Thursday, June 23, 2016

Abigail Fisher and Unharnessed Sexism

Today (as with every day it seems) has been a day of mixed emotions. I am glad the Supreme Court upheld Affirmative Action in Texas and saddened (and furious) that they turned their backs on millions of undocumented families.

I am also sitting with unease about the posts and articles about Abigail Fisher, the young white woman whose case was used to challenge Affirmative Action. I say "used" because that is what I believe happened.

The process through which a law/policy/practice is challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court is something I do not fully understand. However, I do know that cases intended to challenge unconstitutionalities are neither isolated nor random. A lot of thought, a lot of money, and a lot of power go into identifying, funding, and fighting these cases. There is nothing about the process as I understand it that leads me to believe Abigail Fisher opened her University of Texas rejection letter and dreamt she would be the one to bring down Affirmative Action.

I do not know Abigail Fisher. I know nothing about her other than what has been reported. And while I feel a visceral urge to also deploy words like "mediocre" to talk about her, I have had to stop myself. I stop because I was (or am) that student who did not score straight-As, I am also a student whose university aspirations were not fulfilled, and I know what it is to be called or thought of as mediocre. But, most of all, I stop because this is a young woman living in a misogynist country. Whatever Abigail's actions were and despite the devastating blow to communities of color had the Supreme Court judged in her case's favor, this is still a young woman living in a still terrifyingly sexist world.

Calling Abigail Fisher mediocre or whatever other terms were used and that I, too, embarrassingly admit, chuckled at when I first read them, does not help anyone. Certainly, I experience the immediate gratification of describing someone the way people of color are described daily and were described during the Supreme Court hearings. There is a vindication and an entitlement I find myself wanting to justify, a desire to laugh at and in the face of the person who represents yet another white supremacist attack on people of color. Perhaps I am justified. But does my justification outweigh the repercussions of my perpetuation of sexism? Answering for myself only: No.

I am not here to deny Abigail Fisher's agency to be a full-fledged racist. Nor am I here to defend or dismiss the harm Abigail Fisher and her words are accountable for.
But I am here to publicly question myself, to hold myself accountable, and to ponder with others what it means for me as a cis man, however brown I am (or browner I think I am), to add my voice to a chorus tearing at the perceived worth of a young woman, however white and embodying and deploying of whiteness, in the United States of America. The urge is seeping through my fingertips, but I cannot do it.

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