After Roe v Wade, they will come for me – and for you
But we cannot let them. We must fight to protect the rights and the lives of one another and to shield the vulnerable.
They will come for me.
Make no mistake. They will come. Yesterday has shown us this. Today has shown us this. My government is not here to protect me. I don’t feel safe in my own country, the land of the free, where we are all free … as long as we are white, Christian, and male. And maybe not even then.
I am neither white, nor Christian, nor male.
I am a Black woman. But I am not simply a woman. I am a Black trans woman. The qualifier as much a symbol of beauty and strength as an identifier that my very existence in this country is a threat to the power our beloved forefathers dreamed of having forever: The power of whiteness, the importance of maleness, the rightness of Christianity.
I am a threat, and therefore, threatened.
When will they come for me? I fear it will be soon, because the Supreme Court is ensuring that all is in place for them to come for me.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down a New York law restricting guns, which also strikes down a California law. Meanwhile, there have been at least 250 mass shootings in the US this year. Many, such as the shooting in the city of my birth, Buffalo, New York, by white terrorists who travel specifically to kill Black people. The Supreme Court’s actions effectively enshrine the ability of any radicalised terrorist to kill me simply for being Black. Or for being a woman. Or for being trans. Or for not being a Christian.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court struck down a Maine ban on funding religious schools that effectively removes the separation of church and state. In the words of the dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “Today, the Court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation.” This gives the government one more tool for enforcing Christianity on me and my children, with an armed group of religious extremists willing to commit stochastic violence with legally obtained assault rifles to ensure we obey their God’s supposed edicts.
“But we have police to protect us?” Not at all. In 1981, the DC Court of Appeals stated in Warren v District of Columbia that “no specific legal duty exists”. And the US Supreme Court ruled in DeShaney v Winnebago County Department of Social Services, 1989, that the police have no specific obligation to protect people. The police have no duty to stop me from being killed. In fact, the FBI issued a report in 2006 raising the alarm about white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement. This suggests that many officers have a specific interest in not protecting me.
“At least, they cannot detain us without rights?” This, too, seems to be gone. The Supreme Court has begun shielding police officers who violate Miranda rights. They have also upheld that, within a 100-mile radius of “any US external boundary,” the US Border Patrol can perform warrantless searches of vehicles without “reasonable suspicion” of an immigration violation. The decision in Egbert v Boule codified that an officer could not be held liable in court for infringement of the First and Fourth Amendments. Justice Sotomayor, in her dissenting opinion, wrote that the decision “does not overrule Bivens [a 1971 decision that ruled that a private individual could sue a federal officer for damages if their fundamental rights were violated]. It nevertheless contravenes precedent and will strip many more individuals who suffer injuries at the hands of other federal officers, and whose circumstances are materially indistinguishable from those in Bivens, of an important remedy.”
Infiltration of police by white supremacists, gutting of Miranda, and the expansion of federal officer immunity from lawsuits all align to create an effective white supremacist police state. Two-thirds of the US population lives within 100 miles of a border – that same populace is both more demographically varied and more Democratic. It is telling that those most likely to reject the formation of a white nationalist state can be searched and detained without cause. And since all US airports with international flight capabilities are subject to the “external boundary” classification, it means that there are few places in the US where we cannot be detained, without warrant, for any reason.
“But at least the laws we already have encoded will not be overturned.”
Which brings us to Friday morning. The US government has just told all of its citizens that it can take away any right at any time.
Both Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett told senators during their confirmation hearings that Roe v Wade was “settled law,” implying that it should not be overturned. Yet on Friday, the US Supreme Court did, in fact, overturn the 1973 decision legalising abortion access.
On Thursday, millions of women and trans men went to bed believing that the government had no right to tell them what to do with their own bodies. They woke up knowing they could be criminally prosecuted for having a miscarriage. Thirteen states have “trigger laws” that immediately or quickly make abortion illegal following the Supreme Court ruling (one has to wonder if they had prepared for this to happen). Furthermore, states have passed laws allowing third-party citizens to bring damages against anyone providing or aiding in an abortion. What protection is there from gun-carrying extremists who want to take more violent measures? We now live in a country where the police, US Border Patrol, or any member of the public can take deadly action against a person simply for the desire to control their own bodies.
And they are coming for me.
I know this because dozens of states have proposed LGBTQIA+ discrimination laws in 2022. I know this because Justice Clarence Thomas stated in his personal opinion that the court should “correct the error” of other “settled law” stating the court should look to overturn Griswold v Connecticut – the case legalising a person’s right to contraception, Lawrence v Texas – the case legalising a person’s right to sexual privacy, and Obergefell v Hodges – the case legalising same-sex marriage.
Notably, Thomas, who is Black and in an interracial marriage, did not specifically cite Loving v Virginia – the case that legalised interracial marriage. But the premise of Loving v Virginia was cited in Obergefell v Hodges; the right to privacy from the government and equal protection is important to both. If one falls, so can they all. Friday’s ruling also calls into question Brown v Board of Education – the case that overturned Plessy v Ferguson and ended school segregation.
Nothing, no right, no equality, no freedom is safe for us. So much has already been taken away, and now the US Supreme Court has stated explicitly that they want to take more.
And the Democrats have shown little willingness to fight for us. Nancy Pelosi supported an anti-abortion candidate, yet sent out a fundraising email on Friday as if the decision was a great opportunity to raise money. The Democrats could have enshrined Roe v Wade into coded law decades ago but abortion rights were consistently used as a campaign topic.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has said that transgender rights “should not be a priority” for the Democratic Party. As if transgender health was not a wedge issue to help destroy bodily autonomy. I wonder if Clinton really believes that my right to hormone therapy is not the same as a trans man’s right to abortion, the same as any woman’s right to bodily autonomy, the same as any person’s right to bodily autonomy, to privacy, to existence. The neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party has consistently spoken about our rights as important yet consistently failed to enshrine those rights. Now they are being taken from us.
If the Democrats keep playing games with people’s rights instead of protecting them, they will come for me. If the equality of some is sacrificed for the convenience of others, they will come for me. If we continue living in this house, divided, and keep allowing America’s ideals of equality to crumble, they will come for me.
And after they come for me, they will come for you.
We cannot let them. We must fight, by whatever means necessary, to protect the rights and the lives of one another, to shield those more vulnerable. We must lead with love, with equity, with compassion. We must hold the words of our ancestors and mothers close to us and carry the strength of those like Maya Angelou. Because they will come. They will shoot us with their words. They will cut us with their eyes. They will kill us with their hatefulness. Unless, together, we rise.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.