In early March, TikTok user @bobateab4by posted a video with the caption, “America is a fascist country.” In it, she lists “things that are happening right now in America” that we should be concerned about.
1. The Willow Project
ConocoPhillips, a Houston-based energy company, first proposed the Willow Project to the Trump administration in 2020. Though already the only company with oil drilling operations in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, ConocoPhillips wants to expand further. The area designated for the project holds up to 600 million barrels of oil. So, as stated in the below TikTok, this project “would release 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the air per year”.
On March 13, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project, going against Biden’s promise to end new oil and gas drilling on public lands. Now approved, construction can begin on the project, though legal challenges keep stunting it. Earthjustice, an environmental law group, plans to file a complaint and will likely seek an injunction. Meanwhile, TikTok users band together to spread information and garner signatures for a Change.org petition against the project.
2. Indian Child Welfare Act
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is designated “to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.” In doing so, the act sets federal requirements for state child custody proceedings involving a Native child who is a member of a federally recognized tribe. Congress passed the act in response to studies that revealed that 25-35% of all Native children faced being separated from their families. These separations are especially troubling since the government ignored fit and willing relatives, so most children ended up in non-Native homes.
In November 2022, the Supreme Court reviewed a lawsuit claiming the ICWA is unconstitutional. In the hearing, a couple scrutinized the act after unsuccessfully attempting to adopt an Indigenous child. The child referenced in their case is now living in her Tribal community and learning her culture. However, they argued that Indigenous children should not have limits on where they are placed.
As explained by Circling Eagle Law, if the Supreme Court decides to overturn the ICWA, states would once again be able to remove Native children from their homes.
“This would put the overall existence and longevity of tribes at risk. It is vital to continue to support the ICWA and take action against the possible overturning of this protection for Indigenous communities.”Circling Eagle Law
3. Death Penalty for Abortion
In January, State Rep. Rob Harris introduced the South Carolina Prenatal Equal Protection Act of 2023. The bill defines a fetus at any stage of development “as a person that should be equally protected from fertilization to natural death.” In such a way, any person who has an abortion is subject to the state’s homicide laws. Thus, an abortion could be punishable by years in prison or even the death penalty. The bill excludes women who had an abortion because of the “threat of imminent death or great bodily injury.” However, it does not include any exceptions for rape or incest.
Similar bills have been introduced in Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Unsurprisingly, all of these states punish homicide with the death penalty.
“That’s a hard pill to swallow for anybody. To recognize that you are not valuable. To call this equal protection, it is far from equal. It is giving greater weight to a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus than it is to a human being. You can consider a fetus to be a person, but you can’t consider it to have more weight than the living person who is a life fully lived on this planet.”Vicki Ringer, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood
4. New Tennessee Marriage Bill
The Tennessee House of Representatives recently passed a bill that allows people to refuse to perform a marriage they disagree with. Unfortunately, this is the latest in a long line of legislation attacking LGBTQ rights. Though, the bill could also affect couples involving transgender persons or mixed-race couples.
Tennessee law already allows religious leaders to refuse to officiate weddings. This new bill will allow county clerks to refuse to certify marriage licenses they do not agree with. Instead of simply finding a new officiant, LGBTQ, interfaith, or interracial couples may not be able to marry at all.
“Instead of focusing on the issues that Tennesseans actually care about, radical politicians are wasting their time and using their power to target the LGBTQ+ community. These bills are not about protecting children and they are not about religious freedom. They are about stripping away the basic human rights that LGBTQ+ people have fought for over decades … and labeling us dangerous.”Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director
Seemingly, this law opposes the Respect for Marriage Act, which Biden passed last year. However, the latter does not require states to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
5. Florida Bill on Gender-Affirming Healthcare
Florida’s new House Bill 1421 will outlaw gender-affirming healthcare for minors. Minors currently getting care would have until Dec. 31, 2023, to end it. Further, the bill will block health insurance providers from covering care for adults and forbid people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates. Additionally, the bill protects Florida healthcare providers if they refuse to provide “clinical, moral, or religious” care.
Rep. Randy Fine, who sponsors the bill, refers to gender-affirming treatments as “experimental,” “mutilation,” and even “child abuse.”
Though studies show that access to gender-affirming healthcare for those with gender dysphoria significantly improves their mental health, patient accounts also show that treatment helps alleviate depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations.
“It goes beyond denying us medical freedom to policing who we can be. Republican leadership is saying that from the moment of birth, you should not — and in important ways cannot — be recognized by anything other than your genitals. And from that bigoted place of denying the very humanity of transgender Floridians, they are ruthlessly bending the power of government to erase the community altogether.”Nikole Parker, transgender director of transgender equality, Equality Florida
6. “Jim Crow 2.0” in Mississippi
In February, the majority-white Mississippi state House passed House Bill 1020. The bill would create a new district with its criminal justice system overseen by an all-white power base. The district would include all of the majority-white neighborhoods in Jackson, Mississippi, which is 83% black.
It is proposed that an expanded Capitol Police Force police the district. The force would be led by the current white police chief and supervised by the state’s white Public Safety commissioner. Additionally, all the district’s officials would be appointed rather than elected, taking the voting power from Black citizens.
“It’s oppressive because it strips the right of Black folks to vote. It’s oppressive because it puts a military force over people that has no accountability to them. It’s oppressive because there will be judges who will determine sentences over people’s lives. It’s oppressive because it redirects their tax dollars to something they don’t endorse nor believe in.”Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Jackson Mayor
The bill’s principal author, State Rep. Trey Lamar, rejects that the legislation has any racial motivation. He says it is instead addressing rising crime in the state’s capitol. However, the area the new court system will cover already has the lowest crime rate anywhere in Jackson.
Critics of the bill have related it to Jim Crow laws, as it is an effort to create a white political stronghold in America’s second blackest city. Furthermore, they point out the racist subtext needed to justify white power being the natural “solution.”
7. Child Labor in Arkansas
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the Youth Hiring Act of 2023, weakening requirements that the state verifies the ages of workers under 16. Children under 16 don’t need the Division of Labor’s permission to be employed.
Supporters of the law say it removes a tedious requirement and allows parents to make decisions about their children. However, opponents recognize that work certificates protect vulnerable youth from exploitation. To reinforce that, they point out that the bill comes alongside a rising tide of minors violating child labor laws. The number of juveniles in violation has tripled since 2015. Additionally, the Department of Labor found hundreds of children employed in dangerous jobs in meatpacking plants just last year.
Is America Fascist?
As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts a nation and often races above the individual. It stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
In simpler terms, it is a system of government led by a dictator who rules with force and violence. Such a dictator suppresses criticisms, controls all industry and commerce, and promotes nationalism (often racism).
So, when considering these new bills, is America fascist?