2017: The End of Social Injustice in America?

GUEST WORDS--The year began with a bang, as everybody in America lost their minds (some in a celebratory way, some totally devastated) over the fact that Donald Trump managed to be elected president.

Almost instantly, like magic, conservatives became more conservative, liberals became more liberal, the media became the enemy of the government and all over these United States, a cloud of smoke cleared as folks began to show their truest of true colors, protesting and politicking as never before.

Or, hang on a second. Was it really so different from other years, other generations? Did Trump disrupt the common good and social order of things as so many feared he would? Did America have our worst year ever, or did people just talk about it as if it were bad?

Let’s join hands once again to remember and reflect on some of the biggest news stories surrounding social justice issues from 2017.

Women’s March

The action happened fast. One day after Trump’s inauguration the Women’s March took hundreds of cities across the country by storm, boasting millions of participants from all walks of life with a message: In the era of Trump, they would not stand by idly. The march is now in the record books as the largest single-day protest in American history. But those who gathered are still waiting for answers to some of the most pressing women’s issues in the era of Trump: Will Planned Parenthood be defunded by the government? Will reproductive rights be removed from health care legislation? Much of that is still up in the air. And don’t forget: 53 percent of white women in America voted for Trump. Not all women stand united against the “pussy grabber.”

Seeking Refuge

It’s so ironic. A country that was established by white immigrants and refugees continues, year after year, to debate whether refugees and immigrants from other countries should be allowed to cross onto our sacred soil. And those of nonwhite, non-Christian backgrounds are particularly scrutinized. My advice: Let the National Congress of American Indians decide. (A girl can dream.)

As one of his first big-ticket agenda items, Trump signed an executive order for a “travel ban,” which became commonly known as the “Muslim ban,” on refugees from a handful of suspiciously selected nations. He also continues to promote one of his most popular campaign promises: “the wall” between the U.S. and Mexico, meant to decrease immigration to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. The travel ban has since been heavily contested in courts, and little to no progress has been made on the wall. Phew.

Pipe Dreams

In February, the Army approved construction of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL)—a massive project that could devastate the environment and water supply for millions of Americans, which the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters fought—by protesting and in federal court. In June, oil began to flow through the pipeline. In November, South Dakotans suffered environmental devastation when 210,000 gallons of oil spilled from the Keystone XL pipeline—another project that indigenous groups tried to stop. The DAPL issue continues to play out in federal court. This is the first known instance of the United States screwing over Native American people and destroying the land and environment for everybody in the process. (Just kidding.)

Racist Idiots

In case you doubted it before (remember when people said that “racism was over” because Barack Obama was president?), throngs of disgusting idiots gathered to prove that there are still a whole bunch of racist, pigheaded savages living amongst us in Anytown, USA. They call themselves “white nationalists” and claim they have some type of legitimate political aim, but they’re just pathetic losers who have, thus far, been unable to create any sort of happiness or fulfillment in their personal and professional lives, so they blame all their hardships on people of color.

In August, this white nationalist/KKK/neo-Nazi revival gathered in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the removal of a Confederate-era statue of Robert E. Lee, and all hell broke loose. Violence erupted, several people died (including a civil rights activist and two state troopers), and over 30 were wounded thanks to these backward-thinking morons. Even famed suppressor of civil rights, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, called this domestic terrorism, but Trump refused to call it for what it was, insisting that there were bad people on “both sides.”

Take a Knee

In a powerful move to support Black Lives Matter (and to forward the social justice agenda in general), Colin Kaepernick dared to ask mainstream America to think critically. Rather than stand during the national anthem in 2016, the NFL quarterback started kneeling while playing for the San Francisco 49ers and motivated a bunch of other athletes to do the same in their respective venues.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL.com.

In 2017, many Americans (including Trump, of course) took the symbolism out of context and accused Kaepernick and other athletes of disrespecting veterans and those in the armed services—an unfortunate, shortsighted interpretation of the larger message. But it wasn’t all for naught. The protest sparked a far-reaching, much-needed conversation about the reality of race in America.

Hollywood Exposed

Since The New York Times released a shocking report of a series of sexual assault allegations against one of Hollywood’s biggest producers, Harvey Weinstein, dozens more women have come forward with allegations against him (84 in total, so far). Other women have come forward with allegations against other men in the entertainment industry as well as in politics, sports and the business world. Powerful men are being taken down by the very women they once exploited and harassed.

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It’s all sort of a blur, but there you have it: social justice’s biggest failures and successes of 2017. You decide. Did Trump bring on a horrific time of turmoil and conflict the likes of which we’ve never seen before? Or was it business as usual in America—only now with a more vocal opposition?

Maybe, just maybe, all this commotion was a good thing. Have we just witnessed the beginning of a new era in which the marginalized, the oppressed, the historically ignored will gain equal footing and voice in a country that has too long been run by wealthy white men who just want everybody else to shut up and comply with them?

We’ll see.

(Chelsey Luger is a journalist originally from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, currently based in Phoenix, Ariz. She reports on Native American and First Nations social justice issues, politics and pop culture. This piece was posted most recently at TruthDig.)  [[ truthdig.com]]

-cw