When I became an adult, I could not get a credit card unless my father or (if I had) a husband to act as co-signer. I could not have had a jury of my peers because not all states allowed women to serve on juries. There was no protection for women who were raped by their spouses as there is today.
Laws and policies evolve – not just to ‘match the current prevailing opinions’ – but to recognize that our system of laws are imperfect and don’t always support and protect everyone in the same way. It takes years of advocacy to make the laws read the way they should in a truly democratic society. It does not happen by accident; it happens with intent.
Most laws were written at a time when women, Tribes, immigrants, and people of color were not considered to be full human beings with full rights under the law. There was an underlying presumption – sometimes explicitly stated, and other times implied – to support and maintain those in power to stay in decision-making positions and protect us from others who were considered inferior. This ironically also meant that those in power were in wealth-generating positions.
I mention all this because we often think that injustices were/are so far ‘in the past’ and that the arguments today are somehow easier or not as important.
We all stand on the shoulders of someone who came before us, and we should all be determined to leave this world a better place for future generations – that is the work of creating new legacies.
So, at risk of being mildly political, it matters who that next judge is, who sits on school and community college boards, who determines water quality, transportation routes and utility/broadband access. We spend so much time on statewide and national candidate races, we might forget that decisions that impact our lives are often much closer at hand.
Here in Whatcom County, ballots are due on August 1. Please vote, and talk to your families, including teenagers and young adults about running for office, even if it is for a city or community role. One way to change the course of our future is to change who is making decisions on our behalf.
I was on a national policy call recently about health system transformation and equity, when several men spoke to the need to include gender equity in racial equity dialogs this year because of the backward slides they were seeing in their own states around women, decision-making autonomy, rights, and access to care and services.
If we want to create a region where all people feel that they belong, where we address systemic and structural barriers to inequity, and leave new legacies for the future, 2022 provides lots of examples for how we can move forward, without giving states the power and authority to diminish the rights of women, to control what happens within our own bodies, or to control how we protect the environment, waterways, air quality, etc.
We are imperfect. We are working to dismantle long held beliefs and structures. And, I have more faith in what we can accomplish when I look at the groups of individuals and organizations coming together to do this tough work.
Thank you, as always.