The One and Only: Voting Rights and Affirmative Action in America.
Last week, I honestly tried to post several times and I managed to cry. I cried so much, and that point, I realized that I was angry. Angry that in one week, the foundation of the nation that I knew, crumbled. This week, I am left in the rubble called America and I don’t think that I know how to navigate this fake post racial America.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled on a number of important civil rights issue. The moral and highest court of the United States ruled Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. The federal government originally stepped in to oversee the voting process, mandating national protections for the most vulnerable citizens, which were at the time and continue to Black people. So the business of poll taxes, literacy tests or the number of a beans in a jar were supposed to be done away with in 1965. Last week, the Supreme Court decided times had changed, but I could not help but think about the last election and I remembered that the nation was talking about were voting rights. The consequences will result in an increase of discriminatory voter ID laws, elimination of same-day registration, fewer early voting days and more. Texas has already announced it is going to enact new voter ID requirements.
One the same day, the Court decided that affirmative action must be strictly reviewed, but it did not outlaw those programs. Moving forward, a university’s use of race must meet what is known as “strict scrutiny.” The courts let university’s know that no longer needs to use affirmative action to have a more diverse student body. Ultimately, courts, need to confirm that using race is necessary, “ that is, that there is no other realistic alternative that does not use race that would also create a diverse student body. Because the lower court had not done so, the Court sent the case back for it to determine whether the university could make this showing.”
Yes, that really happened in one day! I was brought back to my undergraduate classroom, when Professor Vernell Lillie, asked me, “so how do you think you got in this classroom?”. I am pretty certain that I answered the mix of grades, the high school I went to and I even mentioned my parents. I was wrong. I was exposed at that moment to what affirmative action looked like in action. I was surprised and it has forever remained with me.
The beginning of my week, was quite difficult but couple the SCOTUS decisions and the attack on Rachel Jeantel (and I am intentionally choosing to leave out the other major headlines), I just felt that everything that I was and represented was being challenged. I felt as though, all responsibility to vote, access higher education and code switch was left on the “victim” or those trying to navigate these systems in America. There is no responsibility on the system to aid and empower those that are outside of the system and the government does not seem to mind that there are people who can not access the right to vote and higher education.
I am not leaving the country, I do not want to run away from this painful and disgusting chapter, that in being written in American History. I do wonder, what life would be like if being “Black” came with some or just a bit of privilege, how different my life would be in America? I wondered before and now this looming feeling of being the “one and only” seems like it won’t ever change. The first African-American Liberian and art collector, Vivian Hewitt told me, there is nothing wrong with being the first, there is a problem being the only and only. I see this new America, deciding that only a few Black people can access the right to vote and higher education. I think that is the part that scares me, because I am in too many circles where I am the “one and only” and when I went to college and when I voted, time and time again, things were supposed to change. They haven’t and I just don’t know what to do to stop from crying about this.