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  • Reverend James Squire

Part 3 Affirmative Action Overturned...

This post will combine my personal experience with history as seen through the eyes of Heather Cox Richardson, a Boston College History Professor, who puts modern day issues in the context of historical facts. She is neither on the right or the left. Let me begin by summarizing what I have learned from her blogs and various books. The political problems that we have today have been part of our history since our beginning. There has always been a tension between those who feel that an oligarchy, a small but informed group, should determine our civil affairs. Others feel that the government is based in the equality of all with no second-class citizens.

Recall that Lincoln was a Republican which was a group for equality for all people. The Democrats at that time were based in the South and thought white people were smarter and better than slaves and should run our civil affairs in the context of a “plantation mentality.” The Democrats and Republicans have traded places a few times with this orientation until today when we have the Republicans thinking that a small group should run civil affairs and the Democrats are seen as for the “common man.”

Show me the money! You can follow our history and civil decisions by following the money symbolic of power. Today Democrats believe in strengthening the economy from the bottom up and out from the middle for the working class as the people who have built our country to what it is today. The Republicans are for big business and a trickle-down economy where the wealthy benefit and their wealth will make its way to the workers. The South literally made its way to the West. On that ground the struggle for power continues. The above is to make the complex too simple but it is enough to form a framework for understanding our current times.

Regarding the past week of terrible Supreme Court decisions, Justice Katanji Brown Jackson went to the heart of the matter when she said, “But deeming race irrelevant in the law does not make it so in life.” She added that “affirmative action does not take place in the military academies so we are equipping people of color to fight in the bunkers but not in the boardroom.”

Justice Roberts doesn’t want any criticism from those outside the Court, but the dissenting statements from the liberal justices are the strongest and most angry in history.

We had a case about a wedding website that had no standing, but was used to weaken “access for all.” Justice Barrett’s arguments about a baby sitter taking advantage of a parents’ intentions to keep their child happy could be argued against by a first-year law student. Why did the shift in the turning over affirmative action law move from black people to Asian Americans? It is because Asian Americans are seen as the model minority, hard-working and polite. My fear is that they will be the people who are caught in the middle of this debate and see more anti-Asian hate.

We are not a meritocracy because no one starts at the same place. That is at the heart of Biden’s and my point except for one place. That is in sports. You can have a major majority of black players running up and down a field or court and nobody complains. Perhaps that is why Nelson Mandala thought that “sports were the way to build a brother or sisterhood.” That is because of a group dynamic that I may be inferior but we are magnificent shapes our personal identity. Our personal identity also becomes segregated in places in America such as on a Sunday morning in church. There are white people who are afraid of that time when the oppressed might become the oppressor as our population shifts from white to other. Some white people are also afraid that they will not be able to control who they want to interact with on a daily basis.

When I was at EA, I had people who counted how many speakers in chapel were liberal or conservative, black or other, men or women, gay or straight, Christian or not. Since Chapel occurred every other day, I indicated that you couldn’t make a generalization by attending only one. I said, that “chapel was like a family album so you have to look through all the pages to see how it works.” All chapel services were based on the Episcopal liturgy, but my blessing was that we weren’t like a parish. We had diversity. I wanted every person to be able to see himself or herself in what was happening there and that includes people with whom I disagreed. We were a school where you should learn from one another and from those who are different from you.

We live in a diverse world which is getting more diverse by the minute. My belief is that our faith is deepened by the experience of someone else’s faith and how that is empowering their life. That equipped my students for real life. The one thing that I had as an absolute is that “you can’t disparage any of my people by saying it is “my way or the highway. You can say what your faith means to you.”

I had a tragedy occur in our community. Senior leaders wanted to meet with me to talk about their need to have a chapel service to deal with this tragedy. Each one represented a different faith tradition. They wanted to use our chapel service structure for their service because it was so familiar to all. They planned it themselves. I listened in. They produced an incredible healing experience that was just what the community needed. All felt included!

Back to the legislation regarding the wedding website and the Court’s decision to see that as a free speech issue as opposed to protecting a group historically battling for safety and human rights. One hot August afternoon, I was in my office. As I was leaving, I got an anonymous phone call from someone who spewed fifteen minutes of hate filled language against gay people and my support of them. His final threat included that he represented a large group of parents. I responded to him by saying that I would meet with him and his large group anywhere and at any time. I never heard from him again.

You need to know the exchange between Buttigieg and DeSantis to see how quickly the Court’s decision last week gave permission for hate to flourish.

Diversity should embody where people start, but it also starts at the beginning of each of our days. A video released by DeSantis on the last day of June’s LGBTQ Pride Month was criticized by Gay Rights Groups and some Republicans as bordering on homophobia. DeSantis was attacking Trump’s support of LGBTQ people. Buttigieg’s response was, “I just don’t understand the mentality of somebody who gets up in the morning thinking that he’s going to prove his worth by competing over who can make life hardest for a hard-hit community that is already so vulnerable in America.” Recognizing where we start in life or our attitude toward justice and love when we awake in the morning to start our day is needed to repair the damage done by the Court. It is the only thing that will eventually work.

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