A Tale of Two Fish and the Uneven Scales of Justice

by Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher / Sep 24, 2020

I have always had an inquisitive nature. Growing up, one thing I found particularly curious was the zodiac. Though I’m not much of an authority on astrology, I am definitely an aficionado of zodiac signs. I would hasten through articles in magazines and fly by features in newspapers just to find myself mesmerized by the horoscope. I was captured by the notion that there were astrological aspects shaping our core selves and subsequently our futures. It was intriguing that there were diagrams and birth charts that ascribed meaning to one’s born day. The idea that the month and date of birth could be affected by the alignment of the stars and positionality of the planets, the moon, and the sun. In fact, the term horoscope is Greek in origin and refers to time observance. Back in the day, the horoscopes in my teen magazines pointed to character traits, fortune telling, and gave me hope and made me pause. 

Of the 12 astrological signs of the zodiac, those born between February 19 and March 20 are the fish, the Latin Piscium plural for Pisces. I am a proud Pisces. I have read and seen it all, a great deal of which has provoked my eye rolling, chuckling, and being a bobblehead nodding in agreement. As I matured, I realized that there was much more to that daily or monthly horoscope. There was affirmation of things that I knew to be true of my fundamental beliefs and what lies above and beneath the surface of what everyone sees as central to me. 

Among the things that I was told (there was that palm reading once), have read, and observed about myself and fellow Pisces was dreaming big, working harder, an ability to see beauty in people, finding a way out of no way, and appreciating life’s joyful and tearful moments, because in each instance you’re reminded that everyday existence is an exercise to know better, do better, be better.

As Mother fought pancreatic cancer, though that was a wrecking ball of a situation, there was the realization that we (BTW, my mother was a Pisces too) could find beauty in the worst of times. Hence, over the years, I have recognized that what makes Pisces so deep, sensitive, and creative is walking the line between life’s pleasures and pains, navigating what appears to be perilous, only to have more purpose, resolve, and grit. In essence, reading those horoscopes and this astrological pastime created a space for self-reflection, taking stock of my strengths, catching sight of weaknesses, and trusting what I’ve learned is good intuition—Pisces have a great gut. Another thing about Pisces is we are more than just introspective—we emote and are extremely empathic. We are doggedly determined and tough, with little tolerance for lies, and are truth tellers and seekers. 

So, in the wee hours of the morning ... yes, today, since I wrestled to go to sleep, I thought I’d revisit the news stories of the day, as I was deeply disturbed by the announcement that no murder charges were brought forth in the killing of Breonna Taylor. Adding insult to injury, two of the three officers face no charges, and the officer that was indicted only faces reduced charges, none of which hold him accountable for her death.

In 1962, Malcom X said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” It is nearly six decades later and this rings true now more than ever. Two years ago, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy asserted that President Trump continually degraded, scolded, insulted, and targeted black women using white supremacist tropes, employing a tone that is as “contemptuous as a plantation owner whose black maid had dared to question his judgment.” It is no surprise that Trump found the resulting lack of culpability agreeable and worthy of patting Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron on the back. 

Recall I began writing about the zodiac and Pisces? Yep, I’ve taken you on the scenic route, but know this connects as I am circling back, referencing the celestial sphere. Fish are known to swim in schools as it provides greater protection and allows them to move more efficiently. Pisces, the fish, are often reflected in pairs with the fish tied together by their tails. I have always felt a tie to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And the Notorious RBG was A PISCES! Keeping me up also last night was the pinched nerve I felt over the failure of the Senate to pass a resolution in her honor yesterday. It wasn’t even 24 hours from her passing on September 18 before the politics steamrolled the mourning of an iconic social-justice change agent. In the 1970s she founded the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project. She was one of the few contemporaries of her time to consider intersectional identities and consider feminism beyond white female privilege. In 2016, Justice Ginsburg shared in an interview with journalist Jane Pauley of CBS News, "It was difficult, into the middle '70s, to persuade judges who at that time were overwhelmingly male and white, to persuade them that there was such a thing as discrimination against women. Because their idea was, women are on a pedestal, women are protected by the law. And many women were finding out that these so-called protections were protecting men's jobs from women's competition.”

Last night spilled into this morning, and into my day came the melancholy, frustration, and exhaustion of being both Black and a woman in this society, at this time. As I mourn another Black woman’s worth being discounted and the commonplace dereliction of duty and failures of the justice system, I think about my fellow Piscean Justice Ginsburg, who spent a lifetime swimming against harsh tides, currents, and upstream to ensure constitutional protections for everybody and did not adhere to blanket-qualified immunity for state-sanctioned police brutality or safety nets for murders. She was one of my “sheroes” and a possibility model for so many girls and women across various walks of life. I think about her as the fish we were lucky to catch but then had to release.

I ponder if each of Justice Ginsburg’s dissents over the years could serve as the majority opinion. Imagine the landscape where the marginalized and the minoritized are not on the edges but brought into the full fold, into the center. Then perhaps this failure of erasing racism and the devaluing of Black lives would not be normalized. I may just be wishfully thinking, heck, even being a bit utopian. Just maybe our current declining democracy, racial unrest, and reckoning would be moot and the scales of justice not quite as tilted. Instead, there would be recognizing everyone's humanity. But the truth is, all lives don’t matter in this society, and if you think they do, you’re disillusioned at best. Essentially, for Black Lives to Matter, those taking Black Life are rendered guilty. Because the truth of the matter is mattering is just the minimum. It’s too bad we lost RBG, since she was the rare one on the bench that actually thought we did ... MATTER.