Eyes on the Prize One Interviews
Washington University Digital Gateway Texts
Interview with Toni Johnson-Chavis

View Item

Interviewer: Jackie Shearer
Production Team: D
Interview Date: March 2, 1989

Camera Rolls: 4092-4095
Sound Rolls: 439-440

Editorial Notes:

Interview with , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on March 2, 1989, for . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection. These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of


JACKIE SHEARER: OK, Dr. Chavis. When did you decide that you wanted to be a doctor? Do you come from a long line of physicians?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: No, actually I come from a long line of, ah, educators and just, ah, working people really. Ah, decided to be, I decided to be a physician when I was 5 years old. Believe it or not, ah, when I was very young I wanted to be a physician and in fact I wanted to be in somewhat, ah, some field that had something to do with children. So probably by first grade I was already telling my parents that I wanted to either deliver babies or take care of babies. By the time I was in third grade I knew that I actually wanted to take care of babies. Ah, there were no other physicians in the family. There're several teachers. But my family, ah, does, my mother's side of the family particularly and my father's does have a long background of being in service occupations, ah, helping other people in some way. I think that's been instrumental in my desire to be a physician.
JACKIE SHEARER: So sound and camera, how was things?


JACKIE SHEARER: How about talent, how does it feel?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Oh, OK. It's no problem.
JACKIE SHEARER: So, we're ready to do it again.


JACKIE SHEARER: What kind of high school did you go to and how well were you prepared academically for college?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: I went to Compton High School, ah, in 1969. I graduated, ah, Compton High was a remarkable school in that, ah, it's in a area that rapidly went from a basically all White city to all Black city in a matter of seven or eight years. In 1963 the school was primarily White. In 1969, I would say, it was probably 80 percent Black. The school, ah, is probably similar to most inner city schools now. There's a very, ah, diligent push with a lot of the, the teachers at that time to encourage and push the students to go to college. Preparation for college I think was poor. Ah, simple things, such as using slide rules and, were not, ah, taught, so that by the time I was accepted to Stanford and went there, I was really ill-prepared as compared to the other students even though I had fairly high SAT scores. The actual preparation for pre-med curriculum at a school such as San- Stanford was, ah, it was poor. So I was definitely at a selective disadvantage, ah, going into the school in terms of prior preparation. When you consider that other students are going to, ah, Ivy League Schools or even the University of California system, some of those schools have come out of prep schools, particularly when you talk about Stanford. So that when you take someone who's come from an inner city background, those people are at a mark- marked disadvantage as compared to, ah, the other students that are with them. It was a very enjoyable experience. It was primarily all Black. I had been raised in Compton all my life. Ah, my parents bought a home shortly after I was born in 1952, so I saw the real transition from a primarily all White city to a city that rapidly became Black, ah, in the '50s and the '60s. I really enjoyed it in terms of close bonds with other students, so that in terms of social acquisition and comfort, I think that that was the bonus of having gone to an all Black school. There was a wonderful Principal at that time by the name of Aaron Wade who came from a typical southern education type of background. So there was a marked push on educational opportunities, so although it was lacking in terms of what I actually could learn in total in terms of preparation, it was very, ah, beneficial in terms of offering a fairly caring, motivated environment. And I think that that proved to be a very valuable point later on, ah, in school.


JACKIE SHEARER: Now, when you went to Stanford, you told me an interesting story about the first meeting with your student advisor. Can you tell that story again.
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Yeah, I had an advisor the second day I came. The lady was an anatomist and she, at that time, was over the pre-med, the quote "pre-med group" at school. And it was necessary in those days, which is probably now the same thing, to review your curriculum with your advisor and you have to get their John Henry, their signature on your card, ah, approval that you've reviewed your certain classes. Ah, that very first meeting association was, ah, catastrophic. It was somewhat different. I shouldn't say catastrophic because I later did not even go ahead to meet her but, she made it very clear on that first meeting that she thought that I was an exception for someone that was, that was Black, and though my SAT scores were high that in fact she made it, ah, very clear that the quote "White" students actually probably did better. She gave me a suggested curriculum that she thought that I could, that I should take, but, ah, sprinkled a lot of put downs and her doubt that I would be able to master that. And even though I came into school with a very idealistic idea that I was going to be a doctor that she had some real doubts of whether I would ever attain that. It could have been very devastating. But luckily because of the background I came from and, ah, the motivation and self confidence, ah, I understood the racism that was exhibited, ah, actually, somewhat maturely. I was mature enough to even understand why the lady was probably doing what she was doing. It was a very painful experience and I was able to extract myself from that and actually feel sorry if there were other minority students who were, were exposed to that kind of person, and I'm pretty sure that these are the kind of things that operate across the country, not only in colleges, but probably in secondary schools too. I dealt with the situation by never returning to her as an advisor and deciding on my own what curriculum I thought I could handle. And I made some choices to change some things around. I had no idea whether I would be able to handle the curriculum, ah, as she had suggested. I knew that I liked psychology and I liked English and I liked a lot of the social classes in addition to just, hardcore, quote, "sciences". So, I only took two or three of those at a time and made sure I took other classes that were, ah, social in orientation and things that I could really enjoy. Ah, I, I did come into somewhat of a shock in that I was used to making straight As. And when I had to accept the first B, that was somewhat of a letdown. Ah, and I remember actually crying in the bathroom because I had a B and just barely made a C and I absolutely was not used to that, actually having straight As. And I had a roommate that, ah, was very compassionate and she somewhat laughed and she said, "Oh, I think a B is terrific." And I had to sit there and realize that a B was something that I was not used to because of a certain perfectionism that I had. But I realistically looked and said, "Look from what you came from, you tried hard and that is what mattered and just, it's OK, keep trying hard and you'll, you'll get there." Ah, and there were some difficulties. There were differences and I had to work a little harder in certain areas. But there were other areas that kind of came naturally and, and I enjoyed, psych classes and English classes, ah, so I actually, always made sure that I did not approach pre-med with the strict scientific orientation. It was always my feeling that, ah, sciences were necessary but, and later on this came to, to be true, that medicine is a, is a field that is really laced with a lot of social things. Ah, and that really the psych background and the English and being able to feel comfortable talking to people and exposure to all different kind of people, later proved to be very, very valuable, as valuable as the analytical geometry that I had to take.
JACKIE SHEARER: OK, so I'd like you to describe for me, your first meeting with your student advisor at Stanford.
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: This is my second day on campus and I had to, ah, get a signature from my advisor for acceptance of my classes. Ah, I biked over to, ah, particularly, the area that I had to go and it was in the old science building at Stanford. And I biked over and went upstairs and met the advisor for the very first time. She's a female anatomist and she was over the pre-med, ah, group at that time and that is why she was selected to be my advisor. I was pretty enthusiastic about meeting her for the first time. I knew she was a lady and she was a pre-med advisor and that she had, ah, and she was an anatomist, and so I thought I was pretty lucky to selected having a lady as an advisor. Quickly I found out that it was not what I thought it was going to be. Ah, as I entered the room, I could tell just by body language and the way she received me, that, ah, there was a lot of negativism that, ah, was occurring and I just had a gestalt right away that, though she was female, that, ah, she was not going to be probably the nicest person that I met. Quickly, she began with putdowns. Ah, she was very methodical and reviewed my past, ah, performance in school. And quickly said, "Oh, you made straight As from Compton High. Where is that?" And I told here where it was. "It's an all Black high school isn't it?" And I said, "Yes it is." And she asked me some specific questions of my parents and what did they do. I was struck right away with what difference did that have to do with what my curriculum was and I didn't quite pick up then, what was happening. She then went to my SAT scores. Asked me specifically what my specif- what my SAT scores were. And she said, "Oh, that's really very good. That's very good for, quote "you people." But we have students--"
JACKIE SHEARER: OK, so if you could pick where you were saying that she asked you what your parents did.
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Yeah, she asked me what my parents did for a living. And at that time I could not figure out what that had to do with anything. Ah, later on I quickly was able to see the essence of what was going on, which I think had a lot to do with racism. She then looked at my SAT scores and reviewed by grades and made the statement that, you know, I had made straight As. She wondered if I was going to be able to carry that out at Stanford and that that my background probably had not prepared me for what to expect there. And that even though my SATs were very high for, "you people", ah, there were many, many students that had top SAT scores and so that that was the climate of what I was going to be up against, so that I should be prepared that I probably would not be able to do very well, that she would, nevertheless, go ahead and, ah, advise me on the usual course for pre-med. And that, usually most students finish that in a 4-year curriculum, that, ah, I might, it might take me a longer period of time to finish that, ah, but that would be, you know, OK, if, if I could in fact finish that. Quickly, the same enthusiastic person that marched in the room was not tearful but within 15 minutes, I really realized the rude reception that I had just received at Stanford and probably what was going to be the reception that I maybe would receive from a lot of teachers, and that unfortunately I was not going to be exposed to the same type of, ah, encouragement and positive attitude that I had been raised with by my parents and/or other teachers in secondary school.


JACKIE SHEARER: Let's follow up on that and tell me about, in general, the reception that you found in Stanford, I'm thinking about all the sequence of events that led up to your being housed in a trailer.
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: The receptions in terms of Black students were very positive. They were very few. There were less than 30 total in a class of about 1500. There were 13 Black women specifically and Stanford is a very large campus with several dorms. And they had spread us all around the campus with groups of two, two women in each dorm. Ah, so that it was really very difficult for us to be cohesive and coalesce because we were so spread out. But, quickly, despite that, we still formed close friendships and there were probably 7 or 8 of us who did. Even though Stanford, that was 1969 in California, theoretically a State, ah, that was non-southern, and you don't think that you're going to get Mississippi racism, but in fact it was very, very racist. There were a lot of anti-Semitic groups on campus, anti-Black groups that were on campus. Ah, my dorm, it was not uncommon for swastikas to be painted on my door. That happened two or three times. A cross was bor- burned outside of my dorm room. By the third quarter, my roommate and I, Patricia Gay and I were moved to a trailer that usually only upper classmen could go into. And there was Linda Russell, Rita Bernstein, they were in another dorm and myself and my roommate and the four of us were placed in a trailer, primarily for safety, so that we would be out of the dorm situation because of what was going on. There was not very much publicity about that. Stanford in 1969, those things were not supposed to be occurring. So that, you know, those were not the kind of things that the media picked up and those were the kind of things that were quickly squashed. So we pretty much coalesced and stayed somewhat distant from the main flow of what was going on. The BSU, the Black Student Union, was very active in those days. There was a lot of Black pride issues that you don't see that it's pretty, that's going on now. And so there was a lot of cohesion with the Black students. So, therefore, it was not a bad experience. It was not really a very lonely experience. It was a very active, ah, experience in my life in terms of what was going on.


JACKIE SHEARER: How did you perform at Stanford?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Fairly well. Not straight A as compared to, ah--
JACKIE SHEARER: I'm sorry. Could you give me a complete sentence.
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Pretty well, I did not have a straight A grade point average, a 4.0 grade point average that I had coming out of high school. But I finished, ah, with a, a B average, above a B average. I think specifically it was like 3.2. I made As and Bs but did fairly well. I finished Stanford in three years. I, ah, one quarter took 24 units to finish. Not only did I finish in three years but I was really very, very active. I was a very active member of the BSU. I was in a pre-med, ah, advisory group. I was on a selection committee for other students coming in to the school. I did some research with, ah, sickle cell anemia with Norman Kretchmer in the Medical School. I was also in a tutorial program that Black students formed and would go over into East Palo Alto and tutor Black students in the elementary school who were having school learning disabilities, so that I was very, very active in addition to carrying out a pre-med curriculum. And I finished that in three years. Ah, even though I did not make a 4.0 grade point average, my motivation was always self, ah, and I felt very good about, ah, what I had done and contributed to the community in East Palo Alto, what I had contributed to the school and the BSU, as well as what my grades were in preparation for medical school. And I felt very confident that I would be able to handle any medical school curriculum pretty well, without a problem. So, overall, I felt very positive about what I did.


JACKIE SHEARER: 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?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: 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.[1] Interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985; Episode 207-53 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.


JACKIE SHEARER: So, you're in medical school, tell us the story of this clinic you set up.
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: In medical school, during the first year, ah, continue, in the continuation of the fervor from undergraduate school, in terms of wanting to have some community commitment at the same time that I was doing a curriculum, several Black students decided that a community approach, something that we could offer, was to help start a clinic, ah, with a particular goal of trying to look for things that affected primarily Black, ah, people. One of the things that was most important to us was hypertension. We set up a clinic that worked on Saturdays in Del Paso Heights, we, that's in Sacramento, very close to Davis, maybe 13 miles away. We started in a little storefront that was actually in Sacramento and then we were able to get permission for use of a clinic on Saturdays. And we would monitor blood pressure and do nutritional lectures and those were the type of things. We were--
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Yeah, we were--
JACKIE SHEARER: Oh, I'm sorry. OK.
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: We're in a clinic, ah, we were in a clinic in Del Paso Heights, Sacramento. There were about ten medical students, all Black. There were a couple Filipinos, a couple, ah, Hispanic guys that were also there. And we were ostensibly doing, ah, checking for hypertension, doing nutritional lectures about how you could change things, reviewing medications with the patients. We were medical students but we had a couple people who were physicians who backed us up at the clinic. Quickly, we were really surprised, it was Del Paso Heights, Sacramento, which was ostensibly again supposed to be Black and that's what we thought we were going to be dealing with minority patients. By the second Saturday, 50 percent of our patients were, were White. And that progressed to more and more. So, we then went back to our class, because we needed more people to help us, because it was more of a success than we thought, to see if we could get other people, solicit help from the other students in the classroom. We could not solicit help from any of the other, ah, students in the classroom, White. On one occasion, I particularly remember talking to, ah, one of the White students in the class and asked him, why wouldn't he help? And he said, "Well, I just don't have the time. It's at a distance and I don't particularly care to go to 'that area'." And when I described, "But do you realize that this area is a little rural and it's actually not, not all Black, it's primarily actually White, poor Whites were in the area and we very much need extra help." And what his response was is that he didn't go to medical school to take care of poor people. It didn't matter, Black or White. He went to medical school because he wanted to make money, ah, and he was not going to ac- ah, give up any of his free time to "go to that area, and take care of poor people, Black or White". And I was astounded at that type of attitude. But we could not solicit one White student from the classroom to help us in that project.


JACKIE SHEARER: Now I want to move to the Bakke case itself. When Alan Bakke is described as a decent, hard working family man who wanted nothing more than to fulfill a life long ambition to be a doctor, how does that make you feel?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: It makes me feel, "So what?" That's the aspiration of, of many, ah, people who want to be doctors in, in America. There are lots and lots of people who want to go to medical school. Unfortunately, there is a supply and demand factor, and there are not enough medical schools to, ah, take care of all the people who aspire to go to medical school. So, that unfortunately there is going to be a selective gradient, ah, and that was then and it's going to be now. And, so there is going to be a selection process. That selection process, as far as I'm concerned, has factors other than what your GPA is and what your SAT score is, ah, how much money you're parents have. That factor should also be laced with humanistic values in terms of what your future contribution and commitment can be to society. And certainly medicine has been thought to be a lucrative field, so that if we are going to select people who have a high GPA and high SAT scores because they solely want to make X amount of money and not because they really feel like they're indebted somewhat to society and that they have something to contribute and to offer to society in whole, ah, that that includes poor people, Black people, and all people, then we are going to have a problem. But we're not going to ever get away from a selective gradient. So, I'm sorry that Bakke thought that he was well qualified, ah, and that that was a spot that he should have. There are countless other people who feel the same and we can't accommodate all of them. So I felt no pity or sorrow at all for the man.


JACKIE SHEARER: Now again, when you're at medical school, did you perceive Bakke's challenge of affirmative action as a threat to affirmative action? What did you think was happening?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: I certainly thought that Bakke's challenge to affirmative action programs was a threat. Ah, I thought that if he won that case that in fact it was going to stop affirmative action programs. I strongly felt that those programs were necessary, that they were deserved, that there were years of racism and other things that had operated in the United States post-slavery, not only for Blacks for other Third World people. Ah, and that the United States should do something to try to rectify that. My feeling of affirmative action was that we, we should not be taking D students as the media tries to project, who are unqualified, in order to do that. But certainly in the selection process that we should include humanistic type of values in that selection process for affirmative action. So, I felt very much threatened that if this man was successful that some of the inroads that we had had post-Martin Luther King, ah, we would, we would lose. And that certainly that there was a real need that was occurring at that time with more Black students and other students, Hispanic and Asian students being selected. And I had a real fear that if he won that we would lose out on those in later years.


JACKIE SHEARER: Now, why do you think it makes a difference that Blacks get to be doctors?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: I think Blacks, ah, because I'm Black, but, ah, any Third World people who, and they don't necessarily have to be poor, ah, are going to be sometimes much more sensitive to the needs of not only other minorities, but as even proved to be in the clinic, to the needs of people, period. The truth of the matter is there are a huge amount of people who exist below the poverty line in America and that those are needs that are not met. A case in point is where I'm working right now. I'm in the city of Compton. It's a huge area with lots and lots of people and children. There are only two pediatricians in the area. There is no one who selected this area. I selected it really because I, quote "returned to the community," and I truly did that. Not a selection based on money but something to fulfill a need and if you look at NMA, National Medical Association, and you look at where Black doctors are, the majority of them are in areas of need. They're in poor areas. They're not only taking care of poor Black people, they're taking care of poor people, period. So, they're supplying a need. So, it was very, very important to me that we increased, ah, the amount of Black physicians we had in the United States as well as other minority physicians. We have a trend right now in the State of California that's rapidly becoming Hispanic and Asian, ah, we must take care of the needs of those patients. Not only the language needs but there are other needs too.


JACKIE SHEARER: Now, when someone--
JACKIE SHEARER: So, OK, When someone labels affirmative action as reverse discrimination, what do you say?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: The same response. If someone labels affirmative action as reverse discrimination, I don't agree with that. I have very strong feelings, ah, against that. I think that anybody who does that is doing that for a certain, ah, purpose and I would say that it's, it's still racial in context. There's a lot of racism that exists because of that. I think that, ah, it's not reverse discrimination. I think the selective gradients should occur. Certainly there has been differences in how people were treated in the United States, and there are certainly differences in how people are treated right now. There are a lot of class differences, socioeconomic differences that occur. We've got a lot of people who are poor, below the poverty line. There are big differences in educational acquisition that occur here. That- there's selection that occurs throughout the gamut. We don't have, um, a state or a country where everyone is exposed to the same educational type of system and that that is guaranteed. That's a farce. There is major differences in that. Um, kids are not all guaranteed adequate nutrition. In the last fifteen years, we've had a real inroads in stopping all programs in terms of public health programs, in terms of programs for mothers for children. And mothers. Um, mothers don't even have the same quality of care when it comes to prenatal care, so that we have selective gradients when against certain people in-utero. So it becomes a farce to say that we have reverse discrimination when you start talking about educational things later on. It's been pro a certain class of people for the whole time. And certainly those people need to be represented it- and represented in occupations such as medicine. So I think that it's incumbent upon people to, to look at those type of things. And it does not mean that you select people who are not qualified, um, but it does mean that you must have a humanistic approach to that selection. So that I, I don't agree with the, ah, term reverse discrimination.


JACKIE SHEARER: When you were a medical student, as a Black woman, did you ever feel that people were considering you as less qualified than the next medical student, the medical student next to you who happened to be White?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: I certainly feel that the majority of people think that affirmative action means that there's a selection of people who are less qualified. And I am sure that people viewed that I was less qualified. Whether it was the students in the class with me, whether it was the professors who were sitting there, or whether there are people in general, um, that even has to do with my practice in medicine now. I'm pretty sure the patients who ah, people who see think that the average Black physician is in some way less qualified as someone else. So that is something the daily, that I deal with. I don't worry about it. And it, that was something that probably even occurred then. Um, it's very important for people to have very good self esteem and self-confidence. And unfortunately, this day and time, if you happen to be a lady, or if you happen to be minority, you are going to have to daily deal with the fact that people are going to think that for some reason you're less qualified. And why are you in the position that you're in? So it requires a lot of self-confidence--
JACKIE SHEARER: OK, I'm sorry. We've rolled out.
JACKIE SHEARER: So it's 1977. You're on your way to becoming a physician. Did you feel that as a Black woman others didn't take you seriously?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: 1977, um, in m- I was in medical school at that time, just about to finish, and I was positive that my fellow students and other people did not take me seriously in terms of wanting to be a physician. I was just about through with the curriculum at that particular time. I also felt that they did not, um, think that I had all the qualifications that were necessary, that in fact, because of affirmative action and the selection of Black students that are coming in, that we were in some w- we were somewhat different, um, and inferior as compared to the other students. I don't think that that's the case at all in terms of, um, what was going on. Again, as I stated earlier about my, um, experience at Stanford in undergraduate school, there were the same tests. There were the same, um, objectives that we had to meet. The same criteria, um, and we did those. And I had no problems in medical school doing that. But I'm pretty sure that, that, ah, there was a lot of racism and sexism that went in. And people really honestly had no idea of what my background was or the other minority students' background was. And it's of interest that they would have those feelings, but never actually got close enough to really verbalize those feelings or really ask you anything about what your background really was.


JACKIE SHEARER: Now, can you just give me a sense of your experience as a student, helping with selection at Stanford, and then at the affirmative action program out at UCal-Davis. What was your assessment of affirmative action? Good or bad?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Oh, I thought the affirmative action at UC Davis in those days was really very good. I thought that they did an excellent job on selecting students that were both qualified to deal with the rigorous medical curriculum. At the same time were very exacting in what- ah, selecting people that they thought would share later on a commitment to society. They were very exacting in paying attention to what making sure that the people had completed all the requirements, pre-med requirements, that they had fulfilled all the, the science requirements, that their SAT scores were reasonable. And even though sometimes the SAT scores might be somewhat lower, there was never anyone selected who had real, significantly, um, significant bad grades or had a real problem with the SAT. They also were really, really paid very close attention to previous commitments to organizations and community things, whether people had published certain things, what previous occupations they had done, where in fact they lived or what, what type of medicine they planned to go into. They were a l- there are a lot of questions that they asked. And again, they were very, very exacting. And I think they did a wonderful job on meeting the standards of what was going to be necessary to take care of the rigorous, ah, classes, assignments that were going to cor- we're talking about UC California which is very exacting in what their requirements were. And I think they did a good job.


JACKIE SHEARER: Now, do you remember, again, as a student back then at U Cal-Davis, do you remember the first time you ever heard about Alan Bakke and his case?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: Yes, I heard about Alan--
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: I heard about Alan Bakke the very first year I was in medical school, but there wasn't much said other than "there was a guy who wanted to get into our class and he was really angry that he didn't get into the class so he was going to sue"[2] Interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985; Episode 207-53 , um, because he wanted a position and he didn't want to go to a foreign medical school. He was going to sue that because they "Let minority students in in his place." Th- nothing much more than that. And it really wasn't until probably the third year in medical school that we began to hear rumors or more that in fact he had an open case against the University of California-Davis. Um, and again, it was a little bit said about that, but no real details. I remember being quite surprised that there was nothing aggressively being done at that time with the Black Bar Association or some of the other groups in order to fight this because I really thought that affirmative action programs were going to be really very much threatened by that. But it wasn't until, ah, my senior year when I was doing most of my, ah, courses in Southern California and then my first year of internship at US--LSCUSC that I began to hear of the devastating news of in fact what was going on with Alan Bakke case.


JACKIE SHEARER: I'd like to get some kind of, um, concluding statement. So I'm thinking of putting you in the position of having finished medical school, the decision, the supreme court decision came out, and I'm wondering how you felt personally, um, at this decision which in some sense--
JACKIE SHEARER: In June of 1978, the Supreme Court basically admitted Bakke to medical school. You're on your way to being a physician. How did you feel about this?
TONI JOHNSON-CHAVIS: In terms of with regards to Bakke, the decision that the Supreme Court had made in order to, to allow him to go to medical school, there was no personal feelings to Bakke at all. I was really somewhat angry of that decision in terms of that it was an affront to minority students coming into a program who very much deserved to be in a program, that it was supporting basically a reverse discrimination stance. It was always my feeling that there were only slight inroads and gains that we had made post-Martin Luther King era. Um, that I had been very fortunate, ah, to be a part of that era but that we really were s- were fulfilling the society need. But I could tell that it was really not in the hearts of, of White America, that it was really just an appeasement for a short time. And in fact, um, that the Bakke was just beginning to open up the channels of just the resumption of all the other racial things that were all, that was already going on. Um, that it was going to be devastating and that, that that decision was going to have a real effect on the admittance of minority students, particularly Black students later on in, in the future. So I was appalled really at that decision and what it was mean, what it would mean in the future. Now, ten years later, sitting back, um, what I believed then has come to fruition. If you really look at the amount of Black students, um, elected to s- I mean, selected to schools, it's in marked decline. Davis, for example, there were six in my class. There have been classes since then that had no Black students, or far less than five. Um, yet, we still have large amounts of, of Black people and other people that are existing. Um, and I think that it's very significant that ten years after Bakke with that feeling, that just the example of where I am and what's occurring now is very important. Ten years later, there are only two Black pediatricians existing in Compton, California. Everybody nationwide basically almost have heard the term Compton as considered an all-Black city. It's largely Hispanic now. Um, there're a large amount of poor people and there are only two pediatricians in that whole city. The two pediatricians here are both Black. And they both came from that period of time. One guy who came out of inner city of, of Indiana, ah, Indianapolis, Indiana. And myself who came from Compton, California. There is no one else who's made a, who's made a selection to come in. If the two of us had not been trained in that era and were not here, who would fulfill the void now? Certainly Martin Luther King Hospital that was built because of the whole post-Martin Luther King era is now inundated with patients. And they cannot even take care of the patients. Who would fulfill that need? That's the question I asked then and that's the question that I ask now[3] Interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985; Episode 207-59
JACKIE SHEARER: Great. Bless you.