- Many have also expressed concern about what lies ahead and the need to uphold the progressive legacy of the judicial icon.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s right, died on Sept. 18 of complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer. She was 87. From vice presidential nominee Kamala Devi Harris to elected lawmakers and candidates currently running for office, to lawyers and celebrities, heartbroken Indian Americans took to social media to lament the passing of a public servant, who was fondly known as RBG, and was an icon for justice and gender equality.
Many used the opportunity to stress on the importance of voting for the right candidate in the Nov. 3 elections as well. While some posts encouraged voters to channel their grief and organize ahead of the election, others confessed their determination to fight like never before.
“Tonight we mourn, we honor, and we pray for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her family. Tomorrow we fight for her legacy,” Harris wrote on her Facebook page. “For all who believe in the power of the law as a force for change, Justice Ginsburg was and will always be a titan. She was a relentless defender of justice in our country and a legal mind for the ages. She also remained, throughout her life, a proud daughter of Brooklyn, with immigrant roots and a fire lit from an early age as a champion for progress and equality.”
In a followup post on Sept. 19, she wrote: “Justice Ginsburg was a titan — a relentless defender of justice and a legal mind for the ages. The stakes of this election couldn’t be higher. Millions of Americans are counting on us to win and protect the Supreme Court—for their health, for their families, and for their rights.” Her sister, Meena Harris, also took to social media to offer tributes. “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,” she wrote, quoting Justice Ginsburg.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) wrote: “Tonight, our nation not only lost a historic member of the highest court in our land but a trailblazer for women everywhere. From her passionate advocacy work on behalf of women to her nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg served with grace and brilliance while fighting for equality and justice.” Jayapal urged her social media followers to honor Justice Ginsberg’s legacy. “In honor of Justice Ginsburg’s inspiring life, her powerful legacy, and her never ending pursuit for justice, let us continue her work.”
Jayapal’s Indian American colleagues in the Congress, referred to as the ‘Samosa Caucus’ by Rep.Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), also took to social media to express their feelings.
“I join Americans across the country in mourning the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) tweeted. “With her passing, America has lost a tireless champion of equality & justice. Her legacy will be an inspiration for generations to come. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones.”
“America lost a legend tonight, and my heart is with her entire family,” a post by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said. “Thank you Ruth Bader Ginsberg for all of your hard work fighting for justice and equality. You will be remembered as one of the greatest jurors in American history.
Krishnamoorthi shared a New York Times op-ed, “Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Legacy” on his Facebook page.
In a Twitter post, Neal Katyal, the former Acting Solicitor General of the United States, called Justice Ginsberg “an American hero. The best of the best.”
Josh Kaul, the attorney general of Wisconsin wrote about how, as “both a litigator and a jurist,” Justice Ginsberg “changed the course of American history.” Hoping that her family finds peace in the knowledge that Justice Ginsburg lived such a remarkable life, Kaul wrote: “We are all better off because of her enormous intellect, prodigious work ethic, and drive to advance equality under the law.
Ravi Bhalla, Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, called Justice Ginsberg “a powerful voice for equality and a trailblazing force for women.” Bhalla wrote: “The impact she had on our democracy is immeasurable. She also taught us to fight to live up to our full potential as human beings, something she herself did so well. May RBG’s memory continue to inspire generations of Americans for years to come.”
Acknowledging that “there is no easy way to accept this loss,” New York-based attorney Suraj Patel called Justice Ginsberg a hero, an icon, who “possessed one of the most intelligent minds the world has ever seen.” Patel lost to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in a highly-contentious Democratic primary race in New York’s 12th Congressional District. In his Facebook post, Patel noted that one of his favorite things about Justice Ginsberg’s genius “is how uncanny she was at the long game, at showing the absurdity of our inequality to the levers of power she sought to change We have to mourn her and then honor her by fighting for the law be more just, fair, and equal.”
Similarly, civil rights lawyer Anurima Bhargava wrote: “You showed us how to advocate, to fight, to care, to create, to be independent, to dissent, and to prevail. And to make your and our wishes, and justice, be realized. For your honor and in your legacy, with deep gratitude. Let’s all get to work. Together.”
In a tweet, Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called Justice Ginsberg “a boss.” Adding, “we will fight for her,” Gupta wrote: “Under no circumstances should the Senate consider a replacement for Justice Ginsburg until after the presidential inauguration.”
Actress, writer and producer Mindy Kaling, in a tweet, said: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the kind of scholar and patriot you get excited about explaining to your kids. The kind of person who you say “who knows, one day you could be HER.’ I hope you rest well, RBG, you must have been tired from changing the world.”
Samhita Mukhopadhyay, executive editor of Teen Vogue offered a list of dos and don’ts following Justice Ginsberg’s passing on Sept. 18. “Things to not do tonight: doom scroll/start fights with disingenuous randos on Twitter, watch the ‘Handmaid’s Tale.’ Things to do tonight: Read about RBG’s legacy, call someone who is feeling disengaged/overwhelmed by the election. Listen, write, cry, love, organize,” she wrote.
The South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA), in a statement said: “Our thoughts and hearts go out to the departed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, aka the Notorious RBG. Justice Ginsburg was a true trailblazer in the law, whose work has changed the country and the world. She has and will continue to inspire generations of lawyers. Her legacy will last forever.”
Hindus for Human Rights, a U.S.-wide civil liberties advocacy group, also issued a statement mourning Justice Ginsburg’s death. “The only second female supreme court judge to be appointed, she leaves behind a judicial legacy that has shaped the course of the nation over the past decades and will continue to be the guiding star of progressive and liberal values true to the spirit of the American Constitution,” the statement said. “Hindus for Human Rights USA calls on the Republican Party to follow its own precedent set during 2016 that Supreme Court nominations during an election year should be confirmed only after elections.”
Going Down Memory Lane
Preeta Bansal, former Solicitor General of the State of New York, went down memory lane in a Facebook post. Bansal first met Justice Ginsberg in 1998 when she interviewed Bansal for a clerkship. Justice Ginsberg was then a judge on the DC circuit, and Bansal was in the second year of law school. “We didn’t hit it off right away,” Bansal wrote. Justice Ginsberg rejected Bansal, who went on to clerk for Chief Judge James L. Oakes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and then U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. “There were almost no Indian Americans in the law or in public service on the national scene at the time (most started coming to age about 5-10 years later), and I didn’t have a language for my experiences or a peer group of contemporaries that shared them,” Bansal continued. She wrote that when she and Justice reconnected later in the early 1990s, “she helped me to find my voice as a woman lawyer, as an Indian American, and as a person of spirituality and faith not of the dominant tradition. She has been a mentor and friend ever since, always available, for the past 25+ years.”
Bansal last saw Justice Ginsberg in July 2019, at Justice Stevens’ funeral, and that’s when Bansal first realized she was quite ill. “The public announcement of the recurrence of her cancer happened a month or so later,” she wrote.
Another Indian American whose career in law was shaped by Justice Ginsberg is Jenifer Rajkumar, a Democratic candidate for the New York State Assembly. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was my favorite U.S. Supreme Court Justice,” Rajkumar wrote. “She was more. She was an inspiration, a pioneer, and a singular voice who fought for equality for all our daughters.” As a law student at Stanford clerked at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, founded by Ginsburg. “I am so proud I got to be a part of her work and legacy in some small way. At the Women’s Rights Project, I helped litigate cases on behalf of low-income immigrant women experiencing harassment on the job. I pledge to continue the fight, in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, however I can as a legislator, lawyer, and as a proud American. She was notorious in all the best of ways.”
“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, posted a photo with Justice Ginsberg on her social media handles. “I met Justice Ginsburg, or “Ruth” as I grew to call her, last year while filming Taste the Nation,” Lakshmi wrote. “She was so kind, curious and lovely.” In an earlier post in July 2019, after she had a meal with Justice Ginsberg, Lakshmi wrote a post on Facebook. “There are meals in your life you will never forget. Meals you will tell your grandkids about. Last night was one of them. I had dinner with someone I’ve admired for a long long time. And she did not disappoint. Witty and whip smart, she had a twinkle in her eye the whole night. We sipped champagne, savored our gazpacho and crab and talked of India in the 80’s and so much more.”
What Lies Ahead?
Along with sharing their memories of Justice Ginsberg and paying glorious tributes, several Indian Americans spoke of the challenges ahead. In a followup tweet on Justice Ginsberg, Katyal wrote: “This seat will be filled in due time. If Trump tries to rush it, he will be monkeying with the Court, w/devastating consequences. The Democrats will have options, incl increasing the size of the Supreme Court. For now, let’s take a deep breath and remember the legacy RBG left us.”
Emphasizing that now is the “time to fight,” Bhargava wrote, “we must flip the Senate – which approves all nominees to the Supreme Court and federal courts. She continued: “The time is now: early voting has already started in states around the country.”
Rep. Bera, in his post, urged Americans to begin contacting their senators immediately, “and every day between now and the end of the debate over whomever President Trump nominates. We must stand up against an attempt to rush through a nominee who would reverse much of the progress that Justice Ginsburg fought to achieve.”
Writing about how confirming a new justice before the next presidential inauguration would be deeply harmful to the country, Kaul wrote: “Four years after the Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing on the nomination of Judge Garland, confirming a nominee this close to the end of President Trump’s term would be democratically illegitimate and extraordinarily divisive.”
According to him, “the right thing for President Trump to do would be to announce that the winner of the upcoming presidential election should nominate the next justice. He won’t do that, of course. Given the choice between what he perceives to be in his political interest, and doing what’s best for the country, President Trump has consistently chosen to look out for himself,” Kaul wrote. “It’s hard to overstate how consequential the debate that lies ahead will be. Another Trump appointee on the Supreme Court would almost certainly mean the end of Roe v. Wade. It could well mean the end of the ACA and policies that reduce the transmission of the coronavirus. Rules that help fight climate change and other environmental harms would be more likely to be struck down. And that’s just the start.”
In a followup tweet, Gupta advised her followers to act. “If you woke up feeling despair & anxious, turn it into action. “We have power to save our democracy,” she wrote, urging then to vote early and “flood calls to your senators. Senate can’t consider a replacement until after inauguration.”
Middlesex County Freeholder, Shanti Narra, also an attorney, wrote about the importance of honoring Justice Ginsberg by taking up her fight. “I, for one, will do anything and everything in my power to keep her seat from being filled by this President and McConnell,” the New Jersey-based Narra wrote.
“That means (1) getting out the vote to ensure a Biden Presidency (2) putting every ounce of pressure on those in the Senate now to keep them from confirming anyone until after the election and (3) when Biden wins this election keeping the other side from filling RBG’s seat in a lame duck Senate session,” she noted. “Don’t let anyone tell you this is over. RBG was one of the greatest fighters any of us could possibly imagine and we all need to channel her tenacity, drive and courage.”
Bhargavi immigrated to the U.S. in 1997 and has worked with Indian American media since then in various capacities. She has a degree in English literature and French. Through an opportunity from Alliance Française de New York, Bhargavi taught French at Baruch college for over a year. After taking a break and two kids later, she went back to work in the Desi media. An adventure sport enthusiast, in her free time, she likes to cook, bake or go for hikes, biking and long walks.