Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Aaron Gorman

Political icon and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on September 18th, leaving behind an almost 50-year legacy of fighting for equality. Although RBG was far from perfect, she was undeniably a hero for millions of women, LGBTQ Americans, and Jewish Americans, and her work will long be remembered.

Starting in 1973 all the way until her death in 2020, Ginsburg proved that she was a committed activist for the millions of people who had their rights denied by the patriarchal laws of our country. Whether it be allowing unmarried women to sign their own mortgage, defending abortion rights, or bringing marriage equality to all 50 states, she was almost always on the frontlines in the battle to protect the communities who are too often harmed by U.S. policy.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, like all politicians, was still flawed, and many of her decisions had negative impacts on people, especially BIPOC. Ginsburg’s record on Indigenous law cases was, at best, mixed, and although she showed some evolution in her treatment of Native issues, she was often dismissive of cases involving land disputes and tax law. One prominent recent example of Ginsburg disregarding Native rights was her decision in June 2020 to allow the Atlantic Access Pipeline to be built on Appalachian land. Her vote, which was part of a 7-2 majority, was a disappointment to many supporters who viewed her as a liberal hero. Additionally, her comments regarding Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality were disturbing, though not shocking to people who had closely followed her career. RBG was a human being, she experienced the same moral shortcomings that every human being does, and her views were largely influenced by the white supremacist state that she lived in. Her flaws do not undermine her accomplishments, but they should not be ignored. When remembering an influential figure, it is important to remember them, not as being either good or evil, but as being a complex person with flaws and strengths. 

Following her death, it became immediately clear that everything RBG and millions of Americans worked so hard at were in imminent danger. Because of the nature of our court system, and because of the structure of the senate, anti-abortion, anti-healthcare conservatives have been given a potential 6-3 majority on the highest court in the country, despite their policies being disapproved of by most people. Ginsburg’s death puts abortion access, health care, and LGBTQ rights on the line, threatening the lives of 150 million women, 130 million people with pre-existing conditions, and around nine million LGBTQ people. Make no mistake, the loss of RBG is much more than a person dying. It is a clear message that the American government, at every branch, is fundamentally broken. The fact that our most basic human rights hinged on an 87-year-old woman surviving until a president gets kicked out of office puts the failures of the Founding Fathers on full display.

In the Jewish faith, we mourn by saying “may her memory be a blessing,” but in the wake of RBG dying, many Jews have instead used the phrase “may her memory be a revolution,” and I can’t think of a more appropriate way to say goodbye to Ginsburg. We should remember her, not just for what she has done, but for what her death means. May her memory be a revolution, and may we take this as proof that the systems we have lived under for 244 years do not, and never have worked. 

Ruth Bader 1933-2020

יהי זכרה מהפכה