Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Women's Suffrage

Recently, Patty and I toured the Minnesota History Center’s exhibit on World War I.  It was very moving and very well done.  The exhibit not only chronicled the events leading to war and the battles fought and the soldiers who fought them (especially those with a Minnesota connection), but it also focused on events in the home front during the conflict.  These included the discrimination in and out of the service of African American soldiers, and the fight, on the home front, for women’s right to vote.

I have written previously of the crackdown on dissent, under the guise of national security, during the Great War.[1]  This crackdown on constitutional rights extended to suppression of women who sought to secure suffrage (the right to vote) during the war.

Ten Suffragists Arrested While Picketing at the White House
August 28, 1917

Women started parading in front of the White House for "woman suffrage," women's right to vote, during January 1917. On August 28 of that year, 10 suffragists were arrested. The women wanted President Woodrow Wilson to support the proposed Anthony amendment to the Constitution, which would guarantee women the right to vote. They started off standing silently, holding picket signs reading, "Mr. President, what will you do for Woman Suffrage?" and "How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?" Riding through the White House gates, his wife by his side, President Wilson customarily tipped his hat to the protestors.

Between June and November 1917, 218 protestors from 26 states were arrested and charged with "obstructing sidewalk traffic" outside the White House gates. During that time, messages on the picket signs became more demanding. …

The leader of the National Woman's Party, Alice Paul, staged a hunger strike in jail after her arrest. Prison doctors [force-fed] her and others. With all the pressure from publicity generated by the White House pickets, the arrests and forced-feedings of women protestors, President Wilson finally lent his support to the suffrage amendment in January 1918. Congress approved it, and on August 18, 1920, with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, women achieved the right to vote. That date is now commemorated as Women's Equality Day.[2]

It is hard to believe that women were so blatantly discriminated against in the 20th Century.  Women still are, though they have the right to vote and many other rights guaranteed by statute and law. 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month.  While it is certainly true that men can be victims of domestic violence, it is indisputable that the vast majority of domestic violence victims are women.  This is the most obvious example of gender discrimination and I will have more to say on that later this month. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Air Force Academy Dean on Racism

Recently, there was an incident at the United States Air Force Academy Prep School.  A minority student had racist remarks scrawled on a message board.  The Commandant of the Academy, Dean Jay Siveria, gave a no-holds-barred response which was quite forceful and to the point.  Excerpts from the speech are here.  You can read the full speech here.

Ladies and gentlemen, you may have heard that some people down in the prep school wrote some racial slurs on some message boards. If you haven’t heard that, I wanted you to hear it from me. If you’re outraged by those words then you’re in the right place. That kind of behavior has no place at the prep school, it has no place at USAFA, and it has no place in the US Air Force.

You should be outraged, not only as an airman, but as a human being. And I’ll tell you, that the appropriate response for horrible language and horrible ideas, the appropriate response is a better idea. So that’s why I’m here. ...

That’s why they’re here. That’s why we’re all here, because we have a better idea. Some of you may think that that happened down in the prep school and doesn’t apply to us. I would be naive and we would all be naive to think that everything is perfect here. We would be naive to think that we shouldn’t discuss this topic. We would also be tone-deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country. Things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protests in the NFL, that’s why we have a better idea. One of those ideas, the Dean brought people together to discuss Charlottesville because what we should have is a civil discourse and talk about these issues, that’s a better idea.

… I … have a better idea and it’s about our diversity, and it’s the power of the diversity, the power of the 4,000 of you and all of the people that are on the staff tower and lining the glass, the power of us as a diverse group, the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, we come from all backgrounds, gender, all makeup, all upbringing. The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. that’s a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas. We have an opportunity here, 5,500 people in this room, to think about what we are as an institution. This is our institution and no one can take away our values. No one can write on a board and question our values. No one can take that away from us.

So just in case you’re unclear on where I stand on this topic, I’m going to leave you with my most important thought today: If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t teach someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race or a different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out.

Reach for your phones. I’m serious, reach for your phones... I want you to videotape this so that you can have it, so that you can use it, so that we all have the moral courage together, all of us on the staff tower lining the glass, all of us in this room. This is our institution, and if you need it, and you need my words, then you keep these words. And you use them and you remember them and you share them and you talk about them. If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

50th Class Reunion

Last weekend, I attended the 50th anniversary class reunion of the Arlington-Green Isle High School class of 1967.  Where has the time gone?!?!!

This got me thinking about tolerance 50 years ago.

Race riots were tearing cities apart in Detroit, Newark and other major cities.   

Homosexual acts between consenting adults was a crime. 

On a more progressive note, the first African American was elected mayor of Cleveland, and Thurgood Marshall was appointed the first African American member of the United States. Supreme Court. 

At the Boston Marathon in 1967, the first female runner, Kathy Switzer, ran the race without having been accepted.  In fact, Marathon official attempted to pull her out of the race.  Her boyfriend and other (male) runners protected her so she could finish the race. 

In 1967, Executive Order 11375 expands President Lyndon Johnson's affirmative action policy of 1965 to cover discrimination based on gender. As a result, federal agencies and contractors must take active measures to ensure that women as well as minorities enjoy the same educational and employment opportunities as white males.

I have a more personal story I recall from high school.  I played the bass drum in the high school marching band.  Our school, along with many others from across Minnesota, was invited to attend a Minnesota Golden Gopher football game and perform along with the University marching band at half time.

On one occasion, it was a rainy morning, so instead of rehearsing in the old Memorial Stadium, we went to Williams Arena for rehearsal.  After the rehearsal, the University Director gave a little speech, in which he said he hoped each one of the high schoolers present would consider attending the University of Minnesota after graduation, and would try out for the Golden Gopher marching band.

At which time, members of the current marching band yelled out that we were not all eligible to become members of the Golden Gopher marching band.  How could they tell that, being on the basketball court and we in the stands?  They didn’t know anything particular about any of us……

Except that there were young women in the high school bands, and women were not eligible to belong to the University’s marching band.

Oh, my, how times have changed!  In the (sexist) words of that old cigarette commercial, “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!”