Interview with Luke Harris

What do you mean when you talk about the psychological impact on students of color?


Well, I think connected to, ah, I think that affirmative action has, basically, been misconceived, ah, by the American public. And, I think one of the ways, ah, that it's been misconceived has to with the nature in which the debate, ah, about how affirmative action has been constructed. I mean, if you really look at the terms of the debate--the very terms of the debate imply in subtle, but yet, important respects that, ah, a certain sense of superiority of Whites and inferiority of people of color. The idea is kind of, that, ah, Blacks are getting something that they really don't deserve, and that Whites are, are being hurt--even if it is for a good cause. But, nonetheless they're being hurt, because, ah, affirmative action, inevitably, is said to involve a process of reverse discrimination against Whites. Ah, now the reality is that affirmative action is really something very other than that. But, in the environment of the law school, at the time, where there were very few significant others[SIC] of color, and faculty members who were writing, some faculty members, who were writing articles suggesting that, ah, really--with the exception of a very small handful of students--there really weren't, ah, Black students and other people of color who were suited to, ah, be educated in elite universities; not just at the level of law school and medical school, but also, in terms of, ah, major undergraduate colleges and universities across the country. And, these ideas, as you might expect, affected the thinking even of some students of color. So, one of things that I found interesting was that, ah, ah, it was at Yale--not at St. Joe's--that, for the first time in my life, I ran into extraordinary Black students; some of whom really felt that, ah, maybe they belonged at Yale, but certainly other Black students did not. And, certainly, some of the other students of color did not. And, all of that was really, largely, a reflection--I think--of an inability of, even some of the members of our community to sustain the, ah, the, ah, the constant assault on the psyche that come from being in an institutional environment where significant others[SIC] feel that you really aren't quite as good. And--