This month, I was arrested for shouting, “Senators, we need you to #BeAHero and cancel Brett Kavanaugh - Cancel these hearings” during the Senate Judiciary Committee's Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
I was the second woman out of more than 200 arrested during the confirmation hearings. Though I was prepared to be arrested for engaging in civil disobedience, my arrest was not easy. I was tackled to the ground by multiple officers and pulled out of the hearing room by my armpits. A week later I still had the bruises from the men who arrested me. Overcoming my fear and putting my body on the line with so many dedicated women made me feel powerful beyond belief. It made me feel like we might just be able to save our democracy. So next week, I’m prepared to do it again if I need to.
I was arrested because I was continuing an American tradition of fighting for our freedom. Freedoms that were earned when our parents, and grandparents, and even great-great grandparents had the audacity to believe that being born female shouldn’t deprive us of the ability to control our bodies, that being born black shouldn’t deprive us of the freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution that governs this nation, identifying as LGBTQ shouldn’t stop us from loving each other and raising families, or simply existing. Freedoms that our ancestors fought for in the streets and in the courtrooms.
Supreme Court decisions have made a huge impact on my life and on the freedoms, I have as a queer black American woman. Behind each of those transformative court decisions has been incredible sacrifice, protest, and activism.
My grandmother Mary was born in a time when the Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson was “settled law,” establishing the legal doctrine of “separate, but equal” treatment for black people in America. For Grandma, “separate, but equal” meant she was born into sharecropping and picking cotton at the age of four, denied access to a formal education beyond elementary school.
She had one son, my father Louis, who grew up in the era of the civil rights movement. As a teen, he protested with the NAACP youth division for an end to racial segregation in housing, employment, and education. During his childhood, the Supreme Court ruled that separate is inherently unequal in Brown v Board, and Dad gained access to rights and new freedoms that my grandma could have never imagined. He not only got to graduate from an integrated high school, but was able to continue his education, first attending college at a majority white institution, then law school, and eventually serving our country as a Judge Advocate General and Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force.
In 1967, the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v Virginia legalized interracial marriage in every state. Before Loving, Pace v. Alabama was the “settled law,” and interracial marriages were illegal in dozens of states. Because of Loving, when my black father married my white mother just two years later, he didn’t have to worry about whether his marriage would be recognized if he was stationed in the south.
I know through the history of my family that the Supreme Court makes decisions that impact every area of life. Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination would turn our country back and put at risk many of the freedoms that we have fought for.
There is no other option in this moment than to act with the conviction of all the everyday sheros and heroes who came before us. I know there are millions of folks ready to be heroes spanning across every corner of our country. We need to fight collectively for the freedom to thrive in our communities, in our government, and in our courtrooms. Only when the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution are real for everyone governed by our laws will we realize our vision for a thriving democracy.
The struggle for freedom in this country has been led by regular folks willing to come together and fight to be fully included in our democracy. When we take on these fights together, those in power are forced to listen. Republican Senators know that there is incredible anger and fear about what the Kavanaugh nomination means. They know their constituents are against the nomination.
Next week, when Christine Blasey Ford is in Washington, I will be standing by her and honoring her heroism, because I remember Anita Hill and I refuse to let another sexual predator on the Supreme Court without a fight. Dr. Blasey Ford has sacrificed her privacy and has undergone the trauma of her past to be in the public eye and fight for a Supreme Court justice that respects the freedom and bodily autonomy of all people.
I will stand with her and I hope that hundreds -- thousands -- of others do too.
We can honor her sheroism with our own. We can’t let someone without regard for basic humanity and dignity represent us on the Supreme Court. It’s time for us to be heroes.
Jennifer Epps-Addison is Network President & Co-Executive Director at the Center for Popular Democracy and CPD Action. You can sign up to join Jennifer at the Capitol here: http://bit.ly/WeBelieveChristine