After Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we must nurture those who follow in her footsteps

October 2, 2020

By Jackie Nappo

“When there are nine.”

A revolutionary answer to a cliché question: when will there be enough women on the Supreme Court? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg responded, “When there are nine.”

The Universal Health Care Foundation office comprises ten women: eight staff and two interns. All of whom were hired because they are the best person for their job. It makes you wonder what this office, and so many other places, would look like had Justice Ginsburg never set out on her path to make the world a more equitable place.

Justice Ginsburg was a weight bearing column in the construction of justice. Little as she was, she was carrying a heavy load for U.S. residents.

She had to fight tooth and nail to earn her place in history. She shouldn’t have had to. She was brilliant beyond measure, calm, quick witted, and a revolutionary thinker. At nearly every turn, she faced pushback. History tried desperately to keep her out, but she could not be held back.

She entered the narrative and began working to improve the world for herself and for other people like her. She said no to discrimination on the basis of sex, she defended a person’s right to reproductive autonomy, she dissented when history tried to keep others out or infringe on their rights.

And now she’s gone, and it’s unclear what we have left to defend us from the forces that work overtime to maintain an exclusive status quo.

As a health care foundation, there are countless things we’re concerned about in an America without Justice Ginsburg. The Affordable Care Act, reproductive health care, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights. All of these are part of our broader mission for social justice. These are obvious.

At the same time, we have to ask ourselves who we are as a nation, and what kind of nation do we want to be? How do we get there?

We must ask: How many workplaces have kept out the people who were best fit for the job? How many revolutionary thinkers were told no because they didn’t fit the mold? How many will continue to be met with resistance? And for how long?

Justice Ginsburg fought at every juncture to become the titan she was. How much longer will we tolerate the systems that tried so desperately to keep her from us? How long will we go on accepting the false narrative that she was one of a kind, when there have been so many like her who have been stopped?

I want to live in the America that Justice Ginsburg fought for. Are we willing to work half as hard as she did to live in that country? Are we willing to seek out the people who are fighting like she did, tooth and nail, to help them break through their barriers?

The answer is in our hands. Anti-progress forces will be there waiting at every turn. The day will not come when the statement “Everybody should be able to get the care they need at no cost” will be met without argument. We need to be ready for that.

The day will not come when “People should have complete reproductive freedom” will not be met with backlash. We need to be ready for that.

Justice Ginsburg was a pioneer of progressive action. We all have the potential to be pioneers of progressive action in our own communities, in our own homes, by dismantling hostility to change. People like Justice Ginsburg are rare not because so few have the potential, but because the system does not want people like them to succeed.

The “next Justice Ginsburg” (and I believe there are and have been hundreds) has already been told no. They’ve already hit obstacles. I’m sure they’re tired. We need to be ready for them.

There is no one way to fight for justice, and there is no perfect fighter. Ask yourself, what tools do you have, and what battles can you fight? How can you uplift those who are tired, who have been fighting the whole time? When you have those answers, then it’s time to get to work.

May Justice Ginsburg’s memory be a revolution.