By Mary Frances BerryOur electoral process is broken. Polls, interviews with voters or prospective voters all confirm discontent with our system and a sense of unfairness, corruption or unresponsiveness. At the state and local levels, such issues as expanding Medicaid, insuring clean drinking water, addressing homelessness, figuring out how to “fix” education, repairing streets and other infrastructure, police community relations, all depend on an effectively functioning political system. The public routinely expresses a sense of uncertainty about when and how to vote, who can vote, and whose votes count, whether in state and local or national primaries or general elections. The uncertainty is exacerbated by increased population mobility. Some jurisdictions make changes in the law and are then challenged and endure expensive litigation costs because of provisions attacked as voter suppression.
By Michael BérubéIn disability studies, we tend to be skeptical of the so-called “supercrip” and allergic to any suggestion that people with disabilities can be inspiring. But it really is quite difficult to go to a Special Olympics meet, of whatever size, and not be inspired by the passion of the athletes and the dedication of the legions of volunteers. When you realize that only fifty years ago, almost no one believed that “the retarded” could participate in athletic events, you realize just how extraordinary Eunice Shriver’s vision was. And if you’re me, you thank her family—and all those volunteers.
By Lennard Davis
Twenty-seven years ago, disability activists threw away their canes, crutches, and wheelchairs. They proceeded to slowly and painfully crawl up the steps to the Capitol to protest those who would block the Americans with Disabilities Act. The “Capitol Crawl,” as the event was called, has become in retrospect a powerful visual symbol the difficulties faced by people with disabilities when confronted with barriers and obstacles created by politicians and others. Now, faced with massive cuts in disability medical care and services under the proposed Republican dismantling of Obamacare and Medicaid, disability activists are staging protests around the country.
By Carole JoffeMany Americans are puzzled by the all-out attacks by the Trump administration on contraceptive services: the administration has signaled its intention to take contraception out of the list of no co-pay preventive services authorized by Obamacare; it has made clear its eagerness to defund Planned Parenthood; and it has appointed longtime ideological opponents of contraception to positions of power in the federal bureaucracy, including direct oversight of family planning programs. The question becomes, why is an administration firmly opposed to abortion taking steps that will only assure more unintended pregnancies, some of which in turn will lead to an increased demand for abortions? What became of that short-lived moment in American politics when contraception was viewed as the main point of “common ground” between supporters and opponents of abortion?
By Lynn K. HallWhen you Google the name of the man who raped me when I was eighteen, the top hit says, “There are bad men. And then there are bad man. *** is one of the very worst men.” When I publicly accused this man of rape, I stood in a sizeable line of survivors. That there were five of us and the details of one of the cases—the girl was young, and disabled, and badly injured by the assault—left no doubt about the credibility of our stories. Our rapist was convicted, incarcerated, and served fourteen months. That may seem like a paltry sentence, and it is, but the point is that he saw the inside of a prison. He is now a registered sex offender with a past which follows him forevermore. The bigger point: I am believed.
By Kay WhitlockHere’s a thought I keep coming back to during this tradition month of Pride celebrations (and protests by some LGBTQ folks against the growing corporate influence and welcoming of strong police presence in Pride celebrations.) It’s not my thought alone. Any number of people—activists, organizers, scholars—have, over many years, voiced something similar. Let’s center criminalized transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer folks in the moral, cultural, and political imaginations and agendas of movements for LGBTQ liberation. Especially criminalized queer communities of color.
This month, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? turns fifty. King’s acute analysis of American race relations couldn’t be more prophetic. Written in 1967, in isolation in a rented house in Jamaica, King’s final book lays out his plans and dreams for America’s future: the need for better jobs; higher wages; decent housing; quality education; and above all, the end to global suffering. King’s dreams are very much our own today.
By Perpetua CharlesThis year marks the fortieth anniversary of the court decision in Loving v. Virginia that struck down anti-miscegenation laws across the United States. Thanks to this ruling, people across races could legally declare their love for each other through marriage. Sheryll Cashin’s new book, Loving: Interracial Relationships and the Threat to White Supremacy, offers a history of interracial relationships in the United States and looks at how present interracial relationships will shape the future of the country. As I read Loving, I was struck by a short section near the end of the book. Cashin writes that one doesn’t have to marry, date, or adopt a person of another race to experience transformational love or to acquire what she calls cultural dexterity—an enhanced capacity for intimate connections with people outside one’s own tribe. An intimate friendship works just as well. Cashin doesn’t use the word friend lightly, and neither do I.
By Laura Erickson-Schroth and Laura A. JacobsTransgender people have faced scrutiny and harassment in bathrooms for decades, but only recently has this discrimination become law. In 2013, Arizona was the first state to sponsor a “bathroom bill,” which made it a crime to use a bathroom that did not correspond with your birth certificate. Fortunately, as the Transgender Law Center pointed out, that piece of legislation was “flushed away” later that year. But other states followed suit, including Texas, Nevada, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Tennessee, and, most prominently, North Carolina.
After twelve years of leading the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II has announced that he is stepping down as state chapter president. He’ll be joining activists and faith leaders across the nation to lead them in a new Poor People’s Campaign, envisioned to advocate economic justice for all across the racial spectrum.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-WhitakerIndigenous nations have for many decades negotiated with and litigated against the United States for its unfair and many times illegal dealings with them, dealings that have resulted in the massive loss of land and resources. Beginning with the Indian Claims Commission in the 1940s, the United States has paid out billions of dollars in settlements in acknowledgment of its depredations, with Native nations sometimes extinguishing their right to aboriginal title or status as federally recognized tribes in exchange.
By Nicholas DiSabatinoThirteen years ago, the idea of same-sex marriage was still so alien to people. Even then Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry wouldn’t respond to questions about it in public for fear of upsetting potential voters. Other states would follow eventually, but for me, it felt like forever.
By Eileen TruaxElioenai Santos’s first memory is of himself as a little boy, crying, as an adult tries to give him a stuffed animal to soothe him. Elioenai associates this memory with coming to the United States at two years of age. Originally from Orizaba, in the eastern state of Veracruz, Mexico, his parents decided to migrate, as almost all migrants do, in search of a better future for their children. The ﬁrst to make the journey was his father. Although he had wanted to be an engineer, he could not afford to go to school, and once he became a father he decided to try his luck in the United States. He arrived in California in the early 1990s and got a job working in a bodega. A few months later his wife joined him with Elioenai. Two years after they arrived, his parents gave Elioenai a little brother, a US citizen, and his mother worked taking care of other people’s children as her own grew up.
By Patricia Hill CollinsOn August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people gathered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One line stands out: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Some would say that the outcome of the 2008 presidential election has been either the realization of King’s dream or evidence of its failure. We can speculate endlessly about how and why Barack Obama won and John McCain lost, but this may not be the best use of our time. For the United States and the globe, too much is at stake to concentrate too closely on winners and losers.
By Carole JoffeThe prospect of the overturn of Roe v. Wade—which the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation struggle over Judge Neil Gorsuch is highlighting—is terrifying to many, especially to those who remember the notorious pre-Roe days. It is also a real possibility, should President Donald Trump have the opportunity for another nomination, one that would replace a liberal judge with a “pro-life” one, as he pledged to do during the campaign. But if Roe falls, women may not face the same kinds of physical dangers from seeking abortion as in previous decades. Instead, however, I predict there will be far more criminal prosecutions of those involved in illegal abortion.
By Stacey PattonWhupping children is so deeply entrenched into black culture that folks often won’t have a rational conversation or be receptive to new information about the potential physical and psychological harms of hitting children. That’s because when we were children, being whupped was presented to us in the context of “love” and “protection.” As such, many folks’ opinions and feelings about whuppings are based on their repression or forgetting what it was like to be a child. They’ve either repressed or forgotten the betrayal, pain, bewilderment, fear, resentment, sadness, and anger they felt while being on the receiving end of an adult hitting their body. They’ve turned pain into a positive. So when they talk about whuppings, there appears to be a sharp disconnect between what they likely experienced as a child and their staunch adult defense of the harmful practice.
By Ryan Lugalia-HollonWielding only hammers, law enforcement executives often treat the world as if it were made of nails. Within the Chicago Police Department, this limited worldview has led to fatal flaws in departmental strategy and culture. Some of these flaws were documented in a 164-page report by the United States Department of Justice, which drew on meetings with “over 340 Chicago Police Department members and 23 members of the Independent Police Review Authority.” The report covers a litany of civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department, with a primary focus on its “pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of force.” It calls for deep reforms to support everything from officer wellness to community-focused policing which, not incidentally, are deeply linked.
By Lori L. TharpsBy now you’ve probably seen the video. The one of White American South Korean expert Robert Kelly being interrupted by his two children while he was in the middle of a live interview on the BBC. The video immediately went viral because it was just so funny seeing not one, but two kids photo bomb dad’s very important and very serious television appearance, followed by a harried woman literally swooping in to save the day by hauling the kids out of the room and slamming the door behind her. Oh, it was funny indeed. And Kelly’s four-year-old daughter, whom we now know is named Marion, became an instant Internet star.
By Arlene SteinTrump, the presidential candidate, was basically a “paleoconservative.” He adhered to nationalism, free markets, and moral traditionalism. He supported a strident form of anti-immigrant politics, an isolationist foreign policy, and a deep skepticism toward economic globalization that put him at odds with an important element of the business agenda. Trump, the president, has assembled an administration comprised of a coalition of the secular, Christian and xenophobic right. Some say it is the widest rightwing coalition ever assembled by an American president. And it is far more radical than anyone would have believed after the election.
By Carlos A. BallGrimm’s lawsuit, and other cases like it such as the challenge to North Carolina’s so-called transgender bathroom law (also known as House Bill 2), is of great importance, because it addresses the question of whether transgender individuals are legally entitled to do something that everyone else is permitted to do, namely to use bathrooms (and similar facilities such as changing rooms) that match their gender identity. But cases like Grimm’s raise an even more fundamental and important question: whether federal law protects sexual and gender-identity minorities from discrimination to begin with.