A few days ago, here at the University of Michigan, undergraduate computer science and electrical engineering students received a series of malicious emails that threatened the safety and lives of our African American and Jewish friends. These emails are still stirring the campus and our surrounding community, for they have provoked our deepest sentiments and worries. We call this place our hoMe, but yet there still seems to be a great threat of disconnection and separation.
President Donald Trump’s executive ban on visas from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen was recently suspended by a federal judge, which is in effect nationwide — though it is currently being appealed. As the ban comes to a standstill, uncertainty about the treatment of immigrants, Muslims and green-card holders by the United States still hangs in the air.
In the winter of 2007, 10-year-old me bitterly watched then-Senator Barack Obama announce his bid for the presidency from his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. As I sat on my grandmother’s bed, arms folded, I lamented, “He is going to take my job! I want to be the first Black president!” She rubbed my back and with a smile said, “He might actually win, and it would be good for us.” I grimaced. “But don’t worry, you can be the second Black president.”
Last Friday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order inappropriately titled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Ostensibly, the goal was to limit immigration from countries that the Trump administration deemed high-risk for terrorism in the United States. We, along with millions of other Americans and concerned people around the world, denounce the move as inhumane, devoid of empathy and simply un-American.
We sat in her hospital room, just my granny and me, as she told me about her solar technology patent. The topic transported her mind from her blue gown lit by fluorescent lighting to her classroom at Virginia Tech. A well-prepared lecture evolved out of her weak speech as my visitor’s chair turned into a desk. Like a song from her childhood, she rhythmically told me about sputtering techniques and thin film solar converters.
Lately I have been thinking about race more than usual. As a dark, African-American woman, it is difficult not to think about my race. I am constantly aware of my complexion. I do not have the privilege of being a lighter skin tone, blending in or choosing which community to belong to. The choice had been made for me long before I was even born.