To Celebrate Women’s Equality Day, Keep Fighting for Voting Rights

No matter what anyone thinks about the politics or policies of Hillary Clinton, no one can deny that the progress the country has made—in the form of more women elected to high office and more women behind the electoral scene—is rooted in the expansion of access to the vote.

But Women’s Equality Day is a good time to remind ourselves that the right to vote has always been contested in this country. This is just as true in 2016 as it was a century ago.

Sorry, grown-ups. Young people can’t solve America’s race challenges alone

When it comes to moving past America’s troubling history—written in words and blood—and its struggle to achieve goals of racial equality, young people have the answers, adults have rationalized. The next generations will be better, more accepting of a diverse society because they are already living it, right? Well, no.

Dylann Roof, the young man who has confessed to conflicting carnage and trauma in a Charleston, S.C., church, was just 21. The barely legal man, who joined a prayer meeting for nearly an hour before methodically executing the young and the old, is a skinny kid with a goofy bowl haircut whose body looked lost in baggy prison clothes. Being part of a generation that attended integrated schools— including the high school he attended—and Facebook-friending a rainbow nation did not make him desire a multiracial utopia. Just the opposite, in fact.

Harriet Tubman on the $20: Token Gesture, or a Good Start?

When she served as a Union spy during the Civil War or returned time after time to lead enslaved people to freedom over trails she herself had blazed, Harriet Tubman operated in stealth. Today she is the center of attention and debate. That’s what happens when an African American icon is chosen to replace a president on the $20 bill in a country that is still struggling to resolve issues of race, gender, and privilege.

Remembering Freedom Summer

It was a summer that saw a national spotlight turned on injustice, as more than 1,000 out-of-state volunteers joined activists who had been doing the work on the ground in Mississippi with a goal of teaching and registering voters. Just 50 years ago, for a black citizen in many Southern states, going to the local county courthouse to register to exercise the fundamental right to vote meant risking your job, everything you owned, and your life. Many took that risk and paid the price.

Activist Angela Davis Reaches a New Generation

In film and onstage, from the perspective of more than 50 years of activism, Angela Davis offers lessons from an organizer.

The Case for Empathy—Open Hearts May Open Minds

In the past, Rob Portman has supported the federal Defense of Marriage Act, favored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and backed legislation prohibiting gay couples in Washington, D.C., from adopting. Now, the conservative Republican senator from Ohio has changed his mind. “I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married,” he wrote in the Columbus Dispatch. Discovering his son Will is gay “led me to think through my position in a much deeper way,” he said.

I would never question the sincerity of Portman’s change of heart or the thoughtfulness that made him reverse his personal and political opinions. But I would ask why it took the concerns of someone in his immediate family to move him.

Empathy for others is not, it seems, a valued quality, especially that which might cross differences in gender or race, economic status or geography—or sexual identity. Portman’s public change of heart makes me wonder where those seeking public office draw the line – at the border of their districts, their blocks, their front doors?

And the inability to appreciate the life experience of others unfortunately seeps into other parts of our culture,

Myrlie Evers-Williams — Making Her Own History

In the glow of Inauguration Day spectacle, anyone reading reports might think the news flash of the day – after the second inauguration of America’s first African American president, of course – was Beyonce’s lip-synch-gate. Did the beautiful performer have some help in her rendition of the national anthem? And, by the way, did you notice First Lady Michelle Obama’s bangs?

It did surprise me that more was not made of another figure sharing the stage and holding her own with the president, someone’s whose history is also entwined in the red, white and blue flags fluttering throughout the crowd on the mall on that clear Washington day. You could say that without the efforts of a Myrlie Evers-Williams and all she represents, a President Barack Obama would not have been possible in 2008 and beyond.

On Susan Rice and How a Non-candidate Is Treated

There the posse of senators stood, facing a bank of microphones and television cameras before the full story was known, criticizing an Obama administration official. That official’s offense? Making statements in front of the cameras and on television before the full story was known. It is the enduring image of the drama—or would it be farce—called “when Susan Rice met Washington’s political buzz saw.”

What was striking in the seemingly endless coverage was how little actual information was revealed about Susan Rice or the tragic attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, when U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack first thought to be a protest over an anti-Muhammad video. Was the crucial issue ever a supposed attempt by Rice to mislead, as her critics contend? Or did posturing in partisan Washington, always a part of the show, get in the way of the truth, and did the media do enough to cut through the clutter?