Reflections: Connecting Racist Rhetoric, the Voting Rights Act, and Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

By Susan Mull

Don’t you wish pop culture would critique the latest Supreme Court antics surrounding the Voting Rights Act?  After all, aren’t we all more than a little appalled by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia saying that a critical part of the Voting Rights Act was a perpetuation of “racial entitlement”?  This must mean that he thinks if people of color vote without any impediments or harassment, then that’s entitlement!  Is that what he’s saying?  Doesn’t that arouse your ire that a Supreme Court justice would say this?  We all recall that people died so that discrimination at the polling place would end.  There are people all over America just one generation removed from unjust practices that used to prevent thousands from voting.  My next thoughts have moved to racial profiling, “stop and frisk” policies, urban schools that are experiencing fiscal crises, environmental racism, for example, chemical plants that spew toxic fumes and smoke into the air at levels of toxicity that have caused cancer in rats, yet human beings are not protected from this, a higher rate of  women of color testing positive for HIV than any other ethnicity, the school-to-prison pipeline that sends young African American men to prison to warehouse them, as though they are not precious and valuable, as though they are, instead, superfluous.  Have I mentioned that none of these things are entitlements, yet people of color experience some of these aforementioned items every day?

Racism is alive and well in America and the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS still prevents many people from being tested in time to benefit from medication that would stabilize their health.  There are people who still believe they are not affected by HIV.  There are people who still think that HIV and AIDS is the disease of degenerates who deserve it.  Some even say the word, “AIDS”, as though the mere utterance of the word contaminates them.  It is really difficult to be tolerant of such ignorance, just as it is impossible to tolerate scholars such as Justice Antonin Scalia who spew racist thought.

In connecting racist rhetoric, the Voting Rights Act, and young women of color still testing positive for HIV in alarming numbers, I’m striving to make a plea for Women and Girl’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  Here’s my plea:  Do your part!  Save a life! HIV does not discriminate!  The stigma has existed all thirty two years of this pandemic.  Now is the time for everyone to help eradicate this stigma.  We, people living with HIV, fight every day somewhere all over the globe for human rights.  Who are the affected people? The affected people include every human on this planet.  People with HIV need friends, relatives, allies, community leaders, pastors, celebrities, and people who think they are not affected to join the rest of us who are busy and doggedly determined to eradicate the stigma surrounding HIV.  I often reiterate, “There is no proxy for me.”  Reflecting on Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, March 10, 2013, there is no proxy for any of us.  Shine your lights, sisters!  Those who have been distant may find their way to us.  We will eradicate the stigma.  For me, this is a spiritual mandate.  “We shall overcome.”  I offer you my own pop culture piece to eradicate the stigma.  This is entitled, “What Is Stigma To You?”

What is stigma to you?

Is it something you rue?

What will you do?

Let me give you this clue . . .

Get loud, be proud

No time to equivocate

Get loud, be proud

No time for you to wait

Get loud, be proud

Know you are loved

Just know you are loved

You are loved

What is HIV to you?

Your chance to let your light shine through?

We’re with you girl, so make it true

Our lights are shinin’ there for you

Get loud, be proud

Get loud, be proud

Know you are loved

Just know you are loved

You are loved

In love there is no fear

No one can hurt you

In love there is no fear

Hate won’t divert you

In love there is no fear

No stigma will stop you

Know you are loved

Just know you are loved

You are loved

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