Op-Ed by Jai Makokha
In 30 days, one man has signed the country’s MOST RESTRICTIVE ABORTION BAN as a literal middle finger to Roe v. Wade. He’s slapped the face of Black and marginalized communities and people with disabilities with his NEW VOTING RIGHTS LEGISLATION. Then doubled down on his abortion ban with restrictions to abortion-inducing medications. These Wypipo and THEIR PRIVILEGE are frustrated.
My grandparents were married in 1948 in Early County, Georgia. My grandfather was the fourteenth of a blended 15 children through three marriages, and my grandmother the third of 7. They were married on a plot of land their parents sharecropped from the White family that, presumably, owned my foremothers and forefathers.
White privilege in their time was proximal. It wasn’t limited to legislation passed in the halls of congress miles or states away. It was the mundane life of the every day. It was being called boy by the shopkeeper who thought of you as a nuisance, much less a customer. It was how he dared you to challenge his authority because, after all, you are colored. It was the remnants of slavery, only decades past, and the ideologies that went with it. White privilege in the south, at that time, was the norm, the commonplace, and our grandparents lived inside of it on every turn.
My father emigrated from Kenya in 1975 on an expired I94 to attend Albany State University in Albany, Georgia. He met my mother there who was raised in Albany. She tells me stories of walking out of school, marching in the city to protest the treatment of Black students in Georgia’s high school education systems. Being bussed across the tracks. Then graduating to meet my very Kenyan father who knew of a very different kind of white privilege.
In Kenya, White privilege was masked as Africa’s saving grace. British Colonialism permeated through life. White privilege was the correction to the stain of Blackness, African culture, and the “savagery” of Kenyan life. My father learned the Queen’s English, and was taught by White and/or White-adjacent teachers. In his time, White privilege was a disease parading as a cure.
Now, a generation hence, and White privilege seeps into our experience, overtake our lives, but wears a different pair of pants. In the times past and today, White privilege is viciously protected. First with whips and chains, then with crosses and fire, with dogs and firehoses. But now, its protection is more nuanced. White privilege is protected in the subtle and violently innocuous. For in times past, White privilege, and the protection of such, was accepted–albeit glorified. Standing firmly in, or tiptoeing around, White privilege was American values. That was apple pie and fireworks on July 4. That was the Star Spangled Banner and the red, white and blue. America was built on White privilege, so much so, that any violation of that privilege is a slight to the country none of us belonged to in the first place.
But ‘keep living’. Little by little, White privilege is being edged to the periphery, hopefully soon to be out of sight. The loud “fuck yous” Black people, and women, and immigrants have been speaking to White privilege loudly in closed spaces are resounding in the open. The few and the marginalized have continued to sew some good trouble, leaving White people, White men, and White privilege frustrated. Enter Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, September 2021.
On September 1, 2021, The Heartbeat Act became law in the state of Texas. It limits access to abortion to prior to “the point in time at around six weeks’ gestation when the embryo’s cardiac activity can first be detected by an ultrasound,” as reported by the Texas Tribune. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) explains in her interview on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 that “6-weeks pregnant is only 2-weeks late for your period.” This law became among the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States. Laws governing a woman’s body, passed by a largely White male state legislature, and signed into law by a White man.
On September 7, 2021, Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, “sweeping legislation that further tightens state election laws and constrains local control of elections by limiting counties’ ability to expand voting options,” as reported by the Texas Tribune. This new legislation is aimed at limiting access to absentee and mail-in ballots following the 2020 Presidential election. Texas Tribune continues, “Abbott’s signature was both preceded and followed by a flurry of legal challenges that generally argue that the law will disproportionately harm voters of color and voters with disabilities.” A bill, signed by a White man in a wheelchair, is projected to disproportionately impact the voting access of individuals with disabilities and those of color.
“6-weeks pregnant is only 2-weeks late for your period.”Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
Then on September 17, Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott signs even further restrictions by limited access to abortion-inducing medications. “Abortion-inducing medication has increasingly become the most common method to terminate a pregnancy, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute,” as the Texas Tribune reports. Limiting access from 10-weeks to 7-weeks is Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott clearly attempting to send the message that everything and everyone is within the purview of his White male privilege.
In 1981, Lee Atwater, a political consultant for the Ronald Reagan administration, said these words.
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
Our grandparents dealt with the “nigger, nigger, nigger”. Our parents endured forced bussing. Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, and his political forefathers and probably every White person in his life, assume that his lean into White privilege is preordained. The decisions he has made in this detestable September are the necessary course correction. But without saying it, Governor Greg Abbott is simply leaning us back to a time when Black people are niggers, women are broads and gals, and White men run the world.
Fuck you, Gregory Wayne Abbott.
Lee Atwater quote is reported in full on thenation.com