January and February are notable months for black history and the civil rights movement…and once again, Black women are at the forefront of the movement.
January 15th is Martin Luther King’s actual birthday. He is revered as the chief spokesperson for non-violent activism in the Civil Rights Movement. As I think about civil rights and the years of effort put into making ours a more equitable country in which to live, I am reminded of the many strong Black women who have engaged in the war on racism and the movement toward civil rights. Many were women of humble origins who listened to the voice of their convictions and took action. Harriet Tubman, a former slave herself, became an abolitionist and political activist, noted for the 13 missions she led to free 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad. Rosa Parks is best known for her role in the Montgomery bus boycott, becoming an international icon of resistance to segregation.
It wasn’t easy for these women to act on their convictions, and yet they did. And today, we see many other strong Black women standing against racism-subtle or overt. Kamala Harris, daughter of two immigrants, became the first Black, South Asian female vice president, breaking a barrier in American politics long dominated by white males. Stacey Abrams is making a run for governor of Georgia because as she has stated, “opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by your zip code, background or access to power.”
Other Black women of note using their voices to instigate and/or further discussion on topics of importance include Rashida Jones, recently named president of MSNBC, making her the highest-ranking Black woman in the TV news industry. Symone Sanders, who was the former chief spokeswoman for Vice President Kamala Harris, is joining MSNBC as an anchor for a program format yet to be determined. Sanders is the most prominent member of the Biden White House to shift from politics to a full-time media job.
One might ask: are Black women in powerful positions most likely to hold former president Trump accountable for his dishonest business practices; for his lies and his near treasonous encouragement of the January 6 insurrection? Fulton County Georgia Democratic District Attorney Fanni Willis has stated a decision will be made in the first half of 2022 on whether to bring charges against former president Trump, for allegedly pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, (Republican) when Trump asked him to “find” necessary amounts of votes to overturn Trump’s defeat in Georgia. Willis stated she is considering requesting a grand jury with subpoena power to take part in the investigation. Willis’ office is not the only entity investigating Trump’s attempts to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election: committees in both the US Senate and US House have also looked into allegations that Trump pressured officials into helping in the attempt to overthrow the election.
Trump’s ongoing legal troubles persist, aided by the strong effort of New York Attorney General, Letitia James, a strong Black woman whom Trump accuses of weaponizing her office to carry out a targeted attack against a political adversary. Hmmm, isn’t that what Trump did when he encouraged an angry (largely white) mob to storm the nation’s capitol on January 6, 2021, to protest his -and that of others- displeasure that he lost the election? In his rebuttal to James’ inquiry into his business practices, Trump has stated “Letitia James has displayed a shocking irreverence for…prosecutorial ethics and routinely exploited her position to malign the former president…” “In doing so, she has exposed the vindictive and self-serving nature of her actions.” Really?! I invite you to substitute Trump’s name and masculine pronouns for James’ in this statement and see how it reads. Uh huh.
Could Donald Trump, in fact, be held liable for trying to overthrow the government with an attempted coup? While Attorney General Merrick Garland has been quoted as saying the justice department will go after people who caused the deadly insurrection, “whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.” Wouldn’t this seem to include the former president, who told his supporters ‘to fight” just before they stormed the capitol? It remains to be seen whether Trump will face accountability for his actions- or lack thereof – on January 6th.
Some might say that Trump’s actions were based on his conviction that Republican leadership was crucial to the survival of democracy. But here’s the thing: Trump was not a lifelong Republican. Donald Trump’s political affiliations have changed numerous times. He registered as a Republican in 1987, switched to the Reform party in 1999, joined the Democratic party in 2001, then back to the Republican party in 2009. In fact, it is a matter of record that while a Democrat, Trump endorsed Hillary Clinton in her primary, then endorsed Republican John McClain for president in the general election. Additionally Trump previously contributed $6000 to Kamala Harris’ reelection campaign for California attorney general. (Harris has stated she gave the donation to charity.) Is Trump (and the Republican party) truly concerned with “the good of the order”- ie the state of our country and all its peoples, or have these been the actions of an individual, representative of the white supremacy agenda, who is driven by hunger for the power the title of President of the United States confers?
Listen, I know some of these comments might trigger a reaction, but here’s the deal: we can argue opinion all day long, but we can’t argue facts. The facts behind the legal actions against Trump have been documented. The fact of white supremacy and its role in hindering civil rights for all, is arguably driving so much political gerrymandering.
*Jane Garretson is the Political Editor for Ms. Heel Magazine. She has a column every month titled: Capitol Heel-women in politics*