Thursday, June 29, 2023

A Tragedy We Will See for A Generation

 I have been busy with our family transition, dealing with movers, packing, setting up the apartment, and just swamped, so it was with a bit of dismay this morning that I was finally able to sit down and have a cup of coffee to watch the news when the news was shattering:

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Affirmative Action in higher education.

Now, this is more than just Harvard or UNC or frankly, any college or university.

This is four decades of precedence. 

Like them striking down Roe v. Wade.

They have consistently shown themselves to be the most racist, mean-spirited, ultra conservative court that has ever existed.

White boys are not smarter than African Americans. What they got was legacy admissions and unmerited access to generations of higher education. White boys are not smarter than the vast majority of the country and one of the things that Affirmative Action made sure was that poor white students, women, African American, Indigenous, and other people who otherwise were qualified for admission to college, could have their race and class considered in the overall makeup of the student class.

I'm a mom of college students.

I'm the wife of an university president.

I just walked on campus the last two days with scores of Class of 2027 students going through orientation and just smiled at the racial and ethnic diversity of these students. The actions of this decision today could decidedly threaten that in future classes.

It left me so angry this morning that after watching the news, I had to get out of the apartment and just walk and think. There is a book by Ifeoma Oluo called Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America.

We have been living in that since 2008 and the birther rose up.  We have seen it on the other side of the quests and protests for Black lives, we have seen it since 2020 when George Floyd was lynched in the middle of a pandemic and all sorts of people stood up. We keep seeing it.

And this bought-and-paid-for conservative majority, in a 6-3 decision, ruled that this is an apartheid state with only White males as the ultimate ones to benefit from any chance or opportunity.

This, in a country that is racially and ethnically diverse, that is not the top 1%, that is filled with people who have hopes and dreams that if given the chance, will make this a truly representative democracy.

What happened today is a tragedy that we will see play out in my grandsons' lives.

My late father, in the early 1970s, wrote the State of Missouri's Affirmative Action Plan that became an Executive Order that created the Office of Equal Opportunity. That dealt with everything from employees in state government to government contracting. What resulted was the doors pushed wide open for white women who raced out of the secretarial pools into state government positions of management, who took business contracts under the guise of being "minority" and benefitted from this ruling. 

Today, we saw that this U.S. Supreme Court is abnormal, that has ruled against the rights and hopes of the people.

They lied under oath that they would not overturn president.

They took gifts and special trips.

And they have shown they are not impartial and can not be trusted as the balance for the country.

This was horrible and will be devastating.

I'm sickened by it.

The Chinese/Asian students used as pawns in the Harvard case and what happened in the UNC case has shown the dangers of not considering history and that this country was born on genocide and human/sexual trafficking of African peoples who were not like immigrants who came here of their own choice.

Only African Americans were denied education to the point of it being illegal for them to learn. Even Indigenous people were allowed to learn - albeit a colonized and horrific boarding school system - but they were not denied the right to read and write like what happened to African Americans. The Chinese and Asian students, the Indian students, Caribbean and African students, the Hispanic/Latinx students of recent years have never been impacted by the same history of 246 years of radicalized caste in enslavement of African Americans, 163 years of Jim Crow and we have only had since my lifetime - 59 years - with a slight modicum of equal opportunity. The disparate impact of race continues and Affirmative Action was only one tool that leveled the playing field for students who already had to meet all the qualifications to even get into the college or university. It is horrific and generational and this court dashed all that aside.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said in their "let them eat cake obviousness" that seems pretty replace for the top 1% and for the white male and white female justices who had every unearned opportunity handed to them because of their race and thinking they were exceptional because of it.

It is horrific.

Access to education has been denied.  My husband, in one of his speeches at his new university, talked about "the transformative power of education" and why this work is his passion, that it literally changed the trajectory of his life as a first generation college student.

This U.S. Supreme Court just dashed the hopes that people like my husband stood on.

I am not a first generation college graduate. From the maternal heritage, my kids are actually third and fourth generation. Really, the luck of the draw as African heritage people in this country. For my husband, my daughters are second generation college students who have had the benefit of parents who invested in their matriculation. We believe everyone should have the same chance, that this country, this democracy will be so much better if everyone who wants to is able to access the education of their dreams.

Why should it just be for the elite?

What happened today was a gut punch, much like the same court dashing a woman's right to choose what happens to her body.

All they want is power and control, perhaps what they want are just bodies to work, the same kind of people what are relaxing child labor laws, that are forcing women to have children and then making it impossible to feed, clothe, and educate those children. Once-upon-a-time, this country had children working in coal mines and garment sweat shops. Is that what they want again?

Today was tragic and like any tragedy, we will be days and weeks trying to grapple with it, trying to find ways to live around it and still have hope for a diverse nation.

___________________________________________________________________________________©2023 Copyright by Antona B. Smith

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

In the Middle of Perfect Change

 I have been quite busy over the past few months and in the midst of all the jubilant chaos of excited blessings, I had to quiet myself.

We have been on a whirlwind every since my husband stepped into his new role at yet another university.

It has been event-after-event, more people met in a short time, and lots of changes.

Those changes can feel overwhelming when stacked on top of one another. They have included moves of my adult children, lots of travel, planning entire house moves, studying, and still trying to walking in the joy and happiness I've been studying.

Change is inevitable, it is new every day, fresh every morning like the grace that rests upon each of us, but it is also a lot to navigate if it is more than what was expected, or if it rushes at you all at once.

Or it can be anticipated, but unanticipated at the enormity of it and how literally overnight your circumstances can shift.

I have been packing for days on end now, preparing for our household move to place some things in storage until our home is complete. We will be living in a two bedroom, two bathroom campus apartment for six months.

That means that in the middle of putting things in boxes and moving bags, I've been trying to anticipate what events will comprise my summer and fall. Exactly what suit or what dress to bring with me? How many engagements will require my attendance and how glammed up will I have to be? 

Or for a bibliophile with more books than the average small, independent bookstore - exactly which titles of TBRs go with me to the 2x2 cube allotted for any books I intend to read while on campus? What about my studies and important papers I have to complete this fall? Do I send everything to storage.

Or, finally, what about the weather? Do I anticipate bringing boots and coats with me?

Change has been defined as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, that action form it means to "make something or someone different or replace something with something else of the same kind that is newer or better, substitute on thing for another." As a noun, it is the act or instance of making or becoming different, to make the form, nature, content, future course of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone." - Google search, 6/14/23.

The verb (action) and the noun (person, place, or thing/thought) of it seem very similar and in a lot of ways are exactly what the essence of this experience I am having entails.

It is tangible - we are indeed changing one place for another and with it, the anticipation of what it will be like to wake up in a different place. It is also very spiritual for us, for me at least, to consider the ways that our journey brought us to one place and is preparing for another one. 

We have been in eager anticipation of what God was going to do with us next. 

My husband and I have a shared faith and through our expressions of it, have held onto the belief that there was a reason that we were privileged to be in the spaces were we found ourselves and that a part of our essence was to be an example of love and light in that space.

Throughout all our lives together, through raising our children, we have had to deal with the inevitability of changes.

These have included moving to different places - more times than I want to count the boxes, in guiding our children through meeting new people and adjusting to those spaces, and in ourselves lamenting what we cherished about one state of being and discovering what is to be appreciated about a new space.

Our hearts skip a beat, our breathing reflects what our body absorbed, change is felt.

It can be exciting and uneasy at the same time.

I always discover something in the middle of it, like in all this packing and. my extensive library, I encounter a title that I read years ago and am flooded with memories of the joy of discovery and why I kept that book. Or, when my older son was here visiting us a few months ago and was helping with the beginning of the packing phase, he found some old pictures and we were both time travelers to the when of those still images. It made me wish for a "real camera" again and the expectations of what would come back from the developer, those days of film when we weren't sure if it was good or not. It wasn't as easy to make a quick change to it before it was posted to the world. It was a happy moment we shared and a reminder to me that I have boxes of real photos calling my attention to scrapbook them before time fades away the story of it.

Reflecting on all that this life is bringing me has been an experience of reflection and renewal, discovery and discernment. These are also acts that are reflected in change.

If we never grow - i.e., change - we just become stagnant, almost like that forgotten unwatered plant I found in my sunroom. 

Change then, is inevitable, it must happen. Things can't just be the same, stagnant all the time.

Lately, I've been asking what are the lessons in it, what part of it can I share with others, and how can I still grow to become the person I was always meant to be.

I recently turned fifty-nine, decidedly on the other side of middle age and deep in the ravages of post-menopause on the body. In that calendar shifting, I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed the sudden altering of my image reflecting back at me. 

When I got over the shock waves radiating through my body from the sudden onslaught of pains that weren't there even three years ago, I began to marvel at what the universe was gifting me.

So, here I am, an older Black woman with dark circles under my eyes, walking with a decided limp as the result of a car accident thirty-eight years ago that finally decided that it was time to make that injury more than an occasional sciatic nerve episode, looking at the lease of time and wondering about how I can still change my life.

Some were going to automatically happen because of my husband's new position, I'm meeting new people and in the middle of new situations all the time, that is not really a change, as the wife of an university administrator, but it is with a new audience, people who don't really know me, and in a state where I am still a relative stranger. I have to adjust to them as they adjust to me and all of it is a dance of acceptance, trust, and believing in the positive.

What do I do when it feels like a lot?

I am an introvert and have to find moments to replenish and renew myself, to not be "on" all the time, and to quiet my soul so that I can hear her speak.

So I find a respite of a coffee shop or a sit out in the sunroom, or when I have to process a lot of shifting forms and being different - I race to the water.

While it is still happening all around me and swirling in the midst of me, I am still pausing to appreciate the perfectness of it all.