Make 2016 a Year for Change
Thinking back about last year, one thing is for certain: 2015 was a year of challenge and struggle. We started the year mourning the death of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide in late December 2014, while struggling to find the way to “fix society.” The year would see an alarmingly high number of murders of transwomen, particularly transwomen of color.
The massacre at a Black church in Charleston by a white supremacist in June was one of many racist attacks: a racism whipped up further by campaign speeches by Donald Trump and other right-wing bigots targeting immigrants, refugees, Mexicans, Muslims and Blacks. Our sisters, and brothers, continue to stand tall and fight against intimidation and terror.
The summer marriage equality ruling by the Supreme Court was a major victory: one made possible by years of struggle. It does not make things perfect, but it is an important gain in enabling couples to access over a thousand federal benefits previously denied to same-sex couples.
Native communities struggled for justice for the many women assaulted, murdered or “disappeared.” While VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) finally includes Native women, the ability to take action against violence is still limited. Continuing into this year is the struggle for tribal courts to take action against non-Natives. (At least 70% of violence against Natives is by non-Natives.)
Communities of color, particularly Black communities, have continued to struggle against police brutality and extrajudicial killing. At least five Black women died while in police custody in the month of July, including Sandra Bland. Within days of each other, grand juries decided not to issue indictments in the deaths of Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice. In December, the already-under-fire Chicago police killed Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier in response to a domestic disturbance call; and in San Francisco police officers struck Mario Woods with more than 20 bullets as he stumbled away from them. The families have yet to find justice, but people across the nation have continued to fight back.
Reproductive rights were under attack, first through the manipulatively edited video made by the so-called “Center for Medical Progress.” As a result of this reactionary campaign against the women’s health care provider, several Planned Parenthood clinics were attacked by arsonists and three people were murdered at a Colorado Springs clinic. While politicians have been enacting laws to create additional hurdles to accessing abortion, women in underserved areas across the country have been forced to self-abort. One example is a woman in Tennessee who now stands trial for attempted murder for trying to end her pregnancy with a clothes-hanger.
The year also wrapped up with a visit from a UN delegation to study gender discrimination in the United States. They were utterly “shocked.” Most horrifying to them was the treatment of women and children in detention centers and prisons, and the total assault on abortion access.
All this happened last year. Last year we saw many attacks and a few gains. But we know the struggle against sexism, racism and bigotry will continue into the new year. Because our lives are at stake, we refuse to give in to intimidation and terror. We will organize and we will fight back, because we need to and because that is how we win.
For months now, the candidates have been gearing up for the 2016 presidential election. Major issues have been taken up by the Supreme Court, including the right for tribal jurisdiction and anti-abortion TRAP laws. What we must remember is that it is not the politicians or the courts who benevolently hand us rights and protections. Promises mean nothing. It is what we do that makes the difference. It is strength and determination that has led to everything we have won.
When we step back, we lose because we let the harassment, the violence, the deportations and the deaths go unchallenged. When we stand up, organize, and fight back, we can win. We can and we must say “No More!” We are building a mass movement connecting our issues and fighting for justice. Make 2016 a year for change. Join us! Women united will never be defeated!