this. My teacher only did it because the other student was a brunette. People have told me that they can’t compare me or tell me if I’m prettier, because as a redhead, I just look so different.
SB: Imagine living in Texas – all the sun beating down on you, everyone hating you. Would you consider dying your hair?
AJ: I’ve considered dying my hair many times, especially after my mom realized it was red and asked me if we should “do something about it.” But, I decided not to dye my hair because I would look at Lindsay Lohan, and every time she dyed her hair, it looked really fake. If you’re a redhead, it’s impossible to hide your flaw.
SB: How often do people mistake your freckles for leprosy?
AJ: Leprosy, chicken pox, HPV, AIDS rash… One time someone wouldn’t date me, and I was sure it was because of my freckles. It definitely wasn’t because of my shining personality.
SB: How much validity would you put in to being a soulless ginger?
AJ: If people want to call me soulless, it’s because they put me here.
There you have it. It’s simply unfair that Abigail Fisher had to spend four years clashing red hair with Louisiana State University’s purple and gold – who else could better represent UT Austin’s orange and white than someone who IS orange and white?
* Sarah Marie Bishop. Go ahead – try to find a more wholesome name.