For the rest of our lives, we’ll remember where we were or what we were doing when the Roe decision was announced.
I was having dinner with two friends of mine — an attorney and an architect. We started talking about the state of world affairs, and how it difficult it was to differentiate between the fiction of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the sordid reality of American politics.
“These policies are not going to impact us. We have the means and privilege to find access,” my lawyer friend said. “These arcane abstractions, that now have been become law, are going to impact women of color who are in poverty — the most vulnerable of our society.”
There is no qualifier: Reproductive freedom should be a constitutional right in a country that lauds itself as a global democratic republic. Even for those that require there to be a qualifier, we cannot ignore the public health impact that this ruling will have — nor the reality that these policies are going to have horrific consequences for women of color, without the means, access, ability, or networks to be able to have a voice in their reproductive health.
It’s been several weeks after the constitutional ruling with reverberating public health concerns for Black and brown women. This overturning of Roe v. Wade will disproportionately impact their access to reproductive freedom, exacerbating the racial, structural, and systematic policies that have impacted Black women for generations. Reports corroborate this. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, Black women had the highest number of abortions out of any racial group at 38%.
Data shows that countries with restrictive abortion laws have higher rates of maternal mortality. When legal options run out, women have to make terrifying decisions about their welfare without the support of governmental and social institutions.
Since the announcement, there has been immense outrage, indignation, anger, and activism. Now, it’s more matter-of-fact headlines like: “Majority of Public Disapproves of Supreme Court Decision” and “Supreme Court has voted to overturn Women’s Rights.”
The narrative needs to be shifted. We need to talk about Black women, the disproportionate impact this ruling will have on them, and how we continue to fail them. Black women and women of color are going to be systematically impacted by this ruling, and yet, we don’t have the courage to name that. It’s important to note here that I am not Black, and I will never realize what it means to be a Black woman in this country. But for us to be true allies, we need to name where we can step in and provide a platform to those who are being unjustly targeted and treated.
What’s more unfortunate, in a country where we have so many precedents of innovation, achievement, and change, we are bowing to the winds of partisanship and obsoletism.
Let me say this again: The intersection of color and class impacts the lived experience of people in this country. Being Black, a woman, and in poverty is the trifecta of identities that this ruling will disproportionately impact.
We don’t need social media activism or retweets to show allyship. Allyship is anchored in intentional action that positively impacts the dignity, experience, and voice of those who are left behind. We must have an intentional shift in language, conversation, and action, as it relates to the experiences of the Black women that we engage with on a day-by-day basis. Beyond retweets and positive thoughts, how are we showing up for our Black colleagues, Black friends, and Black neighbors?
Questions that need to be posed to all of us include:
- How are we serving as sponsors to elevate the voice of our Black colleagues and teammates?
- How are we providing opportunities for truly authentic feedback loops, where we quietly listen? Are we “true” allies? Or are we performative ones?
- How are we supporting Black businesses? Where do we spend and what stops us from spending more locally, particularly in Black communities?
- How are we engaging on topics such as race, class, and privilege? Are we invested in our children learning about Black history? Or do we push against it?
- How are we treating the Black women in our work-spaces? Are we characterizing them erroneously or taking the time to get to know them and be their advocates?
The Roe v. Wade ruling does not stand alone. The experiences of Black women are shaped by the marriage of different institutions: social, political, and legal. It’s up to us how we determine what our charge is. Do we really want to be allies and advocates? Or are we weaving a tale for ourselves, blithely unaware that our actions — or lack thereof — create and perpetuate systems of inequity?
Sana Shaikh is a member of the Connecticut Mirror’s Community Editorial Board.