I’m often amused by interviews aired on late-night TV questioning the average citizen’s knowledge of a particular subject. I’m appalled and saddened by individuals who cannot correctly name the current U.S. vice president or answer equally simple questions.
I’m convinced that this level of ignorance is rooted in a complete disconnect from the concerns of citizenship. As a case in point, how many readers could give the correct answer to the question, “What event will be observed on August 26, 2016?”
The answer is Women’s Equality Day! My deepest hope is that no one questions the significance of that event or attempts to rationalize the observance away.
Although many are de-sensitized to the importance of our cultural observances, with greater thought and consideration, it’s expected that behaviors that discriminate against women as a class can be eliminated.
Few consider the fact that normative pronouns in the English language are exclusively male. Most don’t think it’s strange that they’ll never read the words “she,” “her” or “hers” in the Constitution or other founding documents. All but a few will realize that the full measure of true citizenship, the right to vote, was not bestowed upon women until August 26, 1920. Since that time, the nation has been wrestling with the goal of achieving “full” equality for women.
Most Americans can’t tell you that the first Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced to Congress in 1923. Many who were of an age of awareness in 1972 when it was again introduced, passed by both houses of Congress, and sent to the states for ratification, ignored the fact that it was not ratified by the requisite 38 states within the March 22, 1979 deadline or the extended June 30, 1982 time. I can only surmise that the ERA was ignored into oblivion.
Women accept inequality
I once thought that for the message of equality to be heard, understood and effectual, it should be preached exclusively to males. Time and experience have taught me that opposition to women’s equality isn’t just a male problem. Just as “free” humans were snatched from Africa and psychologically conditioned to be slaves, the historical construct between males and females has conditioned many women to accept and embrace the second-class citizenship that is the norm.
For reasons not understood by me, many women are willing to accept disparate treatment for themselves and for like-minded sisters and me who are willing to accept only than full equality.
By telling the truth about some of my sisters, I do not excuse the reasoning or behavior of my brothers. I understand the male-dominant core values that many men protect and defend, and the manner of relationship they wish to establish with their significant others.
Of no concern
However, I do not understand or accept their obsession and compulsion with demanding that all male-female relationships conform to their own individual core values. Within limits, what is done in one’s home is of no concern to others. But the demands of civility and citizenship require one to treat their counterparts with dignity and respect outside of the home.
I find it inconceivable that any parent, child or loved one could support anything less than full gender equality. How can a father or mother accept lesser social opportunities and outcomes for a daughter than for a son? What reasoning supports less pay for comparable work? What logic defines a society that permits the talents of anyone to be squandered merely because of gender?
Supporting equal rights is simple. All we’ve got to do is really think about it!
Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.