College Scammers and Impeachment

Kitanya Responds to Comments — 40

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This week I wrote about the college admissions scam. (Reportedly, someone involved already scored a book deal. Sigh…) Sherry Kappel shared her opinion.

The whole thing is pretty much of a joke. I mentioned the situation in a work meeting and everybody said they’d always assumed it was a regular occurrence among the elite (need we look any further than uber-hypocrite DT Jr. and Wharton? Oh wait, that $1.5M was “legal”). Of course we call someone “elite” simply because they have a lot of money, and that’s clearly not the case most of the time. It takes a lot more than a pretty face in the right place at the right time, or inherited money.

It’s an open secret that the fix is in for kids from wealthy/influential families. All those massive donations and wings of buildings and whole dorms in some cases are ego boost for the families. There’s a whole ass art museum at my alma mater with Monets, etc. on display. All those gifts are also guarantees of admission for the descendants of the benefactor. There are people I was at Princeton with who were fifth or sixth generation. There’s an expectation that some of the spots in each class are going to be inherited, and the plebeians will fight over the rest. It’s not about the quality of the education (which is good). It’s about being in the right club. It honestly surprises me how many people still buy into the value that’s supposed to be conferred, especially now. For all its flaws, social media has flattened the ability to network considerably. Those alumni ties help a lot, but the gap is narrower, and it’s going to keep shrinking.

The critical piece to me, though, is “a total failure of parenting,” as you put it. We have 18 years to help mold these kids into contributing members of society. My own are 18 and 20, they study hard, they do the right thing (okay, the vast majority of the time ;-) and when it came time to apply for college, I told them they were on their own. I was happy to provide an opinion when asked, but they are now legal adults and they need to know that choices have consequences, you don’t always get what you want, and this is how you forge a path forward. They got in almost everywhere they applied (note, not Ivy League), the rejections hurt, but that’s okay. It’s made them appreciate where they’re going, think about grad school and figure out what’s required to get there. And sometimes they’re more appreciative of my approach than others :-) but they have a definite disdain for those who had everything handed to them.

A college degree has pretty much morphed into what a high school diploma used to be. Even so, it’s more complicated to apply and be admitted than it ever was. It’s why college prep is such big business. Your kids getting through it all mostly on their own is a credit to them. I just don’t understand the mindset behind the scamming parents at all. Imagine being that wealthy and influential and so lacking in self-esteem that you can’t allow your child to find their own level and make their way through the world with all the advantages of the safety net of your wealth and influence. No matter what, their kids were going to be all right. But they wanted to be able to stunt on their neighbors. I can hardly look at Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy. The whole thing is so embarrassing and pathetic.

As for diversity in schools? Too many white people might not recognize this, but segregation doesn’t do any of us any favors. It’s unfortunate that kids tend to socially segregate themselves even in a mixed school, but to the extent that they can mingle, they really ought. And affirmative action helps us all in the long run, as well. Besides: if my kid loses out to someone who has a slightly lower GPA, well she was probably on the cusp anyway and will be just as happy at another school. People need to get over themselves.

It’s takes a lot of effort to make diversity meaningful, effort a lot of these universities just don’t want to exert. White supremacy is too encoded in the DNA. I’m honestly not sure what to do about it. There was a girl who lived upstairs from me in college who had a Confederate flag hanging in her room. Yes, at Princeton. I didn’t complain (I’d seen enough of how the administration functioned to know how that would go over), but I never spoke to her again after I saw it. Even coming from Jamaica, I knew what that was about. There were a lot of small moments like that. One of the first conversations I had was in the dining hall with a bunch of white girls. One asked, “Wouldn’t you have loved to live during Gone With the Wind,” and started going on about how beautiful the costumes were. I’m ignorant, so I said, “No. I would have been picking the cotton.” And we all sat there in gloriously uncomfortable silence.

The Black kids segregate themselves so they don’t lose their minds. Part of the problem I have with diversity/desegregation as it’s set up is that there are people — whole adults in positions of responsibility — who think it should have been up to an eighteen year-old who was away from home for the first time to deal with that racist mess and help “fix” those white girls’ mindset. Nope. Having to negotiate that psychological terrorism and do all that additional emotional labor is why so many Black and Brown kids struggle and become depressed only to get gaslit when they seek help. It’s particularly bad at elite colleges, because each Black and Brown person — student or faculty — possesses something rich, white people covet dearly and feel entitled to. If you’re not willing to tapdance, talk down other minorities, and do everything to be seen as “one of the good ones,” it can be incredibly difficult.

Marley K. shared:

We have a serious problem differentiating between education in the practical sense of the word and what we have today — diploma mills called college. They guarantee most of us nothing. Going to college is no guarantee to success or a pathway out of poverty for the majority of poor Black and Brown people. It’s a place to get saddled with lots of debt. Debt that can last (and even outlast) a person’s lifetime. College, just like most if not all of America’s systems, are not fair nor are they equally accessible to all. We need to continue to talk about racism, classism, and the myth of the American dream.

Hell no — everybody can’t be anything they want to be. And no — we can’t all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Especially when the men and women of privilege can use their money to have someone do all the walking and warring for them to get that leg up. I grew up learning I had three strikes against me the day I was born. I was poor, Black and I was a female. Poor parenting and White entitlement made sure I stayed in my place. I can’t count the times I’ve been denied because of the color of my skin though I can’t prove it. There are some things we People of Color just know — and a slight is one of them.

This academic fraud disclosure just confirms what we Black people and poor people already know. Whiteness will do anything to make they have what they need to “make it” in America, to include having test taken for their kids.

Meanwhile, we poor Black folks are stuck with No Child Left Behind which closed thousands of public schools in our communities across America because our kids can’t pass high stakes standardized tests (rigor). We don’t have the resources. We didn’t get the equal footing or the bootstraps because the value of a parents’ home determines the resources allocated to a school district. And that shit (the valuation of homes and property in Black and Brown communities) is rigged too.

These families couldn’t afford to pay someone to take their kids’ tests for them.

Ain’t life grand — if you got some bands. It’s sickening.

The debt. That’s the elephant in the room. College tuition is an inflationary bubble, and how easily 18 year-olds with no collateral can borrow to pay for it is fueling the fire. These kids can’t discharge those debts in bankruptcy. And everyone keeps telling them they have to “grind” and work as unpaid interns to prove how much they want “it” (whatever the hell “it” is supposed to be…). People whose communities have already been disenfranchised are the most likely to have to take on this debt. It’s further entrenched the poverty. Most of these people will never pay off what they owe. They can barely service the interest payments. They’ll never be able to save enough to buy homes, which more than likely puts them out of those neighborhoods with good school districts. The whole thing is grotesque. The level of exploitation is unspeakable.

I don’t like the way the college admissions scam is being discussed. Nearly everyone has accepted the framing of the false scarcity. There are plenty of reputable colleges. There are also shady diploma mills. But I think there is a path to higher education for pretty much everyone who wants it. The problem is that average Americans are being priced out even at the community college level. And as more people are going to college because it’s required to get almost any decent-paying job, a diploma has become less valuable as a class marker. That’s why the craze around the elite colleges has become so incredibly frenzied. Thirty years ago, nowhere near as many people were applying, and those who didn’t get in just went to a solid liberal arts college or the top-tier state university. Even those are oversubscribed now, because damn near everyone who can afford to is applying to thirty colleges. People who already had wealth benefit in this system. They can afford the application fees. They can afford the college prep courses. They can hire consultants to help with their kids’ applications. They can hire private athletic coaches. The ways rich people can game the system is endless. In addition, white Americans who consider themselves “poor” often own real property, because their parents and grandparents weren’t redlined out of home ownership and were able to take advantage of all the government programs designed to help people buy homes. People seriously underestimate the economic stability historic home ownership provides families. This is all so much deeper than some scamming celebrities. The scandal has fueled the conversation, though, and I hope get carried to its logical conclusion: college debt needs to be forgiven on a massive scale, and state colleges and universities need to bring their tuition and fees back in line with reality.

I also wrote about the Democrats decision not to impeach President Trump, and wasn’t sure which comments to choose to respond to. I’ll just say this. The Republicans couldn’t get Clinton’s impeachment through the Senate and only the House passed the articles of impeachment. They got what they wanted about him on the record and tagged him with it for life. People say “Clinton was impeached,” and, even though it’s not technically true, it matters that the process took place and almost succeeded. The Republicans aren’t afraid to lose, and that’s why they keep winning even when it looks like they’re not. If a Democrat were even a fraction as tainted as Trump was, we all know what would happen. We also know what the Republicans would be doing about all the judicial appointments, etc. — setting up to claim they’re all tainted as well and fighting to clear them out. They would have picked whatever transgression they thought they could do the most damage with and ridden that horse until they killed it, then beaten it, then cooked and eaten it. They play to win and nearly always manage to eke out some small victory even when they don’t prevail. They understand propaganda.

Even if the Democrats have no intention of impeaching Trump, is that something I need to know? Is that something you need to know? What is the benefit of broadcasting that to the world? Who is this message for? It’s already been flipped by conservative media to say they won’t go ahead with it because they don’t have the goods — read: Trump is innocent. I honestly don’t understand the point of publicly taking the threat off the table.

I’ve been following and listening to people who are experts on authoritarianism, and they all say the same thing: The longer the authoritarians stay in power, the harder it is to get them out. I’m talking about this in plural form for a reason. There is an entrenchment happening, and it’s deeper than Trump and his crime family. I think waiting on Mueller could turn out to be a grave mistake. Those ghouls that keep popping up to commit war crimes every decade? Think of them but scattered wider and deeper. It’s an ugly thing to confront, and all the “what if” and “they can’t” arguments are ways of avoiding this confrontation. Too many people don’t want to look. They want the problem shuffled off stage so they can get back to feeling good about America and reveling in revisionist history. They’re tracking the menstrual cycles and pregnancies of raped migrant teenagers to deny them abortions. They’re stealing children. I don’t understand how passing the buck to Mueller to act is being hailed as leadership. The Democrats should do what the Republicans would: choose a few atrocities to focus their message and bludgeon their enemies out of power and into prison cells using whatever weapons are available to them, and that includes impeachment. And who says they only have to impeach Trump? Find a way to hem Pence up too. Play dirty. It’s what the Republicans would do.

The people I’m listening to on this have been right about everything from Trump getting the nomination, to him winning, to the policies his administration enact, to the international rise of fascism, to the nature of the terrorist attacks that would ramp up and the sources and methods of the radicalization. They saw all the signs literally years ago and were derided as hysterical for pointing them out. They were right. I think they’re right about the consequences of taking impeachment and similar measures off the table: entrenching the fascist infrastructure that is taking hold in America.

Thanks for reading!

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*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: | IG: kitanyaharrison

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