Interview with Toni Johnson-Chavis

OK, so now let's go to medical school. You're a medical school student. Someone said to you, "You're occupying this place only because of affirmative action and your presence here is an affront to the meritocracy." How do you respond?


That was something I was not even aware of. When I was selected for UC-Davis and went into Davis, it was not until well into my first year that I had any idea that I had been selected through affirmative action. Certainly I had met all the criteria for regular entrance. Certainly there were other students, White students who did not even meet the same criteria. Their GPA was far less than mine, their MCAT scores were far less than mine, so I had no idea that I had even come in through affirmitave action.** They certainly hadn't finished a curriculum in three years, as were some of the other minority students. One of the other minority students was a, was a lawyer at the time that he came in, ah, my husband Patrick had finished Albion in three years. His GPA was not less than 3.0. So, I did not come into the school from a school that was unaccredited, certainly did not have a C grade point average. So I had no idea that I had even come in through affirmative action. I think that that is the story with several Black students. So, I took it as an affront. That, ah, I, in some way, was given a spot, ah, that I should not have had, that in some way I was not prepared, or that someone did me a favor. Certainly I have, that was not the case. How was somebody with a GPA above 3.0 finished in three years from Stanford and who had contributed as much as I had, how is that affirmative action? That wasn't affirmative action. No one had given me anything. And in fact it was my feeling at that time that I had done much more than any White counterpart could have done. Ah, I had come from an inner city school, ah, public school, ah, with books that I could not even bring home that were class copies that I had to check out to bring home to study at night time. And despite that I had a 4.0 grade point average. That I had performed with the same expectations as everybody else at Stanford. There was nothing special. I took the same classes. I took the same tests. I passed them and I performed with above a 3.0 grade point average and in fact had finished early. So that for the mass media to view that as that they had done someone a favor, I took exception with. I was very vehement against that. But, and I really thought it was really wrong for the mass media to portray that we had these poor, pitiful, six students who had taken someone's spot. Nobody paid attention at that time to the fact that we, that there was a lot of nepotism that was going on in the University of California system. That the Dean had the authority to put people in a class that he selected. That in fact we had a girl that was in class whose parents were very, very wealthy, that owned a cleaning chain, that she had been fine artsy and in fact never had anything near a 3.0 grade point average, but she was in our class. Ah, but no one centered on those type of, ah, issues. Nobody focused on really what kind of students were we, what kind of GPA we came from. Those issues never came up. So there was a lot of resentment that I had at that particular time in terms of what was going on.