Reflecting on the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg should not be placed on a pedestal. 

Deifying her in this way points out exactly what is wrong with our system. The fact that one woman, one vote, one unelected position is all that kept so many Americans from losing their rights is corrupt. Plain and simple. This is a system that does not serve us. 

One old, sick woman should not be the only thing that stands between my rights and an oppressive government. We have been preemptively mourning her death for years now. So, I understand why so many people are mourning her loss now. Why they are afraid of what is to come. Why they are coming out in great support for an idea of what she stood for . . . but this idea is not the reality. 

Despite her supposed great feminist rulings, there were also several rulings with terrible consequences for other vulnerable populations. Knowing all that is before us in the wake of her death — a new supreme court nominee, the fear of rights being rolled back, the fear of a new justice altering the composition of the court for who knows how long. We also need to understand the reality of the situation and be critical of those with power over our wellbeing.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not the “liberal” or “progressive” justice that many are making her out to be. She made a name for herself fighting for women’s rights and became a true feminist icon. Ruling in favor of access to birth control, abortion rights, etc. 

However, there are many women that were still left behind long after these cases had been decided. These supposed “rights” are still not accessible to many individuals from marginalized groups. Those of lower socioeconomic status, women of color and trans/nonbinary individuals still face numerous barriers to accessing these rights. 

Despited Roe v. Wade standing, abortion rights are almost non-existent in some states today. Trans and Non-Binary individuals face many barriers when it comes to accessing reproductive health care. 

The halls of power work as a way to silence the calls of those on the streets. They take ambitious movements and pacify them. They water them down until they hardly resemble what was being demanded. 

The rulings made by Bader Ginsburg are not an exception to that. She was a woman dedicated to “procedure, principles of federalism, judicial independence and ensuring that government does not wield arbitrary power over regular people . . . ” as Kimberly Wehle in her article entitled “The Surprising Conservatism of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” puts it. These things are not hallmarks of a progressive justice, rather they show a commitment to the rule of law and its strict application.

With this strict application, Bader Ginsburg was unafraid to make rulings that negatively impacted marginalized people. Tatiana Cozzarelli and Ezra Brain provide two definite examples of this in “RBG or Not, Abolish the Supreme Court.” As the two put it, “City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, where RBG and the whole Supreme Court ruled against tribal sovereignty or Department of Homeland Security v. Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, where Ginsburg ruled against asylum seekers”

From these rulings, it is clear that Bader Ginsburg held no allegiance to progressive ideas. There was never a place on the court dedicated to real social change, never a place for a real upheaval of a system designed to keep us down.

For many people, Ruth Bader Ginsburg felt like the only thing standing between our rights and a government ready to take them. That is the great lie that has been sold to us. Bader Ginsburg held no allegiance to the people. This needs to be a wake-up call. 

Social change does not come from the courts. It does not come from those in positions of power. It comes from everyday people showing up and standing together against a system of injustice. This is the sort of thing we need to place the emphasis on. We cannot sit idly by. We need to organize and continue organizing. 

We need to demand accountability from our government and our elected officials. And with this in mind, we need to be rid of the Supreme Court. Those in ivory towers have no concern for those of us on the ground. They have no way of knowing what we are facing, and they should not have the final say on any of our rights. 

Be critical. Be angry. Be active. Don’t let our collective power go to waste.