As I write this column, many are celebrating the United States’ 246th Independence Day. In the Declaration of Independence, written July 4, 1776, we find these words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Of course, these words were written for men only, and white men only to be specific. The most ironic thing about this year’s Independence Day celebration is that it has finally caught up with the same number of years that Black people were held in chattel slavery, which was from 1619 to 1865.
Another ironic thing about this Independence Day celebration, we just had some of the most anti-rights Supreme Court decisions handed down in most of our lifetimes.
After this Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade- turning their backs on 50 years of precedent and the last three Republican-appointed Justices lying that they believed Roe v Wade was settled law, women everywhere should be very afraid.
Not that we all would have an abortion but understand this court has taken away the right for women to have agency over their own bodies. This generation will be the first one in 50 years that has lost the right to determine their own futures. To be clear, women with means will be able to go to a state that still allow women to make decisions about their bodies.
Clinics in many states around the country shut their doors almost immediately after the ruling. According to the Guttmacher Institute, twenty-six states are “certain or likely” to ban abortions. Missouri became the first state to activate its trigger law, banning abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
The Reddest states in the country are certain to ban abortion rights. These states are also the ones who refused to accept the Affordable Care Act and refuse to reinstate ex-felons voting rights. They are also the states with the worst education, healthcare, and social services in the nation.
When essential liberties like voting rights, affordable health care, and bodily autonomy are attacked, it’s Black Americans who are hit first and hit the hardest. It is our communities, our people, who are turned away from voting booths, doctors’ offices, and urgent care clinics.
We should have known when Donald Trump appointed Supreme Court Justices from a list of names provided by the Federalist Society that a Day of Reckoning was coming.
It is important to also know that this fight does not end with the criminalization of abortions. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion that this decision could also lead to overturning other settled laws, like marriage equality and access to contraceptives, which he stated are also demonstratively erroneous.
While the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government does not have the right to determine who is able to get an abortion, but each state should decide how abortions will be handled state by state; this same court decided that the state of New York did not have the right to determine, who can carry concealed guns in New York. They also ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has gone too far in regulating greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants.
The most outrageous thing is that 70% of Americans are against Roe V Wade being overturned. That means 30% of the country is making decisions for the rest of us, mainly because the majority of the country does not vote.
You should know that the GOP is planning federal legislation to ban abortion in all 50 states if they take back power this November. They are counting on a low democratic turn-out! In the June 28th primary election, only 18% of eligible voters in Peoria county bothered to vote.
You should also know that the GOP plots are not just happening in red states. Last month the Peoria Election Commissioners voted at their monthly meeting, that after this November’s General Election, they will no longer provide postage on mail-in ballots. Believe me, when I tell you, this is a deliberate plan to suppress the vote of senior citizens, poor people, and Black people under the guise of saving money. This majority-Republican commission understands that Democrats have effectively gotten their constituency to use this mode of voting.
Another disturbing thing that happened in our community was the six to five NOvote from the Peoria City Council to approve a $25,000 assessment on the spiraling criminal activity in Peoria by an organization called Cure Violence. This national organization trains outreach workers from the community to identify people most likely to be involved in gun violence and redirect them to make non-violent choices.
The six white men on the Peoria City Council were so offended by the process they voted the recommendation down. Mayor Ali had gathered 50 individuals from different organizations, primarily made up of Black people, who met every two weeks for close to a year, discussing and researching ways to quell the violence in Peoria. This was a working group, but these white men didn’t like the idea that they were not fully apprised or had control of who was a part of this working group, called Safety Network (S-NET).
Although the Mayor received approval from the city’s legal dept. to hold these closed meetings, which included the city manager, two Black council members, and a number of the city’s police officers, these angry white men, refused to go along with S-NET’s recommendation to conduct the assessment.
All of these acts point to what is the elephant in the room. When we don’t Vote, we give our power away. Six right-wing Supreme Court activists are the direct result of people not voting, allowing the Republican leadership to hold up President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination with 10 months left in office. The overturning of Roe v Wade is the direct result of Donald Trump being elected president, over Hillary Clinton. The Peoria City Council’s make-up is the direct result of the dismal voting record of the people in this community.
When government, Federal, State, or Local chooses not to pass laws that are in the best interest of their constituency; It is our obligation to make sure they pay at the Ballot Box.
Here we are, on the cusp, of having many of the things we’ve taken for granted, taken away. What are we gonna do? We turn our pain and anger toward those who are responsible- into action. We make November 8th their Reckoning Day and vote them out of office!