This year, we witnessed the first wave of unrelenting assaults on our rights from the Trump administration. In North Carolina, we continued to see ever more extreme attacks on civil liberties from the state legislature with continued assaults on voting rights and fair representation, LGBTQ equality, and First Amendment rights.
These difficult times will likely make many Americans’ Thanksgiving conversations with friends and family feel divisive and uncomfortable, with many of us frustrated by the myths and misinformation that now fuel many such debates.
But, especially in these times, it is important to combat the fear-mongering and bigoted undertones with continued discussion, with credible information about pressing issues, and stories of people impacted by these policies.
Here are some points to help you navigate these conversations:
1. The gravest threat to free and fair elections is not voter fraud but voter suppression, which has long been a tool of white supremacy. Despite what some politicians claim, voter fraud is extremely rare. So rare in fact that a comprehensive investigation of more than one billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014 discovered only 31 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation. There is, however, a very real danger of elections being “rigged” by restrictions that make it harder for people to vote, particularly for people of color. A federal appeals court found that North Carolina’s 2013 law requiring photo ID and eliminating same-day registration, a week of early voting, and other popular measures, was enacted “with discriminatory intent” and targeted African American voters “with almost surgical precision.” Fourteen states had new voting restrictions in place during the 2016 presidential election, the first in half a century without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, and hundreds of polling places were closed in states with a history of voter suppression. Voter suppression – past and present – is a shameful Jim Crow tactic that fuels the dangerous rise in white supremacy and racial injustice we are witnessing across the country. There is no place for it in North Carolina in 2017.
2. Immigrants are our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers, our farmers who harvested the food on your Thanksgiving dinner table. And yes, the Constitution protects them, whether they have documentation or not. A mass deportation program for undocumented immigrants — which could mean arresting more than 15,000 people every day — would lead to rampant constitutional rights abuses for undocumented immigrants and citizens alike. Federal programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have enabled more than 800,000 young people like North Carolinian Yazmin Garcia Rico (read her story here), who were brought into the U.S. as children, to receive work permits, go to school, pay taxes, and contribute to and integrate into society in countless ways. But that program has now been ended by the Trump administration. If Congress fails to pass the Dream Act by the end of the year, 1,400 more people will lose their status every day. There is no time to lose: we need Congress to act immediately and pass the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017.3.
3. Protecting transgender people from discrimination does not infringe on the privacy or safety of anyone else. Transgender Americans, who total more than 1.4 million adults, face extremely high rates of discrimination and violence – in workplaces, schools, housing, health care, and their own families. More than half of those who responded to a national survey reported being harassed in a public accommodation, such as a hotel, restaurant, or public restroom. A shocking 41% said they have attempted suicide. In the 18 states and more than 200 municipalities that protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations, there is no evidence of increased threats to public safety. Transgender men are men, and transgender women are women. They deserve to use public facilities in peace and be protected under the law – just like anyone else. Read about Maddy Goss, a transgender woman who we represent in our case against North Carolina’s House Bill 142.
4. Legal abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, but restrictions to abortion access have dire – and often deadly – consequences for women. Before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, as many as 1.2 million American women a year tried to have an abortion without a licensed doctor, according to the Guttmacher Institute, with many cases resulting in injury or even death. Without Roe v. Wade, a woman who lived in a state where abortion was illegal would have to travel to one where it is legal to obtain the procedure. If she didn’t have enough money or transportation, she would be forced to endure an unwanted or risky pregnancy, attempt to self-abort, or turn to an illegal — and potentially unsafe — provider for help. Every woman must be able to make her own decisions with the advice of qualified medical professionals – no matter where she lives.
It’s more important than ever to have conversations with your friends and family about the rights guaranteed to us all, including the right to vote, live free of discrimination, and control our own bodies. And the Thanksgiving dinner table might just be a great place to start.