I don’t know why this continues to surprise me.
While many of us thoughtfully observed April 4th as the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis, the oval office saw the day as an opportunity to issue more of its racist hate speech.
This is obviously not how the legacy of MLK should be treated. The Civil Rights Movement ushered in some of our country’s most progressive policies including affirmative action and student financial aid. Student support programs like TRIO and Upward Bound opened the gates to higher education for thousands of Black, Latinx, and Native American students. And it had an enormous impact on my own life.
The professional positions that I held in my twenties and to which I owe the agenda that drives CUE were a result of programs made possible by the Civil Rights agenda. My work as a program director at Aspira, supporting college access for Puerto Ricans, was funded by Talent Search and Student Service grants (The Education Opportunity Act of 1964, an original War on Poverty statute); as was my work as a counselor at Livingston College in New Jersey. My position as director of Bilingual Education for New Jersey’s Department of Higher Ed was a state initiative to support the development of teachers for the growing Spanish-speaking population. My doctoral work was supported by a Title VII fellowship.
I am one of thousands who chose professional paths to address racial equity and were supported by the progressive agenda inspired by MLK. Of course, the Civil Rights Movement could have done more if it had been longer-lasting. We were often surprised by an anti-affirmative action agenda bent on curtailing equity and access to higher education, leading to the elimination and reduction of beneficial programs.
And last year’s election was a horrible surprise for us all. There has never been as dangerous a threat to the civil rights agenda of higher education as we face now. President Trump and Secretary DeVos are determined to roll back programs created in the spirit of MLK and equity, seeking: 1) the elimination of DACA; 2) the elimination of income-driven loan repayment programs; 3) the privatization of education; 4) the downsizing of TRIO; 5) the loosening of anti-discrimination regulations, and much more. Trump and his lackeys are bent on destroying our legacy from the Civil Rights movement, not just in higher education, but all education.
Perhaps you will be surprised—that public schools are now more segregated by race than they were decades and decades ago. It is not an accident, but the result of renewed efforts by politicians and policy-makers across the country, emboldened by the current administration. The Secretary of Education ignores the truth behind teacher walk-outs nationwide and hides behind “do what’s right for the kids” without knowing the first thing about what kids need.
We must fight the transparent racism at work in our government and the cruel policies being set forth by this appalling administration. To protect the legacy of MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, we must act against all that Trump and DeVos stand for, defending our legacy both locally and nationally.
Whatever the future holds, we can no longer afford to be surprised.