Dean Spade drops knowledge

Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and the first openly trans tenure-track law professor in the U.S. (Seattle University) has all kinds of super smart and important things to say. Thankfully, Spade’s saying them in lots o’ places: the Enough blog (which I’ve written about before, via my friend Tyrone), a forthcoming book on South End Press, and this awesome interview in Guernica.

Spade, for example, on the limits of the law to make widespread social change:

But the hard thing is that few lawsuits actually have those effects. On one hand, a lot of laws are not enforced or never implemented. For example, in a lot of places it’s illegal to fire or not hire someone for being trans, but that happens every single day. Very little can be done about that in the current framework. The systemic homelessness and poverty many trans people face doesn’t seem to be sufficiently addressed by passing a law that says we shouldn’t discriminate against trans people. Law reforms declaring race and disability discrimination illegal haven’t solved concentrated joblessness, poverty, homelessness, or criminalization of people with disabilities and people of color. Often people who the law says should have equal chances at jobs still don’t have equal chances at jobs, and they’re still on the losing side of the severe wealth divide in the U.S. So how can we start to strategize for social movements that don’t believe the myth that changing the law is the key way to change people’s lives?

Part of what excites me so much about Spade’s mind is that it whirs at such wonderful intersections, without apology. Class, gender, and so many other lenses are layered on top of one another like those old-fashioned transparencies. What is projected overhead is a truly 3-D view of the future of feminist activism. At the same time practical and visionary, inclusive and rigorous.

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