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Justice Antonin Scalia Ignites Controversy With Statements About Black Students in High Court Affirmative Action Case

"There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans ..."

In this March 8, 2012 file phoo, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Scalia says the nation's highest court was wrong 70 years ago to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. But he told students and faculty at the University of Hawaii's law school on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, the case came during a time of panic about the war. Scalia says he wouldn't be surprised if the court ruled similarly during another conflict. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has ignited controversy after his remarks concerning black students during an affirmative action case concerning the degree to which race should affect college admissions.

"There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well," Scalia said Wednesday, according to the court transcript, "as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school ... a slower-track school where they do well."

FILE - In this March 8, 2012 file phoo, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Scalia says the nation's highest court was wrong 70 years ago to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. But he told students and faculty at the University of Hawaii's law school on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, the case came during a time of panic about the war. Scalia says he wouldn't be surprised if the court ruled similarly during another conflict. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File) AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

The arguments focused on whether the university has compelling reasons to consider race among other factors when it evaluates applicants for about one-quarter of its freshman class. Most students are admitted to the university through a plan that guarantees slots to Texans who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes.

Scalia pointed to a brief, noting that it said "most of the black scientists in this country don't come from schools like the University of Texas."

"They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that ... they're being pushed ahead­­ in classes that are too fast for them," Scalia continued during the Fisher v. University of Texas hearing.

"I don't think it stands to reason that it's a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible," the justice said, according to the Huffington Post.

The Rev. Al Sharpton attended the oral arguments and said afterward he was "very concerned" when he heard Scalia "suggest that maybe blacks do better at schools that are not as fast as UT. I didn't know if I was in the courtroom at the United States Supreme Court or at a Donald Trump rally."

Sharpton added that "in a climate that we're seeing around the country, for this court to sit up and even flirt with the option that they would limit the fairness ... is something that is appalling and something that is extremely concerning to those of us in the civil rights community."

Others took a similar tone:

But Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network and a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, told CNN Scalia wasn't saying black students are inferior.

"What Justice Scalia is referring to is the 'mismatch theory' popularized by Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander in their book," she told CNN. "The idea is that if a student is admitted to a school they are not academically prepared for then they will not perform up to their own potential. This is a theory -- contested of course -- but I don't want people to get the idea that it means that all black students are not as smart as white students, or even that they are not as well prepared across the board."

CNN added that Scalia looks to have been referring to a brief filed by Sander.

"Students with an interest in science who are admitted to a very competitive school via a large preference tend to drop out of the sciences at a much higher rate than do otherwise similar students who attend somewhat less competitive programs," the brief said, CNN reported. "Competition mismatch appears to be a major factor in the low rate at which African-American students become scientists, despite high levels of interest in the sciences."

Here's a clip of Sharpton's remarks to the media:

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Follow Dave Urbanski (@DaveVUrbanski) on Twitter

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