The “culture war” in America appears to be about racism, but the oldest and deepest watershed division is about gender equality. What do we really believe? Most of the People who “think they are white” believe themselves superior to other races, and even more of them believe male is superior to female. Therefore it is natural and good for white males to rule society. We seldom reveal, much less talk about, these underlying principles. A recent Supreme Court decision referred to as “Hobby Lobby,” violates the basic American value of equality.
The majority opinion on the court decided for the right of a business to impose a religious belief (the evangelical Christian notion that contraception is sinful) on their employees. The minority opinion saw this not as protection for religious freedom, but as a violation of the rights of women to decide their own reproductive life. Logically, if “Hobby Lobby” is excused from insuring the cost of contraceptives for women, they should also be excused from insuring the cost of vasectomies. In this case the court divided by gender. The majority position reveals a bias toward male dominance, not caused by the male contingent on the Court, but clearly held by most of them.
Modern American history is filled with examples of this alignment for and against equality. Some cultures of the modern world are superficially protective of women, at the same time keeping a tight grip on the rights of men to commit domestic violence, and continue social control of women by violence. In the United States women have fought for equal rights from earliest history, gaining the right to vote, to seek education, professional opportunity, and freedom from domestic abuse. The present assault on these rights is a relapse into inequality, since reproductive control is essential to personal freedom and the “pursuit of happiness.” Americans are called by the founding documents of our nation to defend equality.
The presence of three female Justices on the Supreme Court is a result of the historic courage and solidarity of American women. Forces that opposed their appointment are now opposing their opinions, preventing continued progress toward full equality for women, which will benefit other groups of marginalized citizens, and ultimately all Americans.
Veterans of the sixties civil rights movement are aging like me, and dying off, like Julian Bond. Some, like Carl and Ann Braden, passed away a bit sooner. Many of these dedicated workers for social justice are now in the history books, famous names to generations who never knew them. I have a treasure trove of memories from the movement that began with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. The Bradens, the best known civil rights figures in Kentucky, were my personal friends from the time of their famous case till my four children were big enough to march for peace and justice.
Anne Braden, my mentor for those years, is now revered on college campuses across the country. She lived in Louisville, in the same neighborhood where I was born, and my future husband Lew took me to her home after I had been evicted from my apartment because white neighbors complained about my inter-racial visitors. I remember Anne’s loving smile as she listened to my tales about music, the Black musicians I loved, and my anger against racism.
In time I learned that Anne made great spaghetti, liked to stay up late arguing about pacifism, non-violence, and politics, and Carl would go to bed while she and Lew might talk all night. Through her work with the Southern Conference Educational Fund, she became friends with great figures of the left wing such as Harvey O’Connor, Howard Zinn, Scott Nearing, and Willard Uphaus. The Lubkas, not only Lew and I, but also our four offspring, vacationed with these famous friends in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and Monteagle, Tennessee.
In the summer of 1958, as I contemplated marriage and relocation to Atlanta, the Bradens left for a month on a speaking tour, and asked me to tend to their mail, which was voluminous. I was to bring it into the house each day, take it to their second-floor office, and sort it out, separating personal letters from the rest. Certain letters were to be opened, and if I saw emergency needs, I would phone Anne. More famous names appeared—Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King, Guy Carawan, along with thankyou cards from unknown people who were just grateful, as I was grateful to be entrusted with this avalanche–the fruits of their dedication, spilling across the floor.