July 15 , 2019 / Posted by Katie Smith / Strategy /

Women on the Front Lines of Social Justice

Today is a good day to give thanks to the powerful women that stand up for all of those who feel left behind.

As the horrid person residing in the White House tweets that newly elected women of color should “go back to” their countries, four Congresswomen immediately stood up and asked us to listen to their message and not his rhetoric.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), “the squad” stood in force to blast Trump for separating families and the horrendous conditions his administration has created at the border. They stood up with the majority of Americans against racism. They sought to console the children who are confused by the messages coming from their country’s President.

Canadian Prime Minister along with other world leaders, rebuked the comment as Republicans stayed silent.

We appear to be living in a moment in time in which we must fight every day to hold our values close to our hearts, and our families nearer in a hug — for the shame of the grotesque images and language screaming across our screens.

Trump and his White Nationalist followers are very noisy — like a rabid animal scratching to get free. They’re isolated in their minority, and their desperate behavior only proves their fear of the inevitable.

We will win.

As women of color rise to close the mouth of nonsense and to remove the stick in the hand of racism, homophobia, and the like — all women must come together to take their lead. Women of color are under attack because they are on the frontlines of change. These are communities fighting for survival. These advocates are struggling to provide for and protect their families. These are human beings fleeing terror and seeking safe refuge.

We must defend them as we would ourselves. We are cut from the same cloth. We are all immigrants.

The good news is, I believe there is unity amongst us. Our majority is strong.

Recently and en masse, we seemed to have been called together for a disinfecting ray of sunlight. Another group of women had something to prove.

The world gravitated our collective eyes, hearts, and thumbs towards the confident, healthy, fun, and charming faces of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team. In their name, we produced and shared memes, personalized messages of times past — growing up playing sports and the impact that had on our lives. It felt, even as co-captain Megan Rapinoe was battling Trump with stinging barbs, that for a bright moment all was right with the world.

We exploded with joy when they won their 4th FIFA World Cup Championship. Our U.S. Women’s team is genuinely the best, the stuff of legends. America and woman across the globe are proud. And many lifted how Title IX made this possible — which reminded me of all the women that led up to this grand moment in history.

Did you know that Patsy Mink of Hawaii was the first woman of color elected to Congress? And that Congresswoman Patsy Mink helped shepherd into law the Education Amendments Act of 1972. And that Title IX is a provision in response to feminists’ push to close a loophole in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that allowed federally funded schools, colleges, and universities to discriminate by sex. And that Title IX was intended to prohibit this kind of discrimination, and it applied to all educational programs and all aspects of a school’s operation, including sports.

Women are winners when given equal opportunity.

Congresswoman Mink and other visionary feminist movement leaders had profound impacts on how society views girls and women. There are now five times as many women on college varsity teams as there were in 1972. And there are currently 47 women of color in Congress — out of 127 women total. 23% of the total elected body because Congress is still mostly White Men.

We’re still working for fair representation in terms of gender and race. The fight for equality is a hotly contested battle, one after another.

What the success story of women’s sports under Title IX shows us is how leaders can work with groups of people to identify shared goals. Title IX is an example of how we can come together and unite around critical policy interventions. And I believe that baton is being passed to these young, fierce leaders you see taking on the fight today.

Sadly, we know that there are dark forces against the idea of opportunity for all.

So-called “conservatives” tried to reverse Title IX. On March 22, 1988, Congress had to override Ronald Reagan’s civil rights veto. In his veto message, the President said Congress “has sent me a bill that would vastly and unjustifiably expand the power of the federal government over the decisions and affairs of private organizations, such as churches and synagogues, farms, businesses, and state and local governments,” adding, “In the process, it would place at risk such cherished values as religious liberty.” House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas) had told the President that such a move would be “ill-advised.” After Reagan issued his veto, Wright said the president “may want to turn the clock back on civil rights, but the American people do not.”

Imagine, we would not have our U.S. Women’s Soccer Champions if we didn’t fight for what we believed in back then. But we did fight, and we won big time with Title IX. We won the opportunity to impact in profound ways future hearts and minds with images of what it means to play and win like a girl.

Yes, the needle of progress is flickering because right-wing winds are blowing hard — still. Our judicial system is being shaken but remains intact. Our Government is in disarray, and 2020 is around the corner.

We shall nevertheless persist and push our country forward because that is what we do.

So, when I saw FIFA’s Women’s World Cup promotional campaign “Dare to Shine,” I came to believe they got it all wrong. We are the shine. We demand that you to join us because income inequality in the United States is the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Act.

As for Trump, we know that our ports of entry were always meant to help those in need, just as the gates opened for our ancestors. Our county is back on the path to winning when we reorient ourselves to this truth. Seeking asylum is not only legal; it is what makes America the county we are today.

We’re on the right side of history when we stand with Black and Brown women, feminists, LGBTQ+ activists, and other powerful coalitions. We’re stronger when we stand as one, as our impressive freshman Congresswomen did today. And we’re a better country when we implement a smart policy like Title IX for all our kids.

It’s time we pay closer attention to the progressive policy proposals women are putting in front of us.

Read more from Katie on Medium.

Follow Katie @Bombaycowgirl

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