Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Black student denied valedictorianship over motherhood?

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Black student with diploma
(Not Kymberly Wimberly)

It broke all over the blogosphere this morning (notably in my Daily Blend): Kymberly Wimberly, a Black 18-year-old student in Little Rock, Arkansas with the highest GPA of Class of 2011, was allegedly denied valedictorianship by school administrators in favor of two other White students with lesser academic achievements:

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AR) - A high school southeast of Little Rock would not let a black student be valedictorian though she had the highest grade-point average, and wouldn't let her mom speak to the school board about it until graduation had passed, the graduate claims in Federal Court.
     Kymberly Wimberly, 18, got only a single B in her 4 years at McGehee Secondary School, and loaded up on Honors and Advanced Placement classes. She had the highest G.P.A. and says the school's refusal to let her be sole valedictorian was part of a pattern of discrimination against black students.
     Wimberly says that despite earning the highest G.P.A. of the Class of 2011, and being informed of it by a school counselor, "school administrators and personnel treated two other white students as heir[s] apparent to the valedictorian and salutatorian spots."

This seems rather damning from the get-go, especially given McGehee School District’s track record of not having had a Black valedictorian since 1989, despite the school’s racial demographic being 46% Black. As PZ Myers notes, this certainly sounds like a case of subtle racism on the part of the administration, if the allegations against them are true.

However, a little deeper in the article, we find this [my emphasis]:

"Because of defendants' continuous disparate treatment of African-American students, defendants' actions toward the plaintiff can properly be classed as intentional," the complaint states.
     "Defendants did not support African-American students, and did not want to see Wimberly, an African-American young mother as valedictorian.

So it seems that young Wimberly has hit the perfect duo – she’s Black, and she’s a barely-past-teen single mother. To the fainting couches!

Of course, to anyone who stops to think for more than two seconds, this only makes it doubly clear how Wimberly deserves the honor of being valedictorian. Not only has she scored the best grades in the entire school, but she actually managed to do so while being saddled with a child to boot. Even with the difficulties she must face in a country rife with undercurrents of racism and disenfranchisement for young mothers, she still pulled the feat of kicking the rest of the student body’s collective academic butt. If that doesn’t show her to be a person of utmost courage and moral character (not to mention academic brilliance), then not a student in that school deserves to be valedictorian, period.

(via @blanchebeecham)