(CREDIT: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Reflections on Selma: Our Intersecting Struggles for Equality

This past weekend, four of the other legislative assistants and I were in Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the March to Montgomery. We had planned our trips months prior to the event, and although I was excited to be a part of this important milestone, I became more and more nervous as the Jubilee approached. With each passing day, I continued to read about the barriers to marriage equality in Alabama, and although I clearly had no intention of getting married while in Alabama, it reminded me that Alabama has the lowest support for marriage equality out of all fifty states and lacks non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals. I would be leaving the queer-friendly bubble of Washington, D.C. for a state where I could not as easily assume people’s support for my rights. It was ironic that I would be going to a state to mark a landmark moment in civil rights history while that same state was currently in the throes of resisting equality for LGBT people.

However, once I got to Alabama, any nervousness I felt abated. I was overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone we met. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to hear President Obama address the tens of thousands of people who had gathered in Selma and his words addressed the very issues that were on my mind. As President Obama said:

“Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.”

The March to Montgomery was about the struggle for voting rights for African Americans. But as long as there are African American women, LGBT African Americans, African Americans with disabilities, and so forth, the March to Montgomery was about all minority groups’ struggle for equality. The civil rights movements of today builds upon the momentum of the civil rights movement of 50 years ago.

As the disability rights and LGBT rights LA—as well as a gay man—I am constantly reminded that the struggle for equality among all minority groups is truly a joint, complementary struggle. As long as our identities intersect, no one marginalized group can achieve equality until all marginalized groups achieve equality. LGBT people of color and people of color with disabilities continue to face discrimination at higher rates than their white counterparts and worse outcomes in areas such as healthcare. The LGBT rights movement and the disability rights movement are intrinsically connected to the civil rights movement. As movements for equality, we have a responsibility to focus on the diverse population that are included in our community and to focus on closing the gaps for the most marginalized members of our minority communities, especially people of color.

As a Legislative Assistant at the RAC, I am proud to work for an organization that recognizes the shared humanity in all people—that everyone, regardless of their identity is created b’tselem Elohim (Genesis 1:27)—and that advocates on a wide range of civil and human rights issues from LGBT and disability rights to voting rights and reproductive rights. As Obama stated in his speech:

“We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties…Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago.”

I am grateful that the RAC is working every day to drive that change in Washington, DC by mobilizing the 1.5 million Reform Jews and over 2,000 Reform Rabbis across North America to advocate for the importance social justice issues of our time.

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Jordan Dashow

About Jordan Dashow

Jordan Dashow is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. He graduated in 2014 from Tufts University and is originally from Plainview, NY where he is a member of Manetto Hill Jewish Center.

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