So much has been happening the last couple of weeks, it’s really been hard for me to stay on top of it all. This week’s Extra! Extra! brings you news on a smattering of issues: more anti-trans legislation and rising transphobia in the U.K. alongside a ruling in Japan striking down the ban on same-sex marriage, more perspectives on the shooting in Atlanta, what exactly is happening at the U.S. border, an early look at the Chauvin trial and more.
A few weeks ago in the comments, AS regular Chandra observed that the rise in transphobia we are witnessing comes, at least partly, as a consequence of high profile people (like, you know, J.K. Rowling) using their platforms to endorse the TERF bandwagon. It was an incredibly astute observation and feels all the more poignant in light of these recent survey findings from the U.K. that nearly two-thirds of trans respondents needed to hide their identities at work, a substantial increase from five years ago. These situations always feel a little chicken and egg to me — is the heightened discrimination that people are experiencing in their day to day lives a result of the increasingly hostile political environment or is the tide moving in the other direction? Or maybe these two things are just feeding off of each other. In any case, it doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, just having these “debates” is making for a more volatile, a more dangerous situation for trans people.
At the same time, the former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine has made history as the first transgender person to be confirmed to by the U.S. Senate for one of the highest positions in the federal government as the Assistant Secretary of Health. Levine led Pennsylvania through the pandemic and will be a key official in leading the federal pandemic response.
So there’s a push and pull here that feels both inevitable and unnecessary. Like so many things the answer seems so obvious: treat trans people with the humanity and the dignity they deserve. Which means, politically, to stop legislating against their agency and, instead, ensuring trans civil rights are truly protected under the law.
A Few Angles on the Atlanta Shooting
There’s a lot that can be and has been said about the rise in anti-Asian violence over the course of the pandemic, how that was a latent racism that has existed unacknowledged for so long and how it all culminated in a fatal shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead. Yet another disturbing bit of news that was reported this week was that one of the victim’s husband (who is Latinx) was handcuffed and held as a suspect by police as his wife died. Racism truly knows no bounds in this country.
As I read the immigration news coverage, again and again, what comes to my mind is that Trump made a bad situation worse, and it will take a long, long time to even get back to the less bad version of American immigration policy that was in place before he took office four years ago. This isn’t to give Obama a pass for any of his terrible immigration policies but, much as with the pandemic, it’s a reminder that incompetent (I would say completely inept, actively destructive) leadership can bring about so much damage it can make things nearly impossible to fix. The article from the Texas Tribune above is a perfect example of this. In reversing Trump’s “stay in Mexico” policy and allowing migrants at the border camps to enter the U.S. other incredibly vulnerable migrants (for instance, queer and trans people) who had to leave the border camps for their safety are having an even harder time entering the country. But I’m really left wondering, what is the better alternative here, short of fully opening the border? Which I personally am in favor of but know very, very well that there’s absolutely no way that will ever happen — as evidenced by the politicking that is happening around this alleged “surge,” that is not actually a surge, in migrants arriving at the border.
Meanwhile, the underlying problems remain and continue to worsen. Last year, Propublica and the New York Times published what I described at the time as a “searing look at climate migration”. And, as expected, that is bearing out with migrants leaving Central American countries that were devastated by hurricanes (made worse by climate change) last year.
As always, the U.S. simply does not accept enough asylum applications, and that was true long before Trump. Which is how a woman trying to leave a violent abuser who repeatedly threatened to kill her and her children ended up crossing the border in an overpacked, unsafe van and dying when it crashed with a truck in California.
And Relatedly, in the U.K.
I found this to be really interesting and nuanced coverage of yet another showdown between an oil company trying to build a pipeline, a Native American tribe trying to exert its sovereignty over what can and cannot happen on its land and all the indigienous and non-indigineous people protesting the new construction. The alliances are not as clear cut and the issues are not nearly as simple as we might want them to be.
Criminal Justice News
The trial against Chauvin has started and, at that same moment, Minneapolis landed on a $27 million settlement with the family of George Floyd. This in turn led to two jurors being removed because the settlement colored their view of the case. How anyone can actually be impartial about what happened, regardless of the settlement, is truly beyond me. I mean the videos and the stills and the witness accounts reported by the media really speaks for themselves. I mean, in this situation, selecting jurors for that kind of “impartiality” is making the result many of us are sadly expecting (an acquittal) a foregone conclusion, isn’t it? That point is further reinforced by NPR’s recent reporting on who is part of the jury.
There’s been a lot said since the vaccine rollout started about inequity in who was getting vaccinated and how much of that was being driven by a justified mistrust of the medical establishment in Black, Latinx and immigrant communities versus by inequity in access. A recent poll from NPR shows that mistrust is really not the driving factor here. And this reporting from the Root serves as just one case study of how inequity in access continues to be a major problem. Vaccine doses that were specifically ear-marked for low income people in a predominantly Black Chicago neighborhood were instead given to the likes of Eric Trump and other people who work at the Trump hotel in Chicago. In addition to this incredible injustice, there’s a really sick irony to the fact that Trump’s son (and, of course, Trump himself) are getting vaccinated even as they spearheaded anti-science COVID denialism that has and will continue to put all of the rest of us at great risk.