A Social Justice Newsletter for Educators
“I have to say that as tempting as it is to give into despair or hopelessness, it is crucial to remember, again, that this is why it’s important that we learn more and better about the generations that came before us. Let me tell you, generations of people with far fewer resources and living in spaces of far greater systemic violence and injustice, found a way to fight for a better world. And if we can’t because we’re bummed out, which we are, then we have a major problem.”
- Rebecca Traister in conversation with Rebecca Carroll in The Meteor, May 4th, 2022
Where do we begin?
Friends, I’m almost speechless. Just when I was gearing up to celebrate the onset of Spring, to savor this window of mask-free socializing and rejoice in having made it safely into the final stretch of the school year, news of the leaked US Supreme Court draft of a decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade flooded my social media feed. In real terms, what that means is that a person’s access to abortions would no longer be federally guaranteed.
However you feel about abortion, what’s at stake here is much much larger and far more menacing. What’s at stake is not only reproductive justice for pregnant people. We are facing the loss of women’s bodily autonomy, we are talking about women in the United States being stripped of their full citizenship with a right to privacy and the power make their own health care decisions, not to speak of the possible repeal of civil rights gains over the last 50 years. I am furious. I am devastated and it’s hard to write about any of this in measured, careful language.
Given that, I want to invite all of us to check in with ourselves in different ways; to interrogate our own states of mind as we navigate our positions and responses to this news and other forms of crisis.
H. A. L. T. - I can’t quite remember where I learned this reminder but it is remarkably helpful in taking our own temperature under circumstances of duress. Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? (HALT) All good things to ask ourselves when our reactions feel overblown, out of character, and/or really difficult to manage.
W. A. I. T. - Why Am I Talking? When was the last time you raised this question? Particularly in situations where we feel attacked or pressured, some of us may try to counteract those feelings by arguing/justifying our way out of them. W. A. I. T. offers an excellent reminder to press pause and try listening.
Question, question, question - As educators we have a tendency to prioritize answers, explicitly and implicitly. Breaking that habit requires conscious effort and focus. When our emotions rule the roost, learning to step back and raise questions instead, takes practice. List your questions without judgment. Let your curiosity run wild over the page. That’s data. Start there.
I present these reminders as avenues for pausing and processing. Before we can effectively listen to others, it makes sense to begin with ourselves. Trust me on this one. It matters.
If you are an American citizen, the list of current and potential dangers of overturning Roe v. Wade is very long. For those who hold citizenship in other countries, it may prompt you to examine pregnancy and birth health care access more closely. As I have learned, there are many countries where terminating a pregnancy is criminalized. Some states in the US are on course to reach a similar status. (In fact, it already exists.) Below I’ve collected resources that I’ve found helpful in parsing out different aspects of this three alarm fire of minority rule in a rather fragile democracy.
“The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion.” This is the key point: allowing individual states to decide if pregnant persons may terminate a pregnancy and if so, under which circumstances. Read the details in Politico which broke the story.
Coming to terms with the potential fallout requires a strong stomach at the very least. For that I want send you to another newsletter, The Meteor, which includes the voices of “journalists, artists, and activists committed to gender equity." These folks do not mince words.
Be sure to read the interview in the newsletter with journalist Rebecca Traister who has been warning us for years about this unceasing attack on women’s autonomy. That’s where the quote at the top is taken from.
A Twitter thread by the National Council of Jewish Women offers important reminders about using inclusive language from the reproductive justice field when discussing abortion and legislation around it.
One tweet that stood out for me: “Instead of: “Women” Say: “People who need abortion access,” or “people who need abortion care.” Why? Some women don’t need abortion access, & some trans men, some nonbinary & some gender nonconforming people do. “People” is more accurate and inclusive.”
Finally, another Twitter thread that really helped me understand my own sense of devastation at this news comes from author, Soraya McDonald. In it, she traces the historical roots of restricting bodily autonomy dating back to chattel slavery.
Two tweets connected dots for me in painful and real ways. McDonald writes: “Abortion has always been a Black women's issue because our existence in this country is defined by being robbed of bodily autonomy from the moment we're stolen and brought here. (1) If people can control when they give birth and how many children they have, especially poor people, that creates a threat to the economic beast that runs on people being trapped in poverty and stuck in an unjust hamster wheel of wage slavery” (2)
So yeah, nothing is guaranteed, neither our rights nor our peace. The onslaught of crisis upon crisis continues. If laws and systems will not protect us, we must be sure to protect and support each other. Let’s at least remember that.
Before you go, I will mention one thing that I think is special and worth sharing. As part of the Open Technology in Education, Society and Scholarship Association (OTESSA) Conference, May 16-19, I will be delivering a keynote talk: “Hide and Seek: On Kids, Power and Resistance in Education.” If you’d like more information, please check out the OTESSA website.
As always, I am grateful for your engagement and openness.