The Evolution of Equal Rights: Looking Back and Moving Forward

First, no need to get your knickers in a knot – this isn’t going to be a political post. Everyone has the right to vote for whomever they choose – and THAT is the point of this blog post. It’s about choice and having rights. More specifically, it’s about EQUAL rights.

Let’s start there.

It’s been quite an eventful week kicking off with the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King. He was assassinated in 1968 and it took nearly 20 years until the third Monday of January came to be recognized by most – but not all – states as a statutory holiday. It took some of the slow-poke states nearly two decades more until the day was recognized as a holiday nationwide in 2000.

The Right to Choose: Celebrating Equal Rights in America

Next, let’s roll things back – back to the 1950s and 1960s where the rights of Blacks / African Americans to vote become one of the cornerstones of the Civil Rights Movement. It wasn’t until 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. By 2012, turnout by Black voters (66.6% based on those who were registered) exceeded turnout by White voters for the first – and only – time in history. 

Now, let’s roll things back even further: think Flappers, fringes and feathers. On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. For the first time in American history, women would no longer be denied the right to vote based on their gender. Other countries, such as the UK and Canada, were slightly ahead of the US by legalizing women voters a couple of years earlier, in 1918. 

The right to vote wasn’t the only thing up for grabs. For decades, women rallied to be treated equally to men. It wasn’t until 1974 that married women could finally open their own bank accounts or get a credit card without their husband’s signature. If you think that’s wild, try this — single women weren’t allowed to get any financing at all!

Okay, let’s return to present day.

Women, people of color, LGBTQ and non-binary gender people are finally approaching equal rights. Not equal treatment, mind you, but legal rights governing financing, marriage and so on. Of course, tremendous disparities remain on everything from equitable access to education and healthcare to the pay gap where women today still earn less than men. The pay gap is $0.81 for women compared to $1 that men earn. Obviously, despite the gains made with diversity and inclusion, there’s room for improvement on many fronts when it comes to equality. 

Regardless of who you voted for or if you chose to not vote at all, you made a choice. Maybe your candidate won or didn’t win, but that’s neither here nor there. Yesterdays’ inauguration brought it all together, forever shifting norms and putting equality on the global stage. To achieve unity and peace, there needs to be respect and equality as the foundation to achieve it. 

Breaking Barriers: Kamala Harris and the Power of Representation

The racial inequities dividing the USA today have been in the spotlight for decades, but especially so over the past year. And then Kamala Harris, Madame Vice President, a woman of color, stood on the steps of the Capitol to be sworn in. Beside her, a blended family of stepchildren and a spouse, some White, some Asian, some Black – and none of that mattered.

Then, Amanda Gorman, an American activist and poet, aged only 23, recited a poem that captured the hearts of people around the globe. It gave me goosebumps as I listened in awe at the powerful messages she shared.

Her recital and the words she selected will be memorable and applicable for generations to come:

“We are striving to forge a union with purpose

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.”

Lead photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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