Many women and people of other genders were, frankly, sickened Saturday when accused sexual assaulter and confirmed perjurer Bratty Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Social media timelines have been on fire with outrage and disgust at Senate Republicans’ apparent disregard for survivors of sexual abuse, the integrity of our country’s institutions, or in-depth fact finding investigations. This spectacle of indifference highlights a sad reality that people in marginalized communities regularly encounter. In a society built on inequality, reason does not necessarily lead to power.
For the formally educated among us who are also women, people of color and/or LGBTQ+, the refusal of elites to adhere to reason can be extremely confusing. Exclusive well-resourced schools have taught us rigorous critical thinking skills, admiration for objectivity and science, and gratitude for the great scholarly ideas and methods that arose during the beginning of Western Europe’s colonialism of the Americas, Africa and Asia (an era strangely referred to as “The Enlightenment”). We tend to be apt students because, unlike Brett Kavanaugh, our families’ do not have longstanding legacies at schools like Yale.
While we are learning all about the value of reason, in school we are also taught about the significance of obedience. On most campuses, the women, people of color and/or LGBTQ+ kids labelled as “good students” are usually not the ones who are inquisitive, creative, or leaders. Those kids get suspended and expelled. The so-called good students do what their told.
So in our youth we receive two opposing messages about how to survive and thrive in society. 1. Be reasonable. 2. Do what the powerful say. These messages paralyze us as adults when we confront oppression.
When we believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s credible testimony; the chorus of psychologists and activists who explained to us why sexual assault victims usually don’t come forward; Kavanaugh’s classmates who verified he lied under oath about his alcohol abuse; and the dozens of law school professors who asserted he was not fit for the position, we were being reasonable. However, a glance at the Senate judiciary committee shows us a difficult truth. We are not in power.
We are also reasonable to expect women to fully enjoy reproductive rights as they do in every other industrialized country. We are reasonable to expect equal pay for equal work and to not have wedding cake orders ruined by homophobia. But we are not in power.
The demonstrations, call-ins and write-ins of the last few weeks reveal the good news, which is that our communities are in the process of seizing that power. Kavanaugh’s authority continues because he serves a specific set of minority interests. Those interests may be better resourced, but they are not more important than ours.
To transform our reason into influence, women, people of color and LGBTQ+ people, must continue finding and amplifying our own voices. We are the powerful ones we must listen to. Ask questions. Make Demands. Volunteer. Contribute what you can. And of course, vote.