My grandmother Theresa Frazier Stamps had a saying “the smaller the waistline the longer the lifeline.” Her children thought she made the litany up because the family of 13 often had very little to eat. She loved spring garlic fresh out of the garden despite Grandpa’s disapproval and had so much knowledge about home remedies. Today, we know that Grandma was spot on – scientists say that calorie restriction or intermittent fasting can lead to fewer age related disorders and longer lives.
Born in 1912, Grandma and women like her had few options afforded them to upgrade their lives. Extraordinarily, she attended boarding school for 12 years at Historically Black Tougaloo College followed by one year at Jackson State University. Many of her professors trained at Harvard and other Ivy League institutions. Because that level of education was rare among Black people at the time, Grandma was asked to become a teacher at Utica Institute, a segregated school started by Booker T. Washington acolyte William Holtzclaw. Black students traveled as much as 60 miles on a daily basis to attend because the state of Mississippi did not provide public schools for Black children despite the fact their parents paid taxes. Despairingly, my grandfather would not allow it; up until the 1970’s women could not obtain a credit card nor checking account without their husband’s permission. Grandpa’s mistreatment was not only emotional but physical as well. His insecurity and malevolence held not only his wife back but his children too. And while my grandparents owned their own land as farmers, an additional income stream would have been so vital.
The intelligence of Black women is constantly challenged, in public and private, by people we know and feckless strangers like our President, who are ill informed at best or, at worst, outright stupid. We vote in greater numbers than anyone else in the Democratic Party yet CNN did not think to have one of us moderate the past two Democratic Debates and we are still largely being ignored as the most influential constituents. Democratic presidential candidates, don’t be like my Grandpa; the consequences of hubris leave permanent scars.