Independence Day?

By Nancy Black

It’s hard to get excited for Fourth of July when you feel like your independence is at stake. To think that my children’s generation will have fewer rights than mine, well that’s just mindboggling.

My journalism mentor was Vivian Castleberry. She was the first female editor at The Dallas Times Herald beginning in 1956, and she held the position for more than 28 years. Vivian moved the paper away from stories about women shopping or having tea parties, and focused more on critical issue, like domestic violence, inequality in the workplace and child abuse.

I interviewed Vivian as part of my honors work at SMU. She was an alumna, too. We spoke for hours over many days about her life, the changes society has experienced and the importance of the right to a free press. When I asked her what was the most important event that had happened throughout her long life, she didn’t hesitate for a second in answering.

“The right for a woman to control her own body!” 

She remembered the days when using contraceptives was against the law, especially for single women. And she proudly recalled celebrating the landmark Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade ruling when it was first announced in 1973.

Vivian explained how difficult it was for women, married or not, to pursue any type of career when they had no control over their bodies. 

Vivian Castleberry was a proud mother of five children. She adored them all. But she admitted it was hard to juggle being a female newspaper editor in a male dominated world all the while caring for her family. 

She emphasized how fortunate she was to have had a loving spouse who supported her efforts. Not all women have that kind of help.

Vivian died in 2017, but I know she would have been on the front lines of any protest that represented the rights of all women to make their own choices about their own bodies. 

That’s why I couldn’t just sit by and write an editorial about the weather or something this week. I have to be willing to take risks as women before me did.

Keep your hands off my body! This is a country where we not only have freedom of the press, but we also have freedom of religion. That means freedom from religion, too. If you don’t believe what I believe, that’s fine. But you can’t tell me what is right or wrong based on your religious beliefs. 

Our Constitutional rights are being changed by a Supreme Court whose majority judges are listening to their own religious views and ignoring the will of the majority of the country’s citizens. And one justice has explicitly warned they are not yet done “revisiting” other controversial issues, like gay rights and the right to use contraception. 

I know Justice Clarence Thomas is old enough to remember when interracial marriages were illegal. I’m so confused. I really don’t understand what his or any of the other conservative justices’ end game is. Do they really expect us to sit back and just conform to their ideals? Have they not watched “The Handmaid’s Tale?” Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for the oppressors.

Vivian died in 2017 after a gallant fight against breast cancer. But I know, if she were here today, she would join me and hundreds of thousands of other women across the country who are now shouting from the rooftops, “Not on my watch!”