This week was supposed to be a week that my identity dreams of. In a courageous, willful and extremely humane act, I saw Texas state legislator Wendy Davis stand on the Texas State Senate floor for 12.5 hours, at one point requiring a back brace to continue the marathon filibuster that was felt around the country and for that matter the world. As an abortion provider I really have not seen this type of activism in the Texas legislature for abortion rights so blatantly in my time. Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down DoMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and I cried. Literally felt a piece of my humanity touched upon and acknowledged as an equal. So why am I not shitting puppies and pissing rainbows? What more could I want as a queer abortion provider from my country at this point? I mean literally what more can I say?
Well, a lot. I have a terrible taste in my mouth and I cannot take the grimace off my face as my constituents celebrate their gains but why not me. Of all the identities what is keeping me quiet and in a somber state? The Voting Rights Act. Yes the VRA of 1965 section 4.
On Tuesday 06/25/2013 the SCOTUS struck down a key piece of civil rights legislation. Not only because of all the “other” things going on has this not been highlighted adequately, but also because I fear that it was intended to illustrate the lines and division I feel uncompromising about in these movements.
On Wednesday I walked into my office dragging, thinking about re-districting, gerrymandering, histories of people that have been silenced for too long. In my “radical” workplace this is normal, we are considered activists; even when we make copies, they are abortion copies. We are all about options and specifically I contribute to people with uteruses having more bodily autonomy (but that is another blog). But today my whole office is abuzz. “Don’t mess with Texas” is written on our white board. People are high-fiving and talking over one another, and I was excited for a second until I realized that there was a chance that no one knew that people of color and other marginalized groups lost their right to vote. I didn’t want to rain on the parade or make identity politics an issue, a common tool in avoidance, for me when I am just tired of being the one bringing it up. And I am not the only one too, Colorlines, Crunk Feminist Collective, Racialicious, black girl dangerous, and others are having this critical conversation. But I let it slide, this Wendy Davis situation was amazing and really white but still amazing. Early in my day I got Facebook messages, emails, texts, and even called my best friend! DoMA is done!!!! Maybe a half an hour later I realized the SCOTUS would be praised as equality driven, and this was untrue. The SCOTUS DoMA decision was a huge win for the lesbian and gay community and again somehow amazing and white but still amazing.
SCOTUS just did major damage to the Civil Rights Act which even George W. Bush didn’t debate in 2006. Congress re-authorized the act in 2006 after hearings that used data from 1975, however they still extended the preclearance for 25 years. I felt encouraged to know that Ruth Bader Ginsberg in her dispute stated powerful things from a powerful seat.
“Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness. The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today. The Court makes no genuine attempt to engage with the massive legislative record that Congress assembled. Instead, it relies on increases in voter” registration and turnout as if that were the whole story. See supra, at 18–19. Without even identifying a standard of review, the Court dismissively brushes off arguments based on “data from the record,” and declines to enter the “debat[e about] what [the] record shows.” Ante, at 20–21. One would expect more from an opinion.
The record shows responses of where we are in the first few days of the decision. Racism is real and the fact that the VRA only effects 9 states is a red flag for the country. Those states have been identified as unable to provide a basic function inside of democracy, a vote. With Texas re-districting the day after the VRA was decided only further exasperates the issue. The crossfire of having the SCOTUS blow up a fundamental civil right and turn around and grant another seems devastating, confusing, and also splits the people for whom these issues are both/and. What reaction does a gay or lesbian person who is POC (people of color) have? This is where who you are and what you are connect. This is the crux of my internal debate, I am supposed to be happy, but deep down I know I did not win. In fact somehow I actually did not get seen at all.
So this is my point, many people need us and when we get hyper vigilant and focused on our own facets of our identity, we forget that our liberation is intertwined. Once we are able to bring our full complicated selves to the table we can stop feeling torn and lost in between these lines. Allies need to recognize that the SCOTUS also failed and some decisions were acceptable. I thought about why I am feeling out of sorts with this. What about having my intelligence played on is so irritating. Having a co-worker send me a statement about “ two steps forwards, on step back” feels belittling, people you care about say, “if I was you, I would be more upset” feels isolating, and the media not even mentioning Tuesday as a double whammy blow, and giving space to the Indian Child Welfare Act, is just another slap in the face.
I think we should all be concerned. A part of the country has had their voice returned to pre-1965 era, in direct correlation to race. We are all living here. This is our shared reality. It all impacts every one of us. I just wanted some intersectionality, and with that there is much more that I could say.