Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: United States Supreme Court

#METOO WorldWide Movement

#METOO – “Ain’t I A Woman”

The Worldwide #METOO Movement came to Berkeley this week. Fifty speakers came from around the world to talk about global resistance to sexual harassment and violence. I am honored to participate in the conversation and the ongoing struggle against oppression based on gender.

The most important insight that I can contribute about resistance to sexual harassment and violence is that it is deeply rooted in the intersectional oppression and resistance of Black women.” And so I started to engage with this amazing group of activists, lawyers, professors and students. We are all committed to moving #METOO beyond the popular hashtag into real challenge and change. We must honor and appreciate the roots of this movement as we move “forward and beyond.”

The title “Ain’t I A Woman” goes back to Sojourner Truth’s famous speech on May 29, 1851 in Akron, Ohio. She spoke from her heart and the pain of slavery to challenge white women to “see” her. In 1981, Professor Bell Hooks in her famous book, “Ain’t I A Woman” challenged contemporary white feminists to “recognize” Black women in “their” movement. Ten years later, in 1991, Anita Hill‘s riveting testimony before an all white male Judiciary Committee (headed by Uncle Joe Biden) gave voice to the outrage of women everywhere. After that hearing, the battle cry was “I believe Anita Hill.”

#BlackWomenBuiltThat

The oppression and resistance of Black women created the
law of sexual harassment. In the fall of 1977, I joined the sexual harassment lawsuit called Alexander v. Yale. My political science professor sexually propositioned me. Yale’s band leader raped Ronni Alexander. Ronni’s case was dismissed. Mine was not. As a 21-year-old Black woman, I became the lead plaintiff in the first sexual harassment lawsuit ever litigated in this country in education. We gave sexual harassment a name and made Title IX apply to it.

I was not alone. In 1976, Diane R. Williams, a 23-year-old Black woman attorney won her sexual harassment case against the Dept. of Justice. Diane persisted after the case was overturned on appeal. She started fighting her case in 1972 and kept fighting until she finally won in 1980. Her case was among the first in employment to say that “quid pro quid” sexual harassment is sex discrimination.

Paulette L. Barnes, a Black woman, filed and lost her case against the federal government in 1974. Paulette persisted. On July 27, 1977, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ruled that it was illegal to fire a woman who refused a supervisor’s advances. On the West Coast, Margaret Miller, a Black woman, sued Bank of America for sexual harassment. Margaret lost her case in the district court in 1976. But she persisted. She finally won her case in June 1979.

“Anita Hill’s Grandmother”

Sandra Bundy in 2018 (Credit: Lexey Swall)

Sandra Bundy‘s case was the first federal appeals court case to clearly say that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. Sandra sued the federal government in 1977. She lost at trial in 1979 and fought until she won in 1981. Because of Sandra Bundy, women everywhere can say that sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment. As a result, in 1986, Mechelle Vinson, a Black woman, won her hostile work environment case in the United States Supreme Court. She fought her case for almost 10 years, from 1978 to 1987.

From #METOO to #SayHerName

Fast forward 30 years to October 2017. That month, actress Ashley Judd went public with her story of sexual harassment by powerful Hollywood icon, Harvey Weinstein. Soon after that, Actress Alyssa Milano tweets “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” #METOO goes viral worldwide.

Tarana Burke, 2018. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tarana Burke, a Black woman activist, created the phrase “MeToo” and an organization in 2006 to empower survivors of sexual violence. The worldwide #METOO movement to fight sexual harassment and sexual violence springs again from our oppression and our resistance.

It was my privilege this week to share our history with women and men from around the world. At last year’s conference, Professor Kimberle Crenshaw shared this herstory. Professor Crenshaw’s work on the urgency of intersectionality clearly points the way forward for our #METOO global movement. Black women must not be invisible in this movement. We are the veins in the “kaleidoscope of butterflies” that Professor Catherine MacKinnon so beautifully describes that gives our movement wings. Our power lies in our collective effort.

Pamela Price & Joelle Dzukou Epse Nwabueze
UC Berkeley Law School, 2019

Will He Keep His Promises?

Will He Keep His Promises?

I woke up Wednesday morning in Trumpland. My worst fears are coming true. Will he keep his promises?  In the first days I am upset and depressed. I feel better as I hear others calling out to fight back. In the months between Trump’s election as President and his inauguration, most of us will gather our thoughts and renew our passports (just in case).

The media tries to push the country into denial. Even elected officials maligned by Trump insist that he did not really mean what he said. They say he will be “different” as the President than the person who ran for President.

If He Keeps His Promises

If he is true to his word, on Day 1, President Trump will issue an Executive Order suspending the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and any funding to support the Act. His actions may send the economy and world markets into a downward spiral.

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will direct the FBI to re-open its investigation of Hillary Clinton. We should not be surprised if newly appointed Attorney General Rudy Giuliani orders Hillary’s arrest.

first-they-cameIf he keeps his promises, President Trump will invest millions of dollars to ramp up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). ICE will develop a comprehensive plan to locate and deport millions of working and poor people suspected of immigrating from Mexico, South America, Syria or Haiti. We should expect that vigilantes will volunteer to assist in the effort to deport these “illegal aliens.” He will also immediately start construction of the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

We should not be surprised if President Trump rejects the Obama administration’s position on private prisons and directs the Bureau of Prisons to renew all of the private contracts.  We should expect that funding for re-entry of formerly incarcerated persons, community policing and mental health services will be severely reduced. California will continue to be the leader if not the only state committed to working against mass incarceration in America.

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will champion laws to defund Planned Parenthood and declare abortion completely illegal. Led by Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely pass these laws.

What President Trump labels “locker room talk” may became more prevalent in our schools and public places. Our efforts to stop violence against women and eliminate commercial sexual exploitation of women and under-age girls are likely to receive minimal support in the new Trump administration.

Packing SCOTUS with Scalia Clones

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will immediately appoint a Scalia-like judge to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia was a rabid opponent of affirmative action appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan. In 2015, Justice Scalia appeared to openly endorse a racist argument that Black students do better at “slower-track schools” stating:

Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. . . . I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer [Black students]. Maybe it ought to have fewer.

President Trump will likely have more opportunities to “pack the court” with Scalia-inspired justices, based on suggestions from the Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation, two right-wing conservative think-tanks.

The Good News

The good news is that already, everywhere, resisters to the Trump Presidency are organizing. In the Democratic Party, progressives are organizing to redeem the party. One of the most poignant “calls to action” was issued “the day after” by former Emerge Director, Kimberly Ellis.  She’s running to change the face of the Democratic Party.

Outside the party, thousands, perhaps millions, have joined Bernie Sanders’ ourrevolution.org. Black Lives Matter continues to be an inspiring movement rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country and committed to the empowerment of our community. And I really believe that if there ever comes a day that Latinos and immigrants are being hunted down en masse and sent off to concentration camps, most of us will not watch silently and fail to “speak out.”*  We are our brother’s keeper.

Finally, I was honored by Hillary’s final words to the Obamas: “To Barack and Michelle Obama, our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude. We thank you for your graceful, determined leadership.” The Obamas together, made all of us look kindly on and feel better about America. I hope that once we recover from the shock of Trump’s election, we will “shake the dust off our feet” and keep stepping toward the light. The race is clearly not given to the strong or the swift but to he that endureth.  “Banish the darkness with light.”

*  Quote from “First They Came for the Socialists”.  Martin Niemoller (1946).

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