When I first heard about a planned march to amass the nation’s women to highlight women’s rights and in protest against the Trump administration on the day after his inauguration, I was initially hesitant. In originally billing the event as the “Million Women March” and advertising it as the first street protest of its kind, organizers overlooked the original “Million Woman March” successfully organized by Black feminists two decades ago. When this appropriation of Black feminist history was pointed out by feminists of colour, event organizers were dismissive of (and even hostile to) the critique. Instead, (White feminist) event organizers and early supporters offered the same familiar, callous, and white-washing refrain: that feminists of colour were being divisive in raising the spectre of race, and that we should put aside racial differences to provide a united feminist front in opposition to the misogyny of Trump.
Never mind, of course, that we were being asked to rally in unity under the banner of White feminism, which too often overlooks and deprioritizes women of colour and other marginalized women through its uncritical universalization of the lived experiences of Whit straight abled cis-women. Over the years, I have been lectured at countless times by White feminists who resent and reject my brand of non-white feminism; I had no interest in voluntarily exposing myself to that kind of toxic and intolerant space yet again.
But then, something about the event changed. In response to criticism, event founders re-named the march the “Women’s March on Washington” and invited prominent feminists of colour to organize the event. The Women’s March began to embrace a more intersectional framework for its feminism. Organizers acknowledged the March’s relationship to Black feminist history and took steps to acknowledge and commemorate the earlier work of Black feminists. White feminists were reminded that even within feminist spaces, they should do the work of being better white allies to feminists of colour; and that there is never a time when they can or should stop reflecting (and respecting) more and “whitesplaining” less. When some early White feminist supporters spoke against the efforts to make the event more inclusive of women of colour, they were actually told they were wrong!
With these developments, my fears were (somewhat) assuaged. It seemed increasingly clear that while White feminism still has a long way to go, the Women’s March on Washington (and its many satellite events in local cities) was taking steps to be a safe(r) space for feminists of colour and other marginalized feminists.
And so, I have made the (cautious) decision: I will march on Saturday in the Women’s March in New York City.
Less than 3 days after being re-elected as House Speaker, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that Republicans’ chief priority this session would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act (or, “Obamacare”), a signature healthcare reform bill of the Obama administration that has enabled more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans to obtain healthcare coverage. Furthermore, Obamacare enjoys particular popularity – and above-average use – among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
Many political commentators have weighed in to discuss the devastating impact of an Obamacare repeal on Americans; none have considered the specific impact of Obamacare’s elimination on the AAPI community.
It turns out that if Republicans are successful in passing legislation to dismantle Obamacare, approximately 1 in 15 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders would lose their healthcare coverage, and millions more would love access to mental health care, reproductive health care, and a vast array of preventative care.
The Affordable Care Act — a hallmark legislation of the Obama administration’s legacy — helped give provide healthcare coverage for over 20 million Americans. The ACA has given access for 4.3 million AAPI to access preventative care, and has helped tens of thousands of AAPI who had been denied healthcare due to a preexisting condition get coverage. Over a hundred thousand uninsured AAPI youth now are covered by their parents’ plan, and 2.5 million AAPI women now have coverage for women’s health services.
The Affordable Care Act has been an unqualified boon for American public health. And yet, Congressional Republicans are eyeing the recent presidential election of Donald Trump as an opportunity to gut the program.
This morning, history was made. In a 5-4 decision (read the .pdf of the SCOTUS opinion), the Supreme Court decided that the landmark healthcare reform bill championed by the Obama administration (and that will undoubtedly serve as the cornerstone of Obama’s presidential legacy) is on its whole constitutional.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which has been nicknamed “Obamacare” by both critics and later by the White House, makes several important changes to this nation’s healthcare system, including:
Critics of the Obamacare — Republicans and specifically Tea Party members — claimed that it was an over-reach of the federal government; but, in reality, they just don’t like the president. Let’s not forget that the most vocal members of the rightwing have openly stated that their target is President Obama, and not necessarily the morality of his policies; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell proudly proclaimed in 2009 that his top priority was to make President Obama a “one-term president”.
Spurred by their hatred for the president, rightwing activists have launched a multi-year smear campaign against the president’s healthcare reform bill that has succeeded in saturating the national debate with misinformation and bold-faced lies. Obamacare will not eliminate the coverage for Americans who currently have health insurance. Obamacare will not prevent Americans from being able to continue to see their own doctors. Obamacare will not establish “death panels” that will decide which Americans can live or die.
Republicans took their issues to the Supreme Court, arguing that Obamacare violated the Constitution, and the rights of individual Americans to elect not to purchase health insurance.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional. Specifically, the individual mandate, which requires that all Americans above a certain income level purchase health insurance, was judged to be legal since it basically represents Congress exercising its power to tax the population. In essence, Congress is taxing any American at a different rate if they don’t have health insurance, compared to any American who does. The Supreme Court also found the rest of the Affordable Care Act to be constitutional, except for its restrictions on dispersion of Medicare funds to states who refuse to comply with the law; in that case, states can only be denied Medicare funds associated with the elements of the program they refuse to comply with, and would not lose all of their Medicare funding.
The Supreme Court’s decision is a major victory for Democrats, progressives, and the Obama administration. But, more importantly, it is an incredible victory for the literally millions of Americans whose healthcare will be improved by the Affordable Care Act, including the Asian American community and other communities of colour, which have historically higher rates of uninsured and underinsured people compared to the community at-large.
Currently, an estimated 1 in every 7 Asian Americans is uninsured (2.7 million, or 17.2% of Asian Americans). Of those, 75% (or approximately 2 million) will gain or become eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, including nearly 100,000 young Asian Americans between the ages of 19-26 who will be able to receive healthcare through their parents’ insurance. Nearly 900,000 elderly Asian Americans are currently on Medicare, and they will benefit from more preventative coverage and other expanded services.
Roughly 11% of Asian Americans are self-employed and/or own a small business; the Affordable Care Act will make purchasing health insurance for small business owners and their employees significantly easier and more affordable. This not only ensures that Asian American small business owners will have better access to healthcare, but it also helps to stimulate Asian American business by making them more competitive via improved employee benefits.
And finally, there are roughly 8 million Asian American women in this country who can no longer be discriminated against by their health insurance providers for becoming pregnant, being domestically abused, or just being a woman.
But most importantly, Asian Americans — like all Americans — benefit when this country places increased attention helping all of its citizens, and not just the most affluent. Asian Americans — like all Americans — benefit by a renewed commitment by the federal government to provide social programs that benefit all, including the less fortunate. Asian Americans — like all Americans — benefit when this country becomes, once again, one in which all citizens, regardless of race, class or creed, have equal access to life, and life-saving healthcare coverage. Asian Americans — like all Americans — benefit by when healthcare is no longer a privilege in this country, reserved for the wealthy and the well-connected, but it is a basic human right accessible to all.