We the People vs. the Supreme Court
A speech by Alisha Sonnier, SLPS Board of Education Member, and adapted for the St. Louis Observer
“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say that you enjoyed it.”
Once stated by the legendary Zora Neale Hurston, who, like me, was a black woman and who, also like me, learned early on that silence gets us nothing. Like most of us, she was told to be quiet, to be more polite, to be digestible.
But there is no such thing as a quiet and polite and digestible liberation movement. What I first want to do is ensure that every single one of us understands and makes room for our righteous anger. You have the right to be mad! You have the right to raise your voice, scream and holler and refuse to be silenced. MLK was non-violent, Malcolm believed in returning what was given, and what they both share now is death. Concerning yourself with being digestible will have you swallowed and your rights and freedom will be swallowed right along with it.
What’s important is that we are righteously angry at the right things and the right people, that we are honest about what got us here and how we got to this point. We can’t just blame Republicans or white men. Democrats are at fault, too, We’ve had five decades to codify Roe v. Wade, but a nice portion of us still refuse to hold our own accountable. The reality is that a woman will be impeached from office for a nude photo being released before a man is impeached for raping and abusing another person. We refuse to name the rape culture and misogyny that permeates our political parties, and some of us even go further to say that we should separate the rapist from the legislator.
We refuse to see how connected our liberation is. The truth is that the same people trying to punish abortion providers are the same people trying to punish teachers for every left-leaning social element (use of “preferred” pronouns, Black history in schools, sexuality in schools, birth control and abortion). The same people who wish to eliminate public health also wish to do away with public schools, and this is no coincidence. Republicans have played chess while the Democrats still think they’re playing checkers.
We get to positions of power by telling people to vote like their lives depend on it, but then we don’t govern like people's lives depend on it. We use peoples’ tragedies to get into power, and then once we get there, we look our own people in the eye and tell them to watch their tone, to pull their skirts down, to cover themselves up, to be patient, to wait.
But today, we see what this waiting gets us. We see what happens when we only show up in the community for a name on the ballot, or when we fail to hold this entire system’s feet to the fire. Why do we elect people who won’t even name abortion? How does it make sense that someone who can’t even name abortion will advocate for and protect it? Why do we buy into the idea that anybody but us is qualified to represent and advocate for us?
Why is it hard for us to say this is an attack against “birthing people” and why have many of us bought into the idea that our identities and self-autonomy have anything to do with genitalia? Why are we so dead set on defining who other people are or what they can be?
Acknowledge the attacks on reproductive bodies. Acknowledging the attacks on all bodies. The attacks on reproductive freedom are very connected to the attacks on queer and trans people, and we cannot be silent or turn our heads away from this. In any matter of liberation, someone else may be the target for hatred today, but it will be you tomorrow.
So be mad - be very f–king mad - but don’t skip over the work that truly builds liberation and political power. Be righteously angry while also being self-reflective and calling your own in.
I speak about Black women and being cis-gendered and being elected because I am those things(as well as a Democrat?). And all the anger without the self-reflection and inability to see that “I’m not free until we all are” will never get us liberation. And while being so and doing so, we must be sure that we don’t get power and then fail to wield it, or get power and merely continue to duplicate what has existed for so long.
We are righteously angry, but we must turn this collective anger into collective power!
- Alisha Sonnier, community leader and St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education Member
Check out Sonnier’s podcast, BlackTea, here.