Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave a much-lauded speech last week on North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, popularly known as HB2. Lynch’s call to action was appropriate, but remained a recycled expectation. And her words? She should have known better, but she’s being applauded.
In “Loretta Lynch Just Became the World’s Most Powerful Advocate for Trans Rights,” an article by Mark Joseph Stern for Slate, she is almost canonized. Stern writes: “This is a historic moment. North Carolina has elected to declare war on trans people’s civil rights — and the Obama administration has chosen the side of equal dignity for all. Lynch may be an ally rather than a member of the community, but it’s clear that she deeply empathizes with the trans movement’s fight for justice.”
Nico Lang, writing for the Los Angeles Times, echoed the sentiments of many publications that called Lynch’s call to action the trans community’s “I Have A Dream” moment, while questioning when the Democratic Party would follow her lead. Empathy? “I Have A Dream”? Her lead? How lovely.
Nothing magnificent happened during last week’s press conference. It was the same old formula, the same inspiration porn and “Kumbaya” we’ve witnessed time after time. Who was “the world’s most powerful advocate for trans rights” before Lynch? How does she deserve this commendation while giving a statement to both bigots and trans people, a congregation of words falling flat and saturated with sprinkles and jelly beans to make us hyper about equality?
Prior to the HB2 controversy, Lynch only acknowledged transgender people once before. That moment came in remarks at last November’s National Women’s Law Center awards dinner, when she said “transgender” nine times, listing and comparing laws that supposedly protect people who are vulnerable to discrimination, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
She isn’t an advocate or an ally. This isn’t a March on Washington and she isn’t another coming of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lynch fails to grasp, or showcase, an understanding of intersectionality. If she did, she wouldn’t have named the Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow laws, Brown vs. Board of Education or the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage. We should not continue to compare injustices or movements. They are rooted in oppression, but they are not the same.
If Lynch comprehended the trials of trans people in America accurately, she would have stated the truth about trans women of color from that podium. Additionally, in genuine solidarity, she would have credited where she learned her information. It didn’t happen and it probably won’t, as we are nearing the end of the Obama presidency.
Her word choices are interesting. She names “inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness” as virtues of America. I’m confused — those words weren’t in my high school textbook, nor in the literature I frequented. Instead of serving as virtues, they are just words to pepper up a sense of radicalism. It is a waste of breath to say America was founded on equality and to tell me, a Black trans woman, that history is on my side.
For Lynch and the rest of the Obama administration, it’s cute but it’s not enough. Stop being cute. Stop giving lip service and immerse yourselves in necessary action. Stop performing respectability. And most of all, stop lying, because if America was founded with the intention of “equal rights for all,” I wouldn’t have to tell you to stop.