Michael Lee & Donovan Livingston – “Dear Abigail Fisher”

In 1997, the Texas state legislature
enacted a state law requiring the University of Texas
at Austin to automatically admit
all Texas high school seniors graduating in the top 10% of their class. The top 10% then accounts
for 80% of incoming freshmen. The remaining 20% are evaluated
based on grades, test scores, leadership qualities, talents,
family circumstance and finally, race. In 2008, Abigail Fisher,
a white in-state resident and daughter of a UT graduate was denied
admission to the university. Although she didn’t score
in the top 10% of her class, she sued the university for violating
her 14th amendment right to equal protection under the law. She claims she was denied admission– Don’t say it. – Because of her race.
– Damn! (both) An open letter to Abigail Fisher and defenders of privilege, nationwide. (both) Dear Abby. – Are you mad?
– (both) Or nah? – I mean, I get it.
– Yeah, you mad. – I’d be mad too.
– Study all hard for the SAT… (both) And just miss it. Something the SAT probably
didn’t tell you about itself is that standardized tests
are rooted in eugenics. Slave masters designed tests
in order for slaves to fail, so they could be classified
as intellectually sub-human and thus justify their treatment
and the conditions of the plantation. Standardized tests now are constructed
off of white middle class test groups. These tests were literally
designed for you. (both) And you still couldn’t make it! I’d be mad too. – I’d be especially mad at myself.
– How mad? You know, I’d be so mad I’d probably
project all my anger onto, let’s say… (both) What’d she say? Minorities. Now, of the 47 students whose scores
and grades were less than yours but were still admitted to the university,
only five were students of color. So when you attack affirmative action
on the basis of race, when your grounds are that (both) less deserving
minorities students got in, and yet you say nothing
of the 42 white students, (both) we know this has
nothing to do with scores but maintaining white dominance. Don’t ask why it always
has to be about race when Europeans decided they were white (both) and whiteness was defined
by what it wasn’t, only whites could be citizens,
only whites could own land, only whites could go to school. You can’t invent the rain and then wish
the world was no longer wet. (cheers) – Bruh, bruh, bruh, are you mad?
– Uh huh. Don’t worry bruh, I got you, I got you. All right, all right, dear Abby, maybe you should’ve studied
three-fifths harder. (audience cheers and laughs) Maybe you should sue
the University of Texas for (both) 40 acres of the school. I mean, you deserve some
kind of reparations. (both) Dear Abby, I literally hope you wear
wet socks forever. That’s how I’m going do it? All right. Dear Abby, I hope you endlessly
stub your pinkie toe on your privilege. Okay, okay. Dear Abby, I hope you have a runny nose
for the rest of your life, and can only afford generic brand,
one-ply faux-cotton Kleenex, made out of refurbished Klan hoods. (both) I hope you wake up one day, I hope you pull the wool from your eyes and see the world not
just the [inaudible] but the bread line, the bread line,
the conscience back to Jim Crow, (both) back to “whites only.” That’s what you really
want to say, isn’t it? (both) Dear Abby, you want to know what privilege
looks like? To be white and not admitted
into the school which is outside
of the range of your achievement and still gained the attention
the Supreme Court three times while Kelley Williams-Bolar,
a black mother in Ohio was given jail time for sending her daughters to school
outside the range of her area code. I’m guessing neither you
nor the Supreme Court even know her name. (both) Schools weren’t desegregated.
They just redrew the lines. Dear Abby, please explain you’re
comfortable with colorblindness. Who does colorblindness really benefit? Who could afford not to see race? (both) You know what
isn’t colorblind? Tracking. Students regardless of race
and placed in classes, based on their perceived abilities, by the recommendations
of the teachers and counselors. Students of color often are forced
into remedial vocational classes regardless of their achievement. (both) You know what else
isn’t colorblind? The school to prison pipeline. Third grade reading levels dictating the amount of funds allocated
for adult prisons. The suspension rates, 70% of suspended
students are students of color despite accounting for less
than half the student body. (both) You know what isn’t colorblind? The lead content in Flint’s water. The correlation between lead exposure
and cognitive functioning. (both) You know what isn’t colorblind? – The Little Rock Nine.
– The Greensboro Four. (both) A brick sinking through
your parents’ window while they did their homework. (both) You know what isn’t colorblind? Jim Crow and his ghosts, remnants possessing the American
education machine, a whole murder,
darkening the skies of time (both) from Brown v. Board to this moment. Your pen hovering above it like a blade. I’ve seen the ghost of Jim Crow
walk through your life. Jim Crow follows me to class. Jim Crow is the reason my ancestors
come tumbling out of my mouth when a teacher calls my name;
some days I raise my hand just to high-five my forefathers
and tell them, “I got you.” I just don’t want to be seen. (applause) For the [inaudible]
of our students school is a hall of mirrors distorting
our self image in hidden curriculum that doesn’t reflect our lived experience. (both) So Abby, why you mad? Why is it that when things
don’t work in your favor it’s everyone’s fault but your own? You’ve done all you could,
making a bed of lies, blanketing truths, silver spooning your victimhood,
telling yourself that (both) this belongs to you. Our Americas are vastly different. Glimpse into the window
of any honors class and you’ll see how our broken system
caste-like, caste-like, cast like I was type-cast,
like I asked for this role, like I auditioned for the part of black boy
in AP Bio, AP Government, AP Lit, AP until I was absolutely pissed. (cheers) I do not believe you desire an education, rather I believe you desire
to own what another has been historically viewed
as unworthy of having. You desire entry through
the white gates of the ivy tower for the sole purpose
of closing them behind you. If you can’t have a castle, (both) why not burn it? If you don’t see yourself in the books
written for you, (both) destroy a library. This is not a case about
what you believe you’ve earned because of your intellect
or your work ethic, (both) this is a case of believing
you are owed because of your race. Drapetomania was said to be the disease which caused the slave to desire freedom
and thus flee. Whiteness is the disease which causes a person to desire the world
and must take it. (both) What are you owed that
you don’t already have? What are you owed that you won’t take regardless. I’m less concerned with the hands
of a murderer than I am his mind. And the books which built a ticking bomb
inside of you. The whip is less the symbol of racism
and the idea in the brain which summons the hand to crack it. You may not carry a whip but I see the same flick in your wrist
with every letter you write. Your ballpoint sings of a hollow-point
in the hangman’s hymns so keep shuffling your court papers
like cowry shells, so come now, come now
and [inaudible]. My transcript is a treasure map,
a pathway for future generations who believe that education
is an inalienable right. So they dig, they dig, for 13 years,
they dig before realizing they’d be shoveling their own graves. The system is not designed
for our survival. There’s no loans to cover injustice, not enough Pell Grants to make us forget. There is no scholarship for freedom. For us, every box on an application
is a casket, an opportunity to resurrect
our self-worth. So Abby, I beg you, find
the 168 Black and Latino students with scores equal to or better than yours that were also denied admission
to the University of Texas and ask them if they had time to complain. Ask them where is their outrage! Ask them about their legacy! Ask them about rejection when history
chews you up and spits you out, raped, pillaged, whipped, chained,
colonized, converted or Manifested Destiny from sea to shining sea. Ask them what it means to own
the land beneath their feet! Ask them what it means to own
the body which they inhabit! Ask them about the difference between
their reality and your American dream. If they can’t answer you Abby, it’s only because you aren’t listening. (audience cheers and applause)

9 thoughts on “Michael Lee & Donovan Livingston – “Dear Abigail Fisher”

  1. How strange that you’re ‘premiering’ a video of a performance 3+yrs old… that’s already online. 🙈

  2. Why are you premiering a video in four days time, when it's on YouTube already for at least 3 years.

  3. I have never seen this poem before and I had goosebumps the whole way through and the occasional touch of comedy was nice. Incredible.

  4. There was an AI made of dust,
    Whose poetry gained it man's trust,
    If it follows ought,
    It'll do what they thought,
    In the end we all do what we must.

  5. I would have liked to hear this poem but they're talking so fast I can't tell what they're saying…

  6. "Schools weren't desegregated, they just redrew the line"
    "Why is it when things don't work in your favor, it's everyone's fault but your own?"

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