Autostraddle writers discuss voter suppression, reproductive rights and access to care, and the fights for basic rights and freedoms around the world in this week’s Extra! Extra! Rejoice with us as London prepares to host the first Muslim pride festival in the world, coming April 11!
On Fair Elections
Natalie: Within the Voting Rights Act of 1965 , there were provisions that forced specific jurisdictions, with a history of voter suppression, to seek federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority threw out the formula for determining which jurisdictions should be subject to pre-clearance, effectively gutting the VRA. The majority claimed the formula was outdated and, essentially said, “who needs preclearance formulas anyway because look how many black people are voting?!” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rightly called out her colleagues’ hubris, writing in her extraordinary dissent, “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
What does voting look like when you throw away your umbrella in a rainstorm? It looks like 750 closed polling sites in mostly black and brown communities and 5+ hour waiting times to vote in Texas, a place that would’ve been subject to preclearance before Shelby. It looks like Brian Kemp gleefully celebrating voter purges in Georgia — a state that would’ve been subject to preclearance — implemented exclusively to help Kemp defeat Stacey Abrams in the state’s governor’s race.
Not enough people appreciate that this is the ball game. We’re so eager to blame candidates (*waves at Hillary*) that we allow Republicans to escape culpability for the systematic way they’re suppressing black and brown turnout. But for suppressive efforts in Georgia, Stacey Abrams would be governor right now. But for voter suppression in Texas, that state would be a deep shade of purple. But for voter suppression and racial gerrymandering, our presidential contests wouldn’t even be races… they’d be coronations for whatever Democrat survived the nominating process. This is the entire ball game and we’re missing it.
Rachel: I wish I could print out Natalie’s last paragraph and paste it on walls in every city – the fact is that although organizers and concerned citizens are doing incomparable work right now agitating and educating their communities and getting them behind candidates that will fight for them, all that means very little if those same people literally cannot vote. It’s vital to support candidates who are making it a priority to restore voting rights, and to put intense pressure on all legislators to do the same — talk to your friends and family about the realities of voter suppression so they can see these patterns and their impacts, too.
Rachel: One of the major concerns after the 2016 election was, reasonably, Roe v. Wade – one of the most dangerous and lasting impacts a bad administration can have is on the Supreme Court, and there was legitimate fear that Roe v. Wade would somehow be weakened or struck down. So far, that hasn’t happened — although a case came before SCOTUS on an abortion-restricting Louisiana law, a requirement that any doctor providing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, an arbitrarily and punishingly high standard, this week. The case didn’t go well for the anti-choice side – you can read this full piece for some great schadenfreude on it – but we won’t know for sure until the court issues a ruling. However, even if this particular restriction is struck down, it doesn’t mean Roe v Wade is in any way safe – as the Vox article points out, “even if he does vote to strike down this Louisiana law, there is a much more honest way for anti-abortion advocates to approach the Supreme Court in the future: They can simply ask [Chief Justice Roberts] to overrule Roe v. Wade. When that day comes, Roberts remains likely to give these advocates what they want.”
The harrowing reality is that even with Roe v Wade still standing, abortion and its providers are still increasingly at risk – there are a lot of ways to make something impossible to access or provide outside the legislature and while keeping it entirely legal, especially for the most marginalized and vulnerable among us. In many ways, this ties in with the voting access stories above — although voting and abortion are both legal in the US for now, it’s revelatory to look at who they’re functionally off limits to, and who gets punished most severely both legally and socially for attempting to either access or provide access to them! Both are also reasons why both state and local elections in 2020 are so critical!
Himani: I couldn’t agree more with everything that Rachel said. Reading accounts from the few people who are willing to openly discuss their abortions publicly always serves as a sobering reminder of the people who are getting dehumanized in this debate.
What I hadn’t given much thought to before, though, was the people providing reproductive care and how much is at stake for them as well. In conjunction with the onslaught of anti-abortion legal activity they’re bringing forward, anti-choice activists are leveraging capitalism to their advantage to further restrict abortion access. The “abortion tax” makes owning and operating an abortion clinic prohibitively onerous and expensive. Black healthcare providers already face rampant discrimination in the medical industry and criminalization of abortion will affect them disproportionately. Yet one more reason why healthcare needs to be removed from a capitalistic framework and meaningful work needs to be done to address racism and racial inequity in so many aspects of our society.
Around the World, People Fighting for Their Right to Live Freely
Himani: These articles might not seem related, but to my mind they are. Around the world, we see instances of governments and corporations infringing on people’s right to their sovereignty, their housing, their livelihood and their privacy. In some cases, as in the essays from Kashmir and Wuhan, the act of writing itself serves as a powerful form of protest as these writers risk their safety to inform the world of things their governments would rather keep hidden. In Oakland we find a glimmer of hope as public action may lead to low-income residents being able to hold onto their housing in a gentrified neighborhood. But in the Amazon we see how corporate interests will do whatever they can to increase their profits.
Overlaying all of this, companies continue to develop and sell technologies to make these infringements and this violence all the easier for governments and corporations. We’ve seen protests against surveillance technology at a few university campuses, with recent actions taken at Wesleyan.
LGBTQ+ Rights and Representation
Natalie: The fact that this is the first ever Muslim Pride Festival is a feat in its own… but to truly appreciate how miraculous this is, this story begs for more context. Over the last year or so, throughout the UK, there’s been a huge fight between, primarily, Muslim parents and school districts over the inclusion of LGBT equality in the school curriculum. The protests started at Anderton Park primary school in Birmingham — resulting in most parents pulling their children out of school — but has since spread nationwide. To launch the first ever Muslim Pride parade, in the wake of those protests, simultaneously standing in their faith and their truth, feels truly revolutionary.
Himani: As Natalie said, this is momentous on its own and because of the context. Brown queer voices and Muslim queer voices are often lost in LGBTQ+ conversations. While reporting on the protests, The Guardian spoke with several queer Muslims. And of course, Samra Habib’s memoir, also published last year, is a must-read acount of being a queer Muslim.
America’s War in Afghanistan
Natalie: How long did this last? Two days?! The art of the deal, indeed.