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I Grew Up In the Segregated South. For Me, Supreme Court Rulings Are Personal.

| August 17, 2018

segregation

What’s meant by making America great again? (Shutterstock)

By Yolanda Parker

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has a history of interpreting the law in a way that serves the interests of the powerful over equality and justice.


Having grown up in the segregated South, I’m acutely aware of what’s at stake. I’m gravely concerned for what Kavanaugh’s influence could mean for communities of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and others who’ve fought to advance civil rights in our country.

For me, this is personal.

I grew up as an Air Force brat. We were stationed in the South in the 1950s, when racial discrimination was deeply pervasive. Children weren’t protected from discrimination — not even the daughter, like me, of an Air Force officer who spent a career serving his country. Despite being in a military family, I still had to attend segregated schools outside the Air Force base.

When we were stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, girls in my junior high school weren’t allowed to take science classes — only home economics. My parents had to get special permission for me to take science. And each weekend there were civil rights demonstrations, where bigoted counter-protesters would sometimes leave adults and my classmates bloodied and bruised.

Through relentless struggle, the decades-long civil rights movement earned African Americans and other marginalized communities stronger voting rights, de-segregated schools and cultural establishments, equal employment, fairer housing, and more.

Protests gave way to judicial cases, giving us landmark decisions like Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade that legalized protections for our personal freedoms. More recent cases like 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges advanced civil rights to LGBTQ communities.

It’s thanks to those hard-earned wins that systemic racial segregation has been outlawed, access to safe, legal abortion has been legalized, and same-sex couples have the legal right to marry.

other-wordsBut we’ve all seen and felt the toxic backlash to that progress since Donald Trump was elected.

The president has dehumanized immigrants and other Latino communities by calling them rapists and animals. And last August, after the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he claimed there were “very fine people” on both sides.

Not only is he normalizing racial hostility and small-mindedness, he’s re-institutionalizing it by adding far-right extremists to his administration and to our courts. And now that Trump has nominated yet another ideologue to the Supreme Court, those rights we fought so hard for are seriously endangered.

My experience as a young woman in Mississippi gives me intimate firsthand knowledge of what’s at risk if that fuel is added to an already growing fire. Today, we are perilously close to reviving an openly racist, hostile, and xenophobic world for people like me and many others.

I hung my Biloxi Junior High School diploma alongside my other diplomas to remind me of what we’ve all overcome — and how much we have to lose. And every day, when I see it, I’m instantly transported back to that frighteningly dangerous time.

If we allow yet another far-right extremist to our nation’s highest court, I fear another backlash is on the horizon — a return to a time when our rights were considered secondary, if at all. I know I’m not the only one who can’t let that happen.

The Supreme Court is the final judicial arbiter of fairness in our system. Personally, I’ll be giving every ounce of energy and grit I have to fight Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to that court. And I hope other Americans who believe in equality and justice for all will take it personally, too.

Yolanda “Cookie” Parker was the Founder and President of KMS Software Company and is a board member of People For the American Way. 

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22 Responses for “I Grew Up In the Segregated South. For Me, Supreme Court Rulings Are Personal.”

  1. Veteran says:

    Well Cookie, it’s 2018, not the 50s. Kavanaugh abides by the US Constitution, which is what he is supposed to do. Your concerns are ridiculous.

  2. Common Sense says:

    I’m not black, nor am I of child bearing age. nor am I LGBTQ. But I lived through these years also,. I remember these fights well, and I stand with you in our fight that our country never ever should revert back to those days. I stand with you against this man ever holding a Supreme Court Justice post.

  3. Brian says:

    Ho hum….this is simply another load of left-wing Trump Derangement Syndrome. Brett Kavanaugh is a man and a judge of impeccable character and judicial excellence. So, Yolanda, your whining about a “toxic backlash” does not work here. Remember, elections have consequences. Trump has spent a year and a half undoing everything Ojamba screwed up. Hence the booming economy, record unemployment, record home ownership for BLACKS, unprecedented consumer confidence, etc. etc. So grab a tissue, and take your “energy and grit” down the road.

  4. BMW says:

    A bit dramatic considering the family unit Mr. Kavanaugh grew up in, the path his mother chose and the unselfish way he chooses to give back to his community.

  5. Mike OLiver says:

    I also grew up in the south, South Carolina to be exact. And I remember being part of a group of mostly young white boys running the KKK out of our town, when they were trying to have a rally in the late 1980’s. Who was president in the late 1980’s ….Reagan a Republican. I truly wish you race bating liberals would stop making everything about race. It is truly pathetic and getting old. Seems like there is only one group that there’s an open season on for discrimination and it’s white males. You lost the election to Trump because you had a candidate/criminal running for the office, that got where she was because of who she married and her gender. It was a give me and you blew it! Not to mention 8 years of complete failure by a democratic president that was all about dividing America. I will always remember that dummy on a split scene with Ferguson, Missouri burning next to him. Over what was proven a justified shooting of a strong-arm criminal that robbed a store clerk earlier in the day and attacked a cop. We have come along way from the thought of judging someone based on the content of their character…… to people wanting to be given undeserved and preferential treatment just because of their gender/color/sexuality…..did I miss anything??? The judge will be confirmed and there is nothing you can do about……but don’t be so babyish over it, Reagan appointed Ruth and we know how that turned out. Lol…..Then again she might retire too, Imagine Trump appointing 3 judges. Sucks to be losers with no message other than Russia, Russia, Russia! And trying to run stone cold socialist in a striving capitalistic American, since Trump’s election….well you can probably give him credit for the last year of Obama’s administration too. One last note: Take a look at Europe and how it is being destroyed because of open borders, just search cars burnt in Sweden and see what you find. You dummies are diluted if you think we should open our country to anyone that wants to come here. Don’t give the that Statue of Liberty crap either……..that was a time, when we were building a new country and immigrates to build the country and they came here legally. Not stepping into a welfare line and remaining there for a lifetime on the democratic plantation. Get over it!!

  6. Traveling Rep says:

    Where is Robert Byrd, Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the democrats when you need them?

    Too bad the democrats are the party that created segregation, the KKK, and white supremacy. In modern times they strive to keep blacks “on the plantation” anyway they can. Nasty people, every last one of them.

    Glad to see times are changing and black Americans are waking up, seeing as how Trump brought black unemployment to the lowest rate ever! We Republicans want prosperity for every last American, unlike the democrats who stifle Black Americans into thinking they “need” the government to survive.

    #walkaway

    Hahahahaha! MAGA! Trump 2020!

  7. Percy's mother says:

    I think this writer’s story is made up. It’s a spin. To make a biased point.

    I was a young woman in the south around the time this writer has mentioned she was in school, AND I was an immigrant. Actually, I wasn’t far from where the writer states she went to junior high.

    I TOOK SCIENCE, and I DID NOT feel dehumanized by any means (being an immigrant). All boys and girls “back then” (males and females) took science (in “the south”). So what’s she talking about???

    It goes to show you, one creates one’s own reality.

  8. Stranger in a strange land says:

    The “Nuclear option” first used for non-Supreme Court federal judge nominees by Democrats during the Obama administration due to the frustration of R. Senators turning down even the most qualified nominees, and then expanded to Supreme Court nominees by McConell to assure Gorsich a seat on the Supreme Court, has opened the Supreme Court to potential extremists. This makes it imperative that people get out and vote for senators from the opposition party (meaning the party not holding the White House) so that there will be a check against extremist Judges from either party. Prior to the nuclear Option, 60 votes were required to confirm a SCOTUS nominee, creating a check against extremists. Now, a simple majority and someone can determine what the law of the land will be for the rest of that person’s lifetime. This is particularly dangerous when the country is so polarized. If an extremist partisan court (either conservative or liberal) start making rulings re. abortion, voter rights, immigration, gun rights, religion, etc. that the other 50% of the country finds totally unacceptable and un-American we are another step closer to civil war. Vote for the opposition (even if you have to hold your nose) if you truly love our country and object to extremism.

  9. Agkistrodon says:

    I grew up all over America, and ALL the Supreme Court rulings are personal to me as well, as they ensure OUR freedoms. Some seem to think rulings that only apply to them are all that matter, that seems very selfish. The only one that makes you a victim is yourself.

  10. Sherry says:

    Yawn! How very predictable that the “usual suspects” of the close minded, biased folks in our community should completely “bash” anything to do with possibly understanding anyone else’s perspective on our society and culture.

    This lady wrote an excellent article an an attempt to try and create a little understanding of how it was growing up in her shoes. BUT. . . instead of taking in her words with a truly listening heart and mind, those with a self centered hatred of anyone not lily white again prefer the defensive, chest beating “trash talk” of the current administration. Boring!

  11. Makeitso1701 says:

    Why is anyone surprised by the comments of the Koolaid drinkers from the trump cult. So predictable. Better hold on to something, because here come the Blue wave in November and this idiot in the White House will be a lame duck president. I think the majority of people have had enough of this racist,ignorant close minded, thin skinned coward.
    2020 can’t come soon enough.

  12. Born and Raised Here says:

    I remember going to FPC in 1975, and we were one of the last schools in Florida to become desegregated.

  13. gmath55 says:

    And, Mike OLiver wrote an excellent comment.

  14. Richard says:

    I grew up through the very same times, not in the south but in the north and I would always condemn any racist actions that people in the south or for that matter anywhere in the US had to endure. However, president Obama had EVERY opportunity to reduce the tensions within the US but instead chose to escalate them with HIS approval and choices that he made while president. He has divided this country between races more than any other president since Lincoln. To blame Trump for the mess that Obama left this country in is hypocrisy and makes you just a guilty.

  15. mausborn says:

    Brett Kavanaugh said a judge who “clearly wanted to overrule Roe” was his “judicial hero!

    Brett Kavanaugh is HIDING his past.

    Only 37% of Americans support confirming Brett Kavanaugh. People recognize we can’t afford a justice who opposes reproductive rights and who can’t be trusted to ensure that a President is held accountable for wrongdoing. The senate must not confirm him.

    Call your Senators at 202-804-8191 and demand they Release The Records.

  16. Randy Jones says:

    I’d love to see a copy of Mr. Parkers Biloxi Junior High School diploma. When I attended school there in the 1960’s they didn’t issue diplomas.

  17. Nancy N. says:

    I see a lot of white anxiety in these comments. And a lot of failure to understand that one person’s experience is not everyone’s experience.

    Veteran – they were supposedly abiding by the Constitution in the 1950’s too. Under our system of government, the Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court says it means. Very little about the specifics and practical application of it is spelled out, and anything that we consider a “right” today could easily be “reinterpreted” tomorrow.

    Kavanaugh scares me immensely. He’s already indicated strongly that he will overturn Roe v Wade if given the opportunity, and also infringe on LGBTQ rights and allow discrimination. This is not a picture of a future America that I like the vision of.

  18. Born and Raised Here says:

    I remember in the early ’70’s, the blacks attended George Washing Carver High School, and the whites attended Bunnell High School. Flagler County was one of the last wave of counties schools to desegregrate in the early ’70’s. Even after the Supreme Court ruling. , Then the Bunnell High School burned down, they closed Carver High School, and we al, both l black and whites went to Flagler Palm Coast, with no problems. I remember my parents saying this should have happened years ago,

  19. Born and Raised Here says:

    @ Nancy N. I was here in Flagler County, and saw it first hand.

  20. Agkistrodon says:

    Entertaining how some call others “close minded people” simply because they subscribe to different political philosophies. That seems like the text book definition of being “Closed minded”. You probably wouldn’t want those with “opposing” viewpoints sitting at the same table as you either, which seems like you are trying to segregate yourself from an opposing view. Kinda fascist, in it’s purist form.

  21. PTC Trader says:

    I totally agree with the first comment: It is NOT THE 50’s any more. That said, I moved from New York State in 1978 to Birmingham, Alabama….(You know…. the city where the church was bombed and every news reel you see is of the police under Bull Conners hosing blacks down the sidewalks). Let me say that the MEDIA PRECEPTION was NOT REALITY. Birmingham has had a BLACK MAYOR and primarily BLACK CITY COUNCIL since 1980. I am SO SO ready for people to MOVE ON. One thing we do not need are any more leftist/Socialist appointees or elected representatives in our government to demonize and destroy our Constitution. Funny how our newspapers today (NYT, Wash. Post, or this editor here) can highlight all the negative aspects of the current administration and yet say nothing about the financial and economic prosperity that has surpassed ALL EXPECTATIONS. Oh… and also… Highest level of BLACK UNEMPLOYMENT EVER. So to restate…. THIS IS NOT THE 50’s!

  22. Captain Obvious says:

    trump and hillary both were equally bad choices we have to be better than that this is sad

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