Here at #TeamBeautiful we live for stories about Black academic success. We celebrated Eboni Boykin, who spent her childhood in homeless shelters but now calls New York’s Columbia University home. We praised the Thompson triplets, who graduated Magna Cum Laude with BS degrees from Norfolk State. And this week, we celebrated 21-year-old Ameena Ruffin and 18-year-od Korey Johnson, who recently became the first Black women to win a national debate championship tournament. So, when we found out the great news about Avery Coffey, a high school senior from one of the poorest parts of Washington D.C. who was accepted to five Ivy League universities, and Kwasi Enin, a 17-year-old from Long Island who was welcomed by all eight of the prestigious institutions, we made sure give them a digital round of applause and honor their accomplishments.
However, Valerie Strauss, a White, middle-aged education reporter from The Washington Post, was simply not impressed. She published an article originally titled “But Did He Apply to Stanford?” (It’s now “Can we stop obsessing on the Ivy League?”) where she congratulated Kwasi for his success, but in the next sentence asked, “Now can we stop talking about him?”
Excerpts from the Post:
Have you heard yet about 17-year-old Kwasi Enin of Shirley, N.Y., who applied to all of the eight schools in the Ivy League and got into every single one? If not, you are, by now, the only one.
Congratulations to Kwasi Enin. Now can we stop talking about him?
We might as well also congratulate Avery Coffey, 17, a senior at D.C.’s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, who was admitted to all five of the Ivy League schools – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown — to which he applied, according to MyFoxDC.com. Well done. But that’s enough.
She went on to argue that our society puts too much focus on elite colleges, and that Kwasi’s feat would only be big news if he was accepted to Stanford University, which has a 5.07 percent admission rate as compared to Harvard’s 5.9. She simply didn’t understand what all the fuse was about.
One thing that Valerie failed to realize is that the newsworthiness of Kwasi and Avery’s acceptance letters had nothing to do with her personal opinions about the Ivy League. It had nothing to do with if she felt they were picked by chance, and not because of their accomplishments. It had nothing to do with Stanford’s even lower admissions rate. And, it certainly had nothing to do with any bitterness she may (or may not) personally feel about her own college experience. If she could step outside of her Whiteness for a second — the bask that’s clearly blinded her from the politics of race and a system that criminalizes Black men in this country — then she could understand that we celebrated these young brothers because their hard work sends out a message to the masses. And what exactly was that message? It’s that limitations can be broken. Admission rates for Black students into Ivy Leagues institutions are dismally low, and now kids of all socio-economic backgrounds can see that it’s achievable, tenfold.
Dear Valerie, shame on you for trying to dim these young Ivy Leaguer’s shine. Shame on you for trying to discredit and minimize the light that will bring other kids, who previously believed this to be impossible, to the same levels of academic success.
This is America. Since when were we not a country that celebrated the brightest, smartest and hardest working people? Is that work discredited because they are Black and male? If Kwasi and Avery were dressed in orange jumpsuits, or in a hooded sweatshirt lying lifelessly on the sidewalk, would they be headline-worthy then?
Since we can’t blame affirmative action (and they weren’t accepted based on their athletic achievements), let’s just discredit the Ivies’ entire admissions process, right? And Valerie, since Kwasi was accepted to all eight of the well-respected institutions, are all of their admission standards questionable? Was this one big unanimous mistake?
I am an Ivy League graduate, not for undergrad I must add. But, I attended Columbia for graduate school and I can attest that admission for any non-wealthy, non-legacy, non-famous student is impressive — regardless of racial background. It’s mind-boggling how anyone could find anything but positive in this story. C’mon, how many students of any ethnicity apply to all eight Ivies and get in? This is an American moment for us all to celebrate. Their success should inspire us to dream, work hard and achieve.
In the words of a commenter who goes by SpiritChild, “We WILL celebrate Kwesi, we WILL honor his efforts and the struggle of his parents to expose him to a life beyond their dreams, and we WILL applaud his hard work. Most of all we WILL THANK Kwesi Ennis for standing strong and proud as a beacon of light on a path often obscured by discouragement, and disadvantage.”
Someone please find a stadium so Ms. Strauss can take a seat.
Check out her response here.
Tell me your thoughts at @MyeishaEssex.