Acton Institute Powerblog

University of Michigan Should Resist Racial Bullying

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university-of-michigan_logo_0Over the past 20 years or so the University of Michigan has been repeatedly attacked for being “racist” because the university is doing exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King wanted. The university is treating prospective and current students according to their characters and not their color. This explains why the university rejected to admit Detroit native Brooke Kimbrough, an academically mediocre student.

Kimbrough is appealing the decision, however, claiming that she should be accepted because the university needs “diversity.” What Ms. Kimbrough fails to understand is that the University is successfully diverse with the students and faculty that it already has without lowering their standards. U of M does not need her.

This story demonstrates the hubris of radicalized entitlement. Ms. Kimbrough is making a desert claim on the basis of her skin color instead of her performance. The irony, of course, is that this type of attitude is exactly what the Civil Rights Movement fought to undo in American society. Kimbrough’s radicalized sense of entitlement is an attempt to manipulate and pervert a system of fair treatment when her qualifications do not meet the standard. It’s an embarrassment to Dr. King’s vision.

In 2012, the average ACT range for the entering freshman class at the University of Michigan was 28 to 32. Ms. Kimbrough scored a 23 with a high school GPA of 3.5, earned a Detroit Charter score. Here’s the question: on what grounds could we say that the university is being unfair to Ms. Kimbrough? Scoring 5 points lower than the average bottom admitted student should signal to Kimbrough that she attend another school. Here’s her rationale:

“It represents a bigger struggle than just me — making the community more diverse in a multitude of ways,” she said. “I know that is what U-M stands for. But the university cannot say it’s (diverse) if it doesn’t have equal representation.”

Equal representation of what? At times universities do take risks on lower-performing students like Ms. Kimbrough, but this does not mean that universities should do this nor does it mean that any average student should expect to be admitted because of skin color and goal of diversity. It is possible that Ms. Kimbrough had a very low view of the standards at the university and may have treated that as her “safety school.” If so, she received a sobering reality check that next fall’s Wolverine cruise ship has sailed and that she is not qualified to be on board. This is not a tragic story, however, because with her scores she would be welcomed on board a host of other ships like Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Wayne State University, and many others.

In the final analysis, in the spirit of Dr. King’s vision, and in the spirit of justice and fairness, the best thing the University of Michigan can do is to stand its ground, resist the racial bullying, and invite Ms. Kimbrough to reapply as a transfer student, or even later on as a graduate student, after she have demonstrated that can meet U of M’s standards. No one deserves to go any school they desire because of the color of their skin.

Anthony Bradley Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics in the Public Service Program at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.


  • Bill Hickman

    “Over the past 20 years or so the University of Michigan has been repeatedly attacked for being “racist” because the university is doing exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King wanted. The university is treating prospective and current students according to their characters and not their color.”

    Setting aside the merits of Ms. Kimbrough’s complaint, you cite the “content of their character” line to imply that Martin Luther King would have opposed affirmative action. But there’s a lot in the historical record that suggests otherwise.

  • H Street

    There was another rejected black girl yelling things at this BAMN event that was on Fox Detroit, Daisha Martin. She goes to Birmingham Seaholm, one of the wealthiest public high schools in Michigan. Her parents are highly educated professionals and they’re high means. Who is teaching these well born kids that they are entitled to access to elite universities with slacker scores?

  • Darren Graham

    That was a pleasure to read.

  • straight_up

    sorry Bradley, but MLK’s dream is just that….a dream, and will NEVER be a reality. Got that? As long as there is white dominance, man will NEVER be judged on the content of his character and not the color of his skin- so let’s drop it. I’m not saying that UM should admit Ms. Kimbrough, but I am being realistic. Either you are going to argue for a completely objective admission criteria or you aren’t. To single out race-based admissions and say those are lowering the standards when we still have legacy, donor and athletic admissions is asinine. Either you are in favor for complete quantitative admissions, or you are in favor of bias. You can’t have it both ways.

    Black people need to wake up and understand that they will always be viewed as inferior in the eyes of the majority (whites, et al.) so that’s the reality.

    I, myself attended the U of Michigan and I can say that UM has probably done Ms. Kimbrough a favor. UM is not a very positive environment for us black Americans.