Shaping the Future for Women & Minorities
It appears the rights of the women in this country have been deteriorating.
It’s 2018, so a lot of people would think it’s safe to assume that we are beyond racism, sexism, homophobia…just everything that brings up hatred and separation in this country. Well…those people would be extremely wrong. Every day, we are watching inhumanity become a norm and quite honestly, if you aren’t an older white man with a lot of money, your opinion and livelihood go unnoticed and are given little to no concern.
One of the groups most affected by this lack of humanity through the current administration is women. From challenging our reproductive rights to being blamed for being sexually harassed, being a woman during this presidency is hard…extremely hard. I’ve never seen so much protesting, lobbying and pushing for reform; it’s unimaginable. To think that, as a woman, I don’t have control over whether I keep my baby; or that, God forbid, if I were sexually harassed, the first tactic would be victim-blaming.
Our existence is not valued as much as it needs to be and it’s a shame that we even must remind the world how important women are.
Then, when all hope is lost, I’m reminded of the power women have.
Though we are tried, pushed, shoved, broken down, beaten and knocked over, I am reminded that we still rise. Indeed, as it is tremendously difficult to be a woman during this time, women have proven over and over again that we can make the impossible happen. Yes, this has been a tough and annoying year, but, it is ok! History shows us that if we keep pushing, we can make all things possible.
In times like this, we need women like Shirley Chisholm.
Shirley Anita Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress and represented New York’s 12th Congressional District from 1968 to 1983, with a campaign slogan that stated, “Unbought and unbossed.” She was the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for presidency of the United States in 1972. Chisholm was completely against the New York State’s literacy test requiring English, arguing that even though a person, “functions better in his native language [that] is no sign a person is illiterate.”
Some of her successes in legislature include getting unemployment benefits for domestic workers and sponsoring the introduction of a SEEK—Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge. This program in New York was an effort to provide disadvantaged students with the opportunity to go to college while obtaining intensive remedial education.
When she was first elected into office, Chisholm had been dissatisfied with the original area she was assigned to work in, saying that it was irrelevant to her constituents. As a response, she pushed to have her work be focused on something that aligned with her goals and eventually was given the opportunity to use her surplus resources in her current office to help the poor and the hungry—those in which she originally wanted to help. In the process, she met Robert Dole and they worked together to expand the food stamp program. Later, she contributed greatly to the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women and the Infants and Children (WIC) program. With her hard work and support, she was soon assigned to the Education and Labor Committee by Hale Boggs; she was the third highest-ranking member of this committee before her retirement from Congress.
Her work has impacted many people and pushed for others to want to do more themselves.
While in office, Chisholm only hired women—half of them being black. She had first-hand experience with the amount of discrimination and misrepresentation that women face within legislature. In 1971, she joined the Congressional Black Caucus as one of its founding members and later that year, she was also a founding member of the National Women’s Political Caucus. Her voice was used to improve the lives and opportunities of those who resided in the inner-cities. She pushed for more spending on education, healthcare and other social services, and wanted a decrease in military spending.
Though she did so much, her journey was far from easy.
One of the biggest things that Chisholm struggled with was being taken seriously as a candidate, instead of just being a symbolic political figure. On many occasions, she was ignored by a great deal of the Democratic political establishment and received little to no support from her black male colleagues. When asked about her election process, she stated:
“When I ran for the Congress, when I ran for president, I met more discrimination as a woman than for being black. Men are men…they think I am trying to take power from them. The black man must step forward, but that doesn’t mean the black woman must step back.”
Though she struggled, during her last years, she educated those on making change through a political standpoint. She urged the different minority groups of this country to become a strong force at the local legislative level; she pushed for people to avoid polarization and intolerance, saying that, “if you don’t accept others who are different, it means nothing that you’ve learned calculus.”
This is why I say we need to be like Shirley Chisholm.
This isn’t just speaking on women. Chisholm definitely pushed for more women to be involved in politics, but, her voice spoke for all those who were being discriminated against. She was an advocate for the poor, the hungry, the misfortunate and the ignored.
She used her power to help all those that believed they weren’t deserving of a fair life in this country; to all those that thought they didn’t matter, Chisholm showed us that we do, but, we must do what we can to make that happen.
As a black woman living in this day and age, it is my mission to continue the work of Shirley Chisholm. She has opened a passage way that shows all women that with a little sweat and elbow grease, great change IS possible.
My most powerful weapon is my writing and I use my words to shine a light upon the situations that many people are hesitant to talk about. Let us all be Shirley Chisholm; we need it more than ever!