Keeping Score: Gun Violence an “International Embarrassment”; Honoring Black Maternal Health Week; Biden Explores Court Expansion

In every issue of Ms., we track research on our progress in the fight for equality, catalogue can’t-miss quotes from feminist voices and keep tabs on the feminist movement’s many milestones. We’re Keeping Score online, too—in in this biweekly round-up.


Keeping Score: Gun Violence an "International Embarrassment"; Honoring Black Maternal Health Week; Biden Explores Court Expansion

Left to right: Egypt’s first ship’s captain Marwa Elselehdar, St. Louis mayor-elect Tishaura Jones, interior secretary Deb Haaland (Instagram).

Lest We Forget

+ “This week is Black Maternal Health Week. And make no mistake, Black women in our country are facing a maternal health crisis. Black women are two to three times more likely to die in connection with childbirth than other women. And it is important to note that Native women are 2.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. We know the primary reasons why: systemic racial inequities and implicit bias. … Black women deserve to be heard.  Their voices deserve to be respected.  And like all people, they must be treated with dignity.”

—Vice President Kamala Harris during a Tuesday roundtable on Black Maternal Health Week.

+ “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment.”

—President Joe Biden in a press conference on gun control on Thursday, Apr. 8.

+ “The insurrectionists were spurred on by Trump’s conduct over many months in getting his followers to believe his false allegation that he was about to be forced out of the White House because of massive election fraud by his presidential adversary Joe Biden, and that the convening of Congress on January 6 to count the Electoral College results and declare the winner was their last chance to ‘stop the steal.’ The insurrectionist mob, which Trump had inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted, forced its way over and past the plaintiffs and their fellow officers, pursuing and attacking them inside and outside the United States Capitol, and causing the injuries complained of herein.”

—A lawsuit against former President Donald Trump by two Capitol Police officers who were injured during the Jan. 6 insurrection: James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby.

+ “The right to vote is sacred. It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner. After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill … it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.”

—Delta CEO Ed Bastian in a memo condemning voter suppression measures being pushed through the Georgia state legislature.

+ “When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. I look at how that could have been one of them. I’ve stayed up nights apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it’s not what I should have done. It’s what he [Chauvin] should have done.”

—Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, in an emotional testimony against Derek Chauvin, the officer responsible for Floyd’s death.

+ “We all must fight against the unnecessary and unethical barriers placed on trans women and girls by lawmakers and those who co-opt the feminist label in the name of division and hatred. Our feminism must be unapologetically expansive so that we can leave the door open for future generations.”

—GLAAD’s “Open Letter Supporting Trans Women & Girls” in honor of Transgender Day of Visibility on Wednesday, Mar. 31.

+ “I felt that I might be targeted maybe because I’m a successful female in this field or because I’m Egyptian, but I’m not sure… Frankly, when I read the news, I was upset, because I worked really hard to reach the position I have reached, and anyone who works in this field knows how much effort a person has made over the years to reach this rank.”

—Egypt’s first female ship captain, Marwa Elselehdar, after being blamed for the Suez Canal blockage. She was working on a different ship, hours away, when the Ever Given container ship lodged in the canal.

+ “If you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

—Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson defending the “white replacement theory” on his show, claiming that increased civic engagement in marginalized and minority communities will “dilute the political power of the people who live there”—in other words, of the white Americans who have never faced barriers to voting. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has since called on Fox News to fire the anchor.

Milestones

+ “Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said, announcing the creation of a new unit to investigate missing and murdered Native Americans. “Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated.”

Keeping Score: Gun Violence an "International Embarrassment"; Honoring Black Maternal Health Week; Biden Explores Court Expansion
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. (Instagram)

+ Biden announced his own commission via executive order on Friday, Apr. 9—one that, according to Politico, will “examine possible reforms to the Supreme Court,” including court-rebalancing.

+ In his first round of appointments for district and appeals court judges, President Biden named a diverse selection of judges—including the first Muslim district judge and first AAPI woman to serve on the District Court for D.C.. The new nominees contrast the mostly white, male group of judges appointed during Trump’s four years in office. “This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said.

+ The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report on the 55 largest American corporations that paid $0 in taxes on their profits last year. The list included companies like FedEx, Nike and HP.

+ Policy updates by the Department of Defense on Wednesday, Mar. 31, “prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or an individual’s identification as transgender, provide a means by which to access into the military in one’s self-identified gender provided all appropriate standards are met, provide a path for those in service for medical treatment, gender transition, and recognition in one’s self-identified gender, and seeks to protect the privacy of all Service members and to treat all Service members with dignity and respect.”

The regulations mark a victory for transgender service members, who will now be able to transition and receive gender-affirming treatment while serving, in addition to being protected from gender identity-based discrimintation.

+ Vaccine rollout is gaining momentum in the U.S., where President Biden says all adults will be eligible by April 19— more than 10 days earlier than his previous May 1 deadline.

+ On Tuesday, Mar. 30, LinkedIn announced new “stay-at-home mom” and “stay-at-home dad” job descriptions in response to the surge of women leaving the workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wholeheartedly agree that we need to normalize employment gaps on the profile to help reframe hiring conversations,” said LinkedIn director of engineering Bef Ayenew.

+ Publicly condemning the severe voting restrictions passed by Georgia legislators in March, Major League Baseball (MLB) pulled its all-star game in July from the state. The league’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, said the decision was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Mar. 31, Virginia became the first Southern state to sign a voting rights act into law, restoring protections for minority voters. Soon after, on Wednesday, Apr. 7, it also become the first Southern state to legalize recreational marijuana.

+ New legislation allowing transgender inmates to choose between male and female prisons went into effect on Jan. 1, and since then the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation received 261 transfer requests.

+ Arkansas became the first state to outlaw gender-affirming health care for transgender minors, with the Republican legislature voting to override just one day after governor Asa Hutchinson, a staunch Republican himself, vetoed HB 1570. Hutchinson said the bill would produce “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.”

+ A law passed with bipartisan support in Utah will require fathers to pay half the cost of pregnant women’s medical care.

+ A proposed bill in North Carolina would raise the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 18, essentially putting an end to the state’s high rate of child marriage.

+ Executive actions announced by Biden on Thursday, Apr. 8, include restrictions on home-assembled “ghost guns,” and appointing a champion of gun-control to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

+ While other red and swing states are seeking to restrict voting rights, a new Kentucky law expands them, establishing three days of early voting, adding voting location options, introducing a curing process for flawed absentee ballots, and more.

+ Washington governor Jay Inslee signed a bill restoring voting rights to 20,000 parolees in the state.

+ Tishaura Jones was elected the first Black woman mayor of St. Louis, Mo. She won by 2,280 votes, and will be sworn in on Tuesday, Apr. 20.

+ Chloé Zhao—nominated for the film “Nomadland”—won top honors at the Directors Guild Association Awards on Saturday, Apr. 10, becoming the second woman in history to do so, and the first woman of color.

+ 445 migrant children are still separated from their parents, according to a court filing on Wednesday, Apr. 7. Only 61 children separated at the border have been reunited with their families, whereas the remaining parents are yet to be located.


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How We’re Doing

+ A West Health-Gallu survey revealed that roughly 46 million Americans could not afford health care in an emergency, with Black Americans twice as likely as white Americans to lack health insurance or the financial means.

+ A new study suggests that for the first time, the greenhouse gases emitted from the Amazon rainforest outweigh the gas it absorbs, due to both human and natural emission sources.

+ According to a poll of Republicans by Reuters, half of participants believe the Jan. 6 insurrection “was the handiwork of left-wing activists ‘trying to make Trump look bad.’”

+ An investigation by the Guardian and KHN, “Lost on the Frontline,” found that 3,607 health care workers died during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

+ With states beginning to lift COVID-19 restrictions, women are slowly returning to work, with nearly half a million women rejoining the labor force in March alone.

+ A poll by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly three-in-four people of faith support LGBTQ protections like the Equality Act, which opponents claim imposes on religious freedom.


The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-movingDuring this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

About

Sophie Dorf-Kamienny—an incoming freshman at Tufts University—is a Ms. fellow and former editorial intern. You can find her on Twitter at @Sophie_DK_.