In Paradise Lost, John Milton writes Lucifer’s fall from Grace as an epic tale, a battle between him and God. While it does a necessary job of dramatizing the narrative surrounding Lucifer-turned-Satan’s story, I don’t think it goes far enough. This is not necessarily a failing on Milton’s part, but rather it shows just how limited the scope through which he experienced life could extend. John Milton was a white man who lived in the mid-seventeenth century. The longer I sit with Lucifer’s story, and Milton’s poems, I begin to imagine that Lucifer’s story must be told from that of the perspective of little Black kids abused and abandoned by their fathers.
Most Biblical scholars point to the Book of Ezekiel as the foundational story behind the making, the rise, and the fall of Lucifer. This story, while brief, gives a clear indication of what life was like for Lucifer: a boy who becomes disillusioned of his compulsory reverence for his father, challenges his father and is exiled indefinitely. I don’t view this as a battle. I view this story as one with an unbalanced power dynamic, told by the person with assigned authority and credibility. When viewed in that regard, Lucifer becomes a relatable person with a story that’s not at all unique to him.
When I was just a kid, I remember having a love for my father that was unmatched. He and my mom had been divorced for quite some time. That story was always one that contained a lot of business I was not privy to at the time because it was business that belonged to “grown folks.” However, what I did know is that on those days where I got to spend time with him, I was most happy.
Waking up on Saturday mornings, the first thing I’d do was run up to hug him. I’d, next, find my way to the living room to start playing Mario Kart and SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog on the GameCube console. He or his then-wife would be in the kitchen making breakfast. I sat there on the floor, inhaling the smell of sausage while dodging the Banana Peel in Mario Kart or the Piranhas in Sonic.
I remember those moments he would pick me up from my mom’s house, and we’d just drive. Sometimes we found ourselves at a restaurant, other times we found ourselves fishing. We would take the fish, the crabs, and the shrimp we caught back home and he would stand outside in his tank top, with his towel thrown over his shoulder, his shorts, and his sandals—we always referred to them as “Jesus Sandals.” That was my dad, for whom I had a deep love and reverence. We had a relationship until we didn’t. I loved and knew him until I no longer knew him to love him. He had abandoned me; abandoned me for his wife, for his other children, for all reasons that did not matter to me because all I knew is that he had gone.
Then there was my stepfather. Since I was 4, I’d known him. He was my baseball and basketball coach. If he could have been, he would have coached every other sport I played. He was my barber. He was my mom’s boyfriend who eventually became her husband. He was tough, but also gentle. He cared for my mom and all of us in a wonderful way. His words, followed by his actions, assured and reassured us that we would know no pain.
We would take random, fun road trips. He would help us with our homework—albeit, he was a coach in those moments, too, rather than a teacher or tutor. He kept us active in church. And while I am no longer a Christian, and thus, do not measure a man’s goodness by his role in church, I do find it good that he provided us with routine, discipline, and some sort of spirituality. But then, I grew distant from boyhood and proceeded into my teenage years. Much like my biological father, my stepfather abandoned me; except he did not leave our lives physically, he just was no longer present mentally.
With my teenage years, like all other teenagers going through puberty, I’d developed my own sense of self which was often accompanied by an attitude and an ego. I knew what I believed even when I didn’t. I knew what I wanted, even when I didn’t. I knew what I felt. Even when I didn’t. I read a lot and challenged the teachings of my elders even more. Since my twin brother and I were the first teens my stepfather would have been raising, I believe he was unsure of how to respond to being challenged by what felt like his own offspring. So though he never kicked us out of our home, he still abandoned us.
In this way, through these experiences, I relate heavily to Lucifer.
Lucifer’s story reads like that of a kid who was becoming a teen, who started to—as most Black parents would say—”smell himself” a bit. He was proud of his dad, but I believe he was also proud of what he had become. In Ezekiel, it is said that Lucifer is “cast down” from Heaven because his “heart became proud on account of [his] beauty, and [he] corrupted [his] wisdom because of [his] splendor.” But what good is a father who cannot walk his child through windy storms? Of what use is a father who cannot act as a guide to his child, who he created, in the parts of his life where he most desperately needs to be guided? And where is the sin in being proud of who one has become? In questioning what one has always been taught? In challenging the status quo? Can’t it be true that Lucifer, though flawed and imperfect like the best of us, saw that no one person deserved all the glory? That if his father created him to be his most perfect angel, that he, too, could be more than just a servant in his own kingdom? If Heaven truly operates with a “government,” as some scholars call it, why would a dictatorship be the government of choice? These are the many questions I am left with. Not just about God, but about my father and my stepfather, too. Because of patriarchy, men are committed to this idea that there can only be one: the alpha. These leaders are never to be questioned or challenged. But if God is just, and is truly filled with love and forgiveness, for what reason would he reproduce, or even create, this patriarchal and harmful way of life?That’s what the forbidden fruit does. It uncloaks the invisible; it uncovers the secret; it makes bare that which is clothed. Click To Tweet
As I understand the story, Lucifer’s father cast him out of Heaven because he didn’t appreciate that his child had developed his own voice and found his agency, so he abandoned him. He threw him out with no room and no hope for reconciliation. Now on Earth, Lucifer is forced to watch his father create other children, that he would also call perfect, in hopes to replace him. He creates these people in, what the Bible says is, “his image” with the expectation that they will be the obedient, docile children that Lucifer no longer was. They failed. It has been written that Satan—the name of the new identity taken on by Lucifer—has taken the form of a snake and tricked Adam and Eve into eating a forbidden fruit. Most attribute this to Satan being evil. I, however, believe this was an act made out of jealousy, but also as an attempt to unveil that which his father hid from Adam and Eve. Lucifer wanted Adam and Eve to see things as they were; for his reality to not be masked by his father’s promise of paradise through coercive submission and obedience. That’s what the forbidden fruit does. It uncloaks the invisible; it uncovers the secret; it makes bare that which is clothed. Lucifer wanted to show his siblings what his father would not: that neither he nor the world in which they lived was perfect.
I watched my father and my stepfather care for children in a way they had previously cared for me. I watched them both abandon me, one physically and the other mentally, with no regard for how traumatizing those experiences could be for me. I imagine that at the moment Lucifer took the form of a snake, he was just a little Black child with a broken heart, longing for his father’s attention. When I examine his story away from a religious lens, what I find is that Lucifer is the little Black child that I once was. I find that Lucifer is the little Black girl with a dad who felt he couldn’t love her anymore because she was becoming “too grown.” What I find is that Lucifer is the little fat Black boy who did all that his father asked of him, seeking the approval of a man he once revered, only to be left out in the world alone when he stumbled. What I find is that Lucifer is the little Black boy whose father preached a message of love and forgiveness on Sunday mornings only to chastise him on Sunday evenings for being less than perfect. What I find is that Lucifer is driven by a sanctified rage built and sustained from the pain of his forgiving father who just could not find it in himself to forgive Lucifer—a story not unusual to the little Black kid raised by the streets once their father resisted them for being gay, or the young Black child who joined a gang to find family in people who sought to understand them. Lucifer is not evil. He is a Black child who became an adult without ever being given the space to heal from his pain and traumas from his father.
I no longer think of any of these Biblical stories as anything other than mythological tales, but I do find that many of them still have lots of value. What are we teaching little Black boys when we tell them they are to blame for being abandoned by a parent? What are we teaching little Black girls when we interpret their pain as evil? How do we teach Black children to believe in and worship a god that will love and always forgive them when that god couldn’t do the same for his own child? What could have been a story of redemption, restoration, and reconciliation ended in travesty. All of this leads me to believe that Lucifer is no more than an abandoned, despondent Black child who is committed to truth over yielding to his father’s wielded power, but still hoping that the illuminating of his trauma will be enough for his father to reach out his hand in love and forgiveness.
Central Park Five Prosecutor Elizabeth Lederer Resigns from Columbia Law School
The D.A. that prosecuted the now Exonerated Five has resigned from her position as a professor at Columbia Law School. The release of When They See Us sparked calls for disciplinary action and societal ramifications to be taken against Linda Fairstein, who capitalized on the injustice against 5 Black and Latino teens. Now, the backlash has spread to Elizabeth Lederer, another prosecutor involved in the Central Park Five’s legal proceedings.
Columbia Law students were notified via email that Elizabeth Lederer would not be returning to the university. Stating, “it is best for me not to renew my teaching application,” Lederer’s statement was attached to the announcement from dean of the school, Gillian Lester. Acknowledging the conversation around the Netflix limited series, Lester wrote that the painful discussion of race, identity, and criminal justice was necessary.
While Lederer’s statement did not contain a formal apology to the Exonerated Five, she did credit the “publicity” around series for her departure. However, calls for her removal from the staff began long before the release of When They See Us. Elizabeth worked for Columbia Law School as a part-time lecturer much to the dismay of several Black students. On June 11th, The Black Law Students Association of Columbia University published a letter calling for the termination of Elizabeth Lederer’s employment. Pointing to her questionable conduct, the students recalled a petition that circulated in 2013 which demanded her removal. Amid the release of the series, the BLSA circulated another petition, once again demanding the same.
Circulated by “our brothers, sisters, and non-binary friends at Columbia University,” the BLSA says they’ve gained thousands of signatures. But the termination of Lederer’s employment is the start of their demands. The association is also calling for “professionally-led, mandatory, anti-racist trainings” for all educators at the law school, the re-evaluation of hiring curriculum, and prioritization of culturally competent applicants. The letter, addressed to the Law School Community, highlighted the very employment of Lederer as an act of racism and endorsement of a “carceral state that devalues the lives of Black and Brown people.”
Elizabeth Lederer has issued no further comment on the matter. Are you pleased that Lederer has resigned from her position? Would you like to see action taken against other parties involved in the injustice?
The High Cost of Higher Education
Many Presidential candidates are selling their plans to lift the burden of student loan debt to potential voters. But for millions of the Americans affected by the multigenerational crisis, the only resolution is complete financial absolution.
The threat of another recession is constantly looming above the dreams of a generation that has been robbed of the bare minimum. When matched with employment in a “grind ‘til you die” society, millennials face the terror of less than mediocre wages. And when the time comes, their eyes will find a Grim Reaper wielding a scythe of six-figure debts with insurmountable interest rates and steep penalties. For marginalized students, their collegiate aspirations and academic achievements come with the harsh reality that their debt will never stop following them. And that bitter pill is chased by another when you’re female, another if you’re disabled, another if you’re queer, and another when you’re Black.
If you don’t know better, you can’t do better
Financial literacy is not something that the average student leaves high school with. Yet we are all met with the expectation to attend and obtain a costly postsecondary education. Even before that exhilarating march across the stage comes to an end, diploma in hand, a hefty loan for the future has been secured. For first generation attendees, the high stress of non-negotiable success rests on their shoulders. The same can be said for those from any environment where failure is not an option. In that moment, what was once perceived to be just a contract with numbers and percentages, quickly finds life as an expensive burden carrying the weight of the sacrifices and aspirations of not just individuals, but families.
For those who finish the race of academia, they gain the potential advantage of additional resources to help them conquer their debt. But those who succumb to their circumstances toil like Sisyphus, pushing the boulders of their debt up mountains named Navient and Sallie Mae. As they inch ever closer to the summit of repayment, the unpredictable nuisance of a costly emergency rears its ugly head, forcing the boulder back down the mountain with accumulated interest. And thus, the struggle continues.
Stats Paint A Horrific Picture
When examining the statistics of student loan borrowers, balances span every demographic. By race, gender, and even political views, we are united yet divided by our attachment to a $1.56 trillion debt. But the way in which that debt has been accrued by nearly 45 million Americans in a wavering economy where employment and fair wages are not promised is startling. By examining the rates of student loans and tuition hikes over several decades and reviewing how debt was accrued by race and gender, you learn the true cost of a college education. Those hoping to achieve the unattainable American dream will find that citizens in the margins pay the highest price.
In 2004, the student loan crisis was still an issue. Coming in at $345 billion, the balance almost seems manageable compared to what Americans are facing today. But then and now, the borrowers were majorly comprised of those under the age of 30. Making the decision to collectively borrow billions to finance educations and build their futures, millennials hold almost 65% of all student loan debt. While they do not carry the burden alone, as citizens well into their 60s still hold loans, the compounded stress of facing financial, social, and environmental issues has left a generation in distress.
Black People Impacted Most
Over just 15 years, the burden of student loan debt grew 302%, setting an average debt of $32,731 for each borrower. But just looking at the average does not give one a picture of how skewed the track is for those in the race. The factors of race, sexual orientation, economic status, disability, and gender can all prove to be advantages or setbacks. For instance, Black female borrowers face the hardest truth when it comes to how much of their earnings student loan repayment will consume.
Within the first year of post-graduation income, Black women graduates lose 111% of their paycheck to student loan repayment. For Black men, 89% of their initial earnings are absorbed for student loan debt. These statistics are what made Robert F. Smith’s contribution to the class of 2019 Morehouse graduates so grand. The prospect of stepping into the world of the working professional with financial absolution is not afforded to many in this life. During a time when Black and Brown people are hit the hardest with financial setbacks, such a gesture speaks volumes.
Degreed LGBTQ+ People Struggle For Proper Pay
In addition to the racial barriers that borrowing and repayment can raise, those within the queer community find hurdles of their own to jump. According to a study conducted by Student Loan Hero, the majority of LGBTQ+ student loan borrowers regret taking on debt. Queer borrowers are less likely to be paid appropriately for their work, are frequently denied financial help, and don’t find their student loan debt manageable. When the added costs of being ostracized by one’s family are considered along with the other forms of discrimination queer persons face, the deck is further stacked against them. For many people, this can create a disappointing ultimatum – finishing school and accruing more debt to do so or dropping out to avoid costs becoming too great.
The socioeconomic barriers that prohibit marginalized people from advancing in life are inherently built on White supremacy. The system of student loans and private lending for education are no different in that regard.
This is part one of a two part discussion on the cost of higher education for marginalized groups in America.
‘When They See Us’ Sparks Calls for Action Against Linda Fairstein
May 31st, Netflix released Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us to critical acclaim. But malaise followed once those outraged by the story of ‘The Central Park Five’ realized lead prosecutor Linda Fairstein is not at all remorseful for her part in mishandling the 1989 case.
Viewers of the Netflix limited series worked quickly to locate the social media presence of prosecutor-turned-writer Linda Fairstein. Targeting her Twitter account, the public demanded a statement and apology for her poor decisions and the discriminatory practices which led to the wrongful arrests of five teens. Yet, those expecting a contrite attorney would only be disappointed to find a boastful best-selling author standing proudly in her bigotry.
Following the unlawful incarceration and vilification of The Central Park Five, Linda began a career as a mystery writer. Capitalizing on her so-called legal expertise, Fairstein has penned 24 works which draw on her experience as an attorney. While much of her writing is fiction, her only nonfiction work is about her war against sexual violence. However, Linda Fairstein helped Harvey Weinstein evade assault charges in the hopes of securing a movie deal for her novels. Along with setting her personal convictions aside for gain, Linda has passed on other opportunities to prosecute white rapists/killers. She has also advised fellow prosecutors in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French diplomat that sexually assaulted his African maid. Her advice eventually led to charges against Strauss-Kahn being dropped.
Since learning of the depths of Linda Fairstein’s treachery, the public has called for publishers to refuse to release any existing or pending works in progress. They are also calling for her novels to be pulled from Amazon. Stating, “Fairstein achieved her fame & fortune through her wild imagination & at the expense of five INNOCENT children’s pain” nearly 43K people have rallied to cancel the former prosecutor. But viewers of When They See Us aren’t the only ones on board. Central Park Five Exoneree Raymond Santana has spoken out in support of the movement to boycott Linda Fairstein and all of her works.
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