By Shree Baphna, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg stood just over five feet tall, but every time I think of the Notorious RBG, my 23-year old self is shrunk back into a child peering up at their adored grandparent. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is, and always will be, one of my heroes. I think I can safely say she was everyone’s hero but we all wish to claim a little bit of her for ourselves.
I have written many times previously about my background and identity- as a woman of color and as a child of immigrants from India. My prospective career and passion is doing work to increase gender equality in healthcare systems and for me, RBG has always been one of my inspirations. The fact that I, as a woman and a POC have been able to progress so far, is something that I believe I owe to the pioneering work of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Looking at RBG’s legacy purely from the perspective of a POC, you can say that she, as a White woman, was anyways privy to a certain kind of privilege. There is no denying that. But my aim is to honor her lasting impact as a person, woman, mother, teacher and fighter. We must not forget that RBG was one of the few women in her time to go to law school, whilst raising her children and taking care of her husband Marty (who had been her unwavering supporter and collaborator until his death in 2010). My own grandmother and mother did the same, as new immigrants to an unfamiliar country. They too worked hard to provide for their family, while also being responsible for maintaining a household. Just like the women in my family, RBG helped to shatter the confines of gender roles by embodying the idea that women can do it all. Moreover, she fought hard to give us the choice to decide for ourselves.
What is most disheartening is that we hail RBG as the “sole guardian of American democracy”. We must realize that it is not through any doing of RBG herself, rather it is a grievous fault of ours as a nation. How can we be a part of a nation that takes pride in its slogan of “opportunity for all” but then takes it for granted, until it is too late? We were unaware that it came with an expiration date, and shame on us for not realizing it sooner. The biggest injustice we can do to RBG and her hard-earned legacy is to not ensure its continuation and to impede the integration of her court victories into the fabric of our society. What guarantee do we have to give her, that her years of work will not suffer? I am sorry, RBG. You deserve better.
As I assume many others did, I always told myself RBG was someone we could count on. Women everywhere felt safe knowing she was still living and breathing, a whole human shield to safeguard the civil rights that are precarious as it is. To us, she appeared infallible (even hitting the gym for her famous workout routines and beating cancer five times over). While I cannot claim the same experiences as the racial majority, I can claim similarity in my experiences as a woman, after all; the knowledge of having control over my body, the knowledge that I have someone on my side to fight for equal pay, and the knowledge that there is a voice for equitable opportunity in being able to create livelihoods.
In order to keep the rights and freedoms of women intact, we will need to work hard to make them untouchable. However, there is a clear hierarchy in terms of what different sections of the population have access to, as a way to either reinforce or destroy our rights. White men have bulldozers, white women have a hammer and nails, but many women of color have nothing more than the teeth and fingernails they are born with. RBG strived to level the playing ground for men and women, so that we all have equitable access to the same tools. This is important because this is the foundation we need to build off of, in order to achieve equality for all communities of color, for the LGBTQ+ community, and all other intersections of the same.
That being said, the aftermath of RBG’s death could especially bode ill for women of color who lack access to resources due to differing racial privileges. Black women especially face the most disadvantages when it comes to asserting their rights as women and as individuals. For example, Black women experience higher rates of abortion as compared to other minorities and especially White women. This is because of many cruel socioeconomic factors that are exacerbated by the poor foundations for gender and racial equality. More resources are needed for women of minority communities because they are bearing double burdens of gender and racial inequality. We cannot ignore the fact that rights to decisions regarding a woman’s body have long since been a point of contention. Now that the current administration has a chance to skew justice to their side, we cannot ignore the possible outcome that women’s rights will become more embattled than ever. The first people to be affected will be those who are amongst the most disadvantaged- female-identifying and other persons of color.
Anything that jeopardizes these base structures, jeopardizes the fate of many others who have been striving to advance their fight against inequalities stemming from intersections of gender with race, ability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and so on. RBG devoted her life’s work to create a stronger foundation of a precarious jenga-block stack that we have added on to. If you remove the base, the whole system comes tumbling down. As it is, the current administration has carefully started to remove blocks here and there, causing the structure to become rickety and prone to collapse. The United States is facing an imminent culture war as we speak. The loss of one of our greatest fighters means that there is much more at stake than we thought, at a very crucial turning point. Therefore, the election of a SC Judge under this administration will be a making or a breaking.
It is only fair and consistent that the Trump administration forfeits the right to elect a judge in place of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. With 44 days to go until the general election, it is more opportune and advantageous than fair and non-partisan if this administration were to select a judge. To whomever assumes office next, I have one request- elect a woman, if not a woman of color. In RBG’s words, there will only be enough women on the Supreme Court bench if there are nine.
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