I’m sitting outside on the patio of a Starbuck’s in Kalispell, Montana, the morning sunny and chilly, grateful for the little gas fireplace beside me. It is early, but not that early … maybe 8:45am or so. I have just completed a workshop for a small group of participants as part of a conference of national public defenders I’ve been invited to present to. So far it is going well, but I am brooding anyway.
Upon waking I heard of the leaked opinion that seems to indicate SCOTUS plans to roll back Roe v. Wade. I don’t think anyone reading this needs more context, you know what I’m talking about. Regular readers won’t be surprised to learn the entire debacle makes me angry either. It’s an outrage.
Perhaps unfairly, my outrage this particular morning has a focus. A woman has just rolled up to the curb in a supersized silver Ford SUV. I have to angle my head just right when I look at it or sunlight reflecting from its surfaces threatens to blind me. A woman is in the driver’s seat, immediately engaged with her phone upon stopping. The motor is still running. Her hands clutching the phone to her face glitter with rings. She has pushed her expensive-looking sunglasses to the top of her head; her hair is cut in a particular fashion common to women of a certain class, blonde on top with what seems like an underlayer dyed black.
I’m making all manner of assumptions about her based on where I am. Kalispell is a community deeply mired in the worst of the right-wing rhetoric common to the U.S.A. The kind of rhetoric that sees a loud, threatening minority flex influence all the way to the Supreme Court and the abominable ruling they are poised to unfurl on us. So when I consider that more than 50% of both white men and women alike vote for the people who make policies backed-up by at least five of our current Supreme Court justices, and I am in a town that leans hard to the right, I’ll take the heat for being judgmental about this woman in assuming she’s one of them. I want to approach her vehicle, knock on her window, and ask her just WTF her problem actually is? But I don’t.
A mere three nights later my rock band is in Great Falls and set to take the stage in front of one of the largest crowds we’ve ever played for, opening up for a touring band from Texas who seems to vigorously embrace “redneck” culture. Happily I don’t see any confederate flags amidst their stuff, and backstage the guys in the band are friendly enough. During their show there is an abundance of incoherent rambling referencing “guns” and “god” and “america” that goes on and on between every song and it’s almost more than I can take. They are good at what they do, even if not really my thing, but it goes down as one of the worst shows I’ve endured. It’s the lead singer and all his talking; all his affected “tough guy” bullshit. It’s too much.
It’s a white, mostly-male audience and they eat it up. Here there are plenty of blue flag caps, emblems of a flag with an AR-15 shape where the stars go, a few “Let’s Go Brandon!” shirts, etc. Our performance is well-received and we get a lot of love both during and after the show, but I’m left shaking my head. I might be out of line in my assumptions about the voting habits of this crowd – or at least those who vote at all – but I doubt it. So once again I’m wondering, “WTF, dudes?!” Have you considered being dads to kids you never intended to have? What about child support? Do you really have no intention of providing either kind of support to any woman you might inflict a pregnancy on? I don’t think I want the answer to that question.
Is it time to just give up on white people? White guys for sure, I think. It’s what makes me so crazy about the current Democratic administration. So much time and energy bent toward trying to woo white voters who are never going to vote for them anyway, at least anytime soon. It was Black women and Indigenous people who got Biden into office in the first place. Time to live up to the promises to those folks that got them to vote his way in the first place.
White feminists get all worked-up over things like abortion but largely leave their Black and Brown sisters unsupported when they are fighting their battles … when white women aren’t appropriating BIPOC struggles for themselves, that is, or engaging in similarly egregious behavior. Where is the march to force Biden to act on his campaign promise to cancel student loan debt? That would be a huge boost economically, particularly for Black women. Where is the outrage? Where are the cute hats to march in?
So what are we going to do? Our elected officials are useless, and as my good friend Freya says we are already voting the way we want things to go. Is it time to take to the streets? To disrupt? Resist? What are we willing to do? Where are we going to funnel all this outrage?
Friends, like so many I don’t have a lot of faith in institutions. We have to keep voting, yes. But we also have to show up for each other, and we have to dig in for a long hard fight. My friend Cora Neumann is still in the running to represent Montana in our new Congressional district. She is strong in the things I care about and I think she is the best choice. I hope you will consider supporting her too.
Meanwhile, see you in the streets….
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Especially considering fifteen minutes after this encounter I will be in a conference room listening to an excellent presentation on how racism and stereotyping lead to all manner of micro-aggressions, which I am quite obviously engaging in here….
Nothing is okay. Nothing feels okay. I was texting with a friend this morning who said woman will fight this hard and I said, "I agree but on the other hand something is deeply wrong with white women." She said, "White supremacy is the problem and white women buying into it." I keep running into that answer. It really hit me when seeing the results when Roy Moore *barely* lost his senate bid. He was defeated due to Black women turning out and trouncing him resoundingly. White women voted for him by a huge percentage. There is something so deeply ill about that.
Chris, I read this one twice, both times with angry tears. (The first time I also gasped to see my words next to yours. Thank you.) I once asked an organizer how she moved through an unjust world without being consumed with a desire to set everything on fire. She'd been subjected to so much, I felt like lighting the match on her behalf. She said that she loved individuals and hated oppressive systems. That provided the balance she needed. I saw this in action. Her love didn't excuse those individuals. She still held them accountable. That's love too, you know? Anyways, I've really tried to follow her example. But I am starting to lose my grip on her vision. I am having an increasingly difficult time separating the individual from the systems they eagerly support. Or even the systems I assume they eagerly support. And I don't know...that makes me feel like I am losing a little bit of my humanity. And that makes me angrier. And well. A mess.
I donated to Cora Neumann after reading your post. Thank you for linking to her campaign.