We're living in some volatile political times, and it can feel like there's a lot happening in the world to be outraged about. Social justice issues are in the news, and our newsfeeds, regularly, as the rights of many are under attack. And while there have been many progressive strides made over the past couple of decades, we still have a long way to go on the most important issues.
From immigration to reproductive healthcare, to keeping elections fair, here are six social justice issues that are important right now, and how you can get involved.
Immigrants' rights have been especially under attack during the past three years, under the administration of a President who embraces xenophobia, launched his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and promised to build a wall at the border to keep immigrants out. There are migrant children living in detention camps at the border, forcibly separated from their parents and living in unhygienic conditions. In September, the Supreme Court allowed the enforcement of the strictest restriction ever imposed on asylum seekers, people fleeing to the U.S. from persecution in their home countries.
There is a crisis in our immigration system, and an inordinate amount of power is given to government officials that criminalize immigrants and have historically discriminated against people of color. Families are being separated and people who have lived their entire lives in this country are being uprooted from their homes. It's a human rights crisis — and action has to be taken to uphold justice.
With the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, laws that protect the abortion rights are in danger. Roe vs. Wade, the landmark case that made abortion legal in all 50 states, is under direct attack. Within one week of each other, both Alabama and Georgia passed laws severely restricting access to abortion, Alabama's being the most restrictive ban in the country, making no exceptions for rape or incest and making it a felony for doctors to perform abortions unless the mother's life is in danger. The author of the bill in Alabama stated that the bill was explicitly intended to challenge Roe vs. Wade in the Supreme Court, a challenge most believe may be lost considering the President's recent appointees.
The right to choose is a healthcare issue — one that protects the safety of pregnant people and their rights of autonomy over their own bodies. Statistics show people in places where abortion is illegal are not less likely to get abortions, and illegal abortions create unsafe situations for women, putting their lives at risk.
The right to vote is what our democracy depends upon. Voters have the power to elect officials that truly represent their views and values. That is, unless they don't. Voter suppression, or widespread efforts to prevent certain demographics from voting, is a huge problem and threat to the sanctity of our government. Communities of color, poor people, young voters and other populations that often vote democratic, are subjected to obstacles that make it harder for them to vote. This manipulation of voting laws obscures the voices of many and shifts elections in the favor of those who would not have been elected legitimately.
At least 16 states have laws in place that restrict voters' rights. Voter suppression tactics can be anything from changing polling locations or hours without notice, deliberately denying access to early voting for those who can't make it to the polls, spreading false information about election day, ending same-day voter registration, or requiring valid forms of ID in order to vote. Any attempt to limit people's ability to register to vote or cast a ballot is an infringement on voting rights and a partisan manipulation of our elections. To ensure our elections are fair and representative, ending voter suppression is necessary.
Though there have been considerable strides made for LGBTQ rights in recent years, including marriage equality in all fifty states, there is still a long, long way to go in the fight for equality. The rights of LGBTQ people have been under attack by this administration from the beginning, from banning transgender people in the military to stacking the Supreme Court with conservative, anti-LGBTQ justices. As of now, it may even be legal to fire employees for being homosexual or transgender. In October 2019, the Supreme Court began hearing a case that will decide if the portion of the Civil Rights Act that protects against discrimination on the basis of sex protects LGBTQ people from being fired for who they are.
There is an epidemic of violence against trans women, particular trans women of color, and there has been no acknowledgement on the part of the government or measures put in place to prevent it.
There is still a widespread lack of acceptance of the legitimacy of nonbinary and transgender identities, and LGBTQ youth remain almost five times as likely to commit suicide than heterosexual peers.
Climate activism has been at the forefront of the news and popular culture lately. In the wake of the U.N. Climate Action Summit and Greta Thunberg's speech condemning world leaders for their refusal to act drastically enough against the climate crisis, the severity of the climate's current condition is finally beginning to be recognized.
The facts are clear: ice sheets are shrinking in mass, oceans are warming, the global temperature is rising faster and faster, and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the highest it's been in 3 million years. Scientists have concluded that, if we don't make significant strides to reduce our emissions and invest in sustainable sources of energy in as little as 18 months, our planet may be beyond saving.
The fight against racism has been centuries-long in this country, and it persists today. Though it deserves its own category on this list, the fight for racial equality is hardly separate from the issues outlined above. They each intersect with race, and fighting for all of these causes demands recognizing that, often, the worst of these issues falls on those at the margins. Climate change will affect people of color first and most egregiously. Laws restricting abortion inordinately affect women of color, and reproductive health is uniquely important in the case of black women, whose health is often ignored during and around childbirth, resulting in high maternal mortality rates.
Institutional white supremacy is all around us. It shapes our laws and our government's priorities. It informs the conditions we're able to accept for children sleeping on crowded concrete floors at the border and communities of color that are being denied the right to vote. White supremacy simply means that our world is built by and around white people and prioritizes whiteness. We see evidence of it in police brutality that results in the murder of innocent black people, and in the beauty standards represented on our billboards. We see it in our president, who called Nazis "very fine people," and in the portion of the country that elected him. And as long as white supremacy is alive, we will never have true justice or equality.