Bob’s Blog: Roe v. Wade As The Sign

I have a sign in my office, one you may have seen elsewhere, that reads: “If You’re Looking For A Sign, This Is It.”

The leaked news that just emanated from our Supreme Court about overturning Roe v. Wade is simultaneously unsurprising and profoundly disturbing.  It’s a sign.

It will be a time of needed activism and mobilization, and we should expect to see – in the coming weeks — activist gatherings, marches, and megaphones about the proposed annihilation of abortion rights and a woman’s choice.  It will indeed be critical for the voices of women – with allies, and all of us who stand strong on the side of choice– to be heard.

But I am most interested, intrigued, and dedicated to the recognition that this Supreme Court moment has been more than three decades in the making.  We have a Supreme Court that has been politically gerrymandered and handpicked to advance an agenda that is grounded in right-wing ideals disguised as a Christian agenda.  As a practicing Christian, I am offended.  When right-wing political operatives cloak themselves in protecting the sanctity of life, I wonder how these Christian values vanish when the topic turns away from abortion and towards the death penalty, poverty, the wealth gap, universal health coverage, or the freedom of sexual orientation.  How “Christian” is our nation when so many states – now aided and abetted by this Supreme Court – march to roll back voting rights in communities of color, functionally criminalize and stigmatize Trans and Queer young people and their families, and refuse to honor the contributions of immigrant workers and their families?

And, of course, efforts to reduce public health access to abortion will disproportionately impact low-income women and women of color.

Yes, all of this is more than 30 years in the making, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade embodies the question of whether this nation successfully resurrects a white male supremacy ethos — or meaningfully aspires to liberty and justice for ALL.  Webster’s Dictionary defines the word ALL as “the whole number.” As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us, complete and unapologetic inclusion.  We now have a Supreme Court that is tilted away from inclusion and civil rights — Justice “for ALL” is now politicized, selective, and specific.

From my perspective, there is only one solution for this, and it is not a quick-fixer: Democracy.  For those of us who believe in an America for ALL, we must utilize the tools of democracy in the service of full inclusion.  Voices must be heard, experiences must be honored, votes must meaningfully count, and government for and by ALL of the people must be achieved.

This is why, at the California Endowment, we recognize that the most important job to restore our nation’s soul and promise is that of a community organizer.  Not President, or Senator, or Governor, or Supreme Court Justice – but community organizer.  Addressing the issues of women’s rights, racial equity, voter participation, economic inclusion, health justice, and immigrant rights are grassroots, from-the-ground-up battles.  There is simply no other shortcut here, and I pray that our colleagues in philanthropy read this Roe v. Wade sign: that investing in a fully inclusive and robust, from-the-ground-up, engaged-by-young-people democracy is the highest and best use of a philanthropic dollar.  There must be outrage.  But outrage must be accompanied by strategic investment, patience, and the willingness to center the experiences of the most marginalized and stigmatized in a nation for all.

Bob Ross  


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