March 4, 2011
It’s true that women are no longer constitutionally inferior. And people of color are no longer property. But we’re far from living happily ever after.
In spite of widespread reform legislation over the last century, justice is yet to be served. Equality laws may be on the books. But the laws of the land are still distorted when it comes to women and minorities.
Want proof? Then look at education. While women are more likely to earn a high school diploma than men, their education often goes no farther. Only 25% of women 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, as opposed to 28.5% of men.
This disparity continues into the workplace. Women and men in the same position make incredibly different salaries. A woman earns 76¢ for every dollar her male counterpart makes. Only 5.5% of women make salaries above $75,000, as compared to 15.8% of men. The difference is even more appalling when it comes to women with only a high school diploma. On average, they earn $18,042. In contrast, even those males who never finished high school make $20,944.
In all, the average woman is shortchanged $420,000 in salary over her working life when compared to the average male. And that doesn’t include benefits like pensions.
So what are we supposed to tell our daughters?
Should we tell them that the workplace is unfair, but that they have advantages elsewhere? We can’t. Consider that one in four women will be involved in domestic violence. Or that one in five emergency room visits by women are caused by battering.
And when should we tell them that they face a one-in-three chance of living in poverty as a female? Or that they’re ten times more likely to have an eating disorder? Or that the odds of them becoming a CEO of a Fortune 1000 company are practically incalculable?
Now consider people of color – regardless of gender.
How are parents supposed to explain to their children why they’re being followed by security in a shopping center simply because of their skin color? Or why some people cross the street to avoid them? Or that only one in every three will meet basic requirements on national scholastic tests?
These are the realities of children of color. And it doesn’t get any better as they get older.
African Americans, for instance, make 66¢ for every dollar made by a white person. And 19% of them live without health care.
Hispanics are half as likely to make salaries over $35,000 than their white equivalents. They’re also three times more likely to live in poverty.
Then there’s profiling. African Americans are much more likely to be pulled over by police than whites. Once stopped, African American and Hispanic drivers are more than twice as likely to have their vehicles searched.
And let’s not forget about prison. People of color make up 64% of the penal population. They make up less than 25% of the general American population. Do the math.
In fact, do the math on any of these statistics. In some cases, it’s frustrating. In others, it’s downright frightening. Either way, it’s wrong. From birth, women and people of color still face obstacles in 2005 that were intended to die with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Obviously, we can’t legislate our way to equality. So what is the answer? Who can promote an agenda of not only tolerance and acceptance, but of advancement and equality? It all comes down to one person.