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

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