The recent Supreme Court ruling against Affirmative Action has once again highlighted the ongoing struggle for racial equity in the United States. For many of us, the decision did not come as a surprise. We know that America, a nation built upon systems deeply rooted in white supremacy, has never fully embraced justice and equality. Throughout the colonization of this land, we have witnessed all branches of our “democratic” government consistently rule against the freedoms, equal rights, and protections of those it has oppressed and their descendants.
The Supreme Court’s latest Affirmative Action ruling is, then, just the latest in a long line of skirmishes that have nothing to do with ability or inability and everything to do with (white) access and (white) privilege. We need only look at the recent rash of Supreme Court decisions on Affirmative Action, Roe v. Wade , and 303 CREATIVE LLC ET AL. v. ELENIS ET AL. to see history’s haunting shadow on the battlefield we now inhabit.
As a former leader at the country’s largest philanthropy, a former Associate Provost, Athletics Director, faculty member, and student-athlete, I know firsthand the profound challenges Black women and marginalized people face in sports, higher education and leadership writ large. In my debut book, "Navigating Courage: Leading Beyond Fear," I shed light on the violence inherent in our educational systems and explore the multifaceted obstacles that students, faculty and staff from marginalized communities continue to encounter.
Still, I want to be clear: While the negative impacts of the latest ruling will have a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown students, it—and the targeting of all “equity”-related work on college campuses and beyond—represents a direct attack on higher education. All students, faculty, and administrators—across race, socioeconomic class, gender and sexuality— ultimately suffer the consequences of inequity. When we—the collective we—tolerate inequitable outcomes for “others,” we maintain injustice for all of us. Whether we admit it or not, we are all interconnected, our destinies intertwined.
So, I close with a heartfelt message for all Black and Brown students who have ever faced questioning of their intellect or been made to feel like outsiders in a system that has, with surgical precision, excluded them from affordable and quality education. This is for all those whose humanity, intellect, power, and gifts have been overlooked and unaffirmed. Remember that your mere presence is a remarkable accomplishment, defying the subliminal and intentional messages that seek to undermine your right to be where you are.
In moments of doubt, draw strength from the profound words of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple," where Celie, leaving her abusive husband, proclaims, "I'm poor, black, I might even be ugly, but dear God, I'm here. I'm here."
To the Supreme Court Justices who misuse their power and privilege as they thwart the principles of justice and order—We are here. With God as our witness, we will always be here. We are courageous leaders, and we will persist in navigating, and overcoming, unjust challenges. We will forge new pathways and build a more free, more just future so that we all can thrive. Why—because WE ARE HERE!