A University of Texas law professor told a BBC interviewer that he believed growing up in single-parent households compounded black students' difficulty in completing the college admissions process.
"To me it's speculation -- it's in no area that I can claim expertise. It is the case that the single-parent household, the childs [sic] born outside of marriage today is approaching three-quarters in the black population," Professor Lino Graglia said on Nov. 29, The Daily Mail reported Tuesday. "I can hardly imagine a less beneficial or more deleterious experience than to be raised by a single parent."
He went on to describe the parent as "usually female, uneducated and without a lot of money" and said the average black student's score on the SAT was 200 points less than that of an average white student.
Graglia made the remarks to columnist Gary Younge as part of a report on affirmative action and U.S. college admissions Younge produced for BBC radio, and appears to be alluding to data from the U.S. Census (PDF) stating that 66 percent of low-income children raised in single-parent families identify as African-American.
"Racial discrimination stopped, and what happened? Very few blacks got into the University of Texas, and that was a disappointment," Graglia said. "I said, 'Gee, no more segregation, but where are the blacks? They're still not here. Why? Because they don't meet the qualifications.'"
When Younge pointed out that he was black and raised in a single-parent household, Graglia suggested that Younge was an anomaly.
"From listening to you and knowing what you are and what you've done, I suspect you're rather more smart," Graglia said. "My guess would be that you are above usual smartness - for whites, to say nothing of blacks."
His remarks were criticized Wednesday by biologist DN Lee in a column published Tuesday at Scientific American:
Let's not get it twisted. It is not about being Black or Brown. It is about being poor and yes single parent (low income) families have one helluva time supporting students high performance in academics. But we see this across the board, not just in Black Families. Economically disenfranchised communities house poorer School Districts. The tax base that supports the school is small. There tends to be high unemployment, high use of social services, higher percentage of stressed families. Poorer School Districts provide fewer challenging courses in Math, Science or college preparatory courses like Advancement Placement classes. Poorer School districts struggle to keep standardized test scores up. They struggle to keep students engaged and enrolled. Being poor sucks and in today's economy kids from inner-cities, rural areas or once-productive factory towns see the path out of poverty as a misty-filmed commercial harder and harder to comprehend.
Graglia is listed as the A. W. Walker Centennial Chair in Law at the law school of the university's Austin campus. The school did not return a call seeking a comment on Graglia's statements.
Listen to a portion of Graglia's interview with Younge, originally aired Nov. 29, below.