“This is my first year at UNM and honestly I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here.”
“My little sister will be starting UNM this Fall and will most likely have to take out a student loan, she’s only 18.”
“I might have to drop out. I don’t know if I can help my family back home on the reservation.”
“I’m overloaded with teaching classes and trying to finish my graduate degree.”
“I graduated from UNM back in the 80’s and it still hasn’t changed. I’m glad you are talking about institutional racism.”
“I had to drop out last semester because I couldn’t afford school.“
These are only pieces of some of the stories that were shared by students and community during last night’s vigil in front of UNM President Frank’s house. I can hear some of the critiques and bashing already – students had no right, why are we complaining, it’s just a bunch of angry dissidents. But as a teacher of many years, I am proud to stand by the students. As a graduate student at the institution, I understand the struggles. As a community member, I will stand alongside them as students demand justice. As a mother, my heart breaks to see and hear their pain.
What pain is that? It is the pain of knowing that we continue to operate and exist within a system that despite all of its post-racial rhetoric, still undermines and devalues the worth of our bodies and minds. Despite the system and its players telling us that everything is ok now and to pull ourselves by our (nonexistent) bootstraps, we know otherwise and we have been fuming for years.
The numbers paint the picture very well and deceive no one. We continue to be failed. We continue to be excluded. We continue to be incarcerated. We continue to be deported.
How much more do we have to tolerate?
I cannot express to others the pain and simultaneous anger I felt hearing the accounts of how the system and this institution has failed us. How can it possibly sit well with anyone that a student who WANTS to go to school HAS to DROP OUT because they lack privilege and possession of resources?
I have an idea… Why doesn’t our institution take half, only half, of the $4 million of our student fees pre-slotted for athletics and use that money to pay for the education of struggling students at our campus? Students in tears because they want to stay but whose harsher realities make it an almost certain impossibility.
I understand the anger, the disappointment, and the sadness. The system has failed us and will continue to fail us.
But there comes a time when we have to say enough is enough and it seems that the universe is aligning itself in such a way to once again give way to another moment of larger resistance.
We live in a time and place that has ingrained many of us with complacency and complicity. It’s so easy to tune out the cries and suffering of others and that is why I want to take a moment to give my sincerest thanks to each of those individuals who took time out of life’s responsibilities and routine to make not only their voices heard, but the voices of those before us and after us heard as well. Heartfelt gratitude to the students who felt safe enough in the space we created to share their stories filled with grief but simultaneous hope and resistance. In an environment where many of us walk alone, the other night we were not.
The President and other supposed allies continue to ignore the pleas but something is in motion. The very presence of the police awaiting our arrival is reflective of how the system chooses to deal, or better yet, not deal with us.
This year UNM “celebrated” its 125 years of existence. At Tuesday’s vigil we mourned and remembered the 125 years that this institution has sat on Native land taken and the 125 years filled to the brim with blatant micro- and macro-aggressions committed against the very people this institution should serve.