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I got into Harvard because of affirmative action. Some of my classmates got in for their wealth.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority gutted race-conscious admissions but is A-OK with giving priority to kids whose families pump money into schools.


I got into Harvard only because of affirmative action.

I went to a school no one had ever heard of in Denver, Colorado, in a small suburb. I didn’t go to a prestigious high school like Exeter or Andover. I didn’t have college test prep. I just happened to be really nerdy and smart and have really good grades and good SAT scores.

But someone came to Denver to look for me. A Harvard recruiter flew in, met me at a restaurant, and did a pre-interview to pull me into Harvard. I was pulled in — affirmatively.

This was not the recruiter saying, "We’re going to take an unqualified person and put them in Harvard." Rather, they were saying, "We’re going to take a very qualified person who we would never know existed and put them in Harvard."

That’s how I got there. That’s how Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson got there. It’s how Justice Clarence Thomas got into Yale Law School.

But the minute I arrived at Harvard from my majority-Black little town of Montbello in Denver — the first week or two that I was in class — my presence was questioned by white people.

I was in a big conference class where some white students stood up and said, ‘Those students, the Black students, they’re only here because of affirmative action." It became a huge argument that we all ended up having.

I had never had my academic credentials questioned. I had never had anyone question whether I was intelligent — until I got to Harvard. And it was a defining point of my experience there. It was one of the many reasons I was miserable during my freshman year. I felt completely out of place. People kept telling me, "You shouldn’t be here."

And yet, some of the people I went to school with were far less smart than me or the other Black folks there. They got in because their daddy and their grandaddy went there. I went to school with someone whose name was on one of the buildings, people who are third- and fourth-generation legacies, whose parents pumped money into Harvard to get them in.

But that affirmative action is OK with this Supreme Court majority. They said that the people who benefited from slavery — their descendants who are so far ahead of Black folk in terms of opportunity that we’ll never catch up to them (I don’t care how many Oprahs we get) — those people’s affirmative action is A-OK.

That's because those people can pay for fancy trips for them. But you people who want to get in just because of your brains but you’re not from a legacy — too bad, you can’t come in.

This is an excerpt from Thursday's episode of “All In with Chris Hayes.” It has been slightly edited for length and clarity.