Welcome to a new feature at UpRoot. Every Monday, we’ll be writing about a way that you can help create the world we all want to live in. Dismantling the patriarchy is a good goal, for sure, but sometimes an overwhelming one. But there are lots of small ways we can work to change our culture on a daily basis, and it makes sense to do them. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for, after all.
Yesterday was Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Ostensibly.
The 19th Amendment didn’t do much to enfranchise women of color, specifically black women, however. This was the era of Jim Crow, when poll taxes, identification requirements and other voter suppression tactics were used to severely limit voting access to former slaves. White men actually led the anti-women’s suffrage movement in the American Southeast specifically because they were opposed to the idea of black women voting. Opposition, no doubt, borne of fear. Imagine if all those women they had been raping, beating and dominating suddenly had the right to vote? Scary, indeed.
Black women weren’t assured the right to vote until Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but the struggle isn’t over. Many, many states are currently enacting voter suppression laws that require identification at the polls, or proof of citizenship, or other methods to restrict the voting rights of many eligible voters, particularly people of color.
The very least you can do to help increase access to the polls for people of color and other folks impacted by voter suppression laws is to sign this ACLU petition to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking him to investigate voter ID laws in 31 states. You can volunteer to do voter registration drives. You can contact your legislators, and make sure they know what the Voting Rights Act of 1965 really means.
Voting matters, and the right to vote matters. Speak up, and dismantle the patriarchy.