This year’s centennials of the 19th Amendment and the League of Women Voters have been eye-opening for our members and supporters. Our past is not stellar regarding people of color. As early 20th-century suffrage activists sought to appease southern states, Black women were relegated to the background. Despite our mission regarding voting rights and civic engagement, the League was also not a major force during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Recent racially motivated incidents in Bloomington make these facts even more difficult to acknowledge.
However, acknowledgement of the past is the only way to change the present and future. The League is taking a thorough and sometimes painful look at our earlier inaction and what we are doing now. Others can do the same. Set aside the defensive “I am not racist," and listen to what people of color are saying. Learn from resources that spotlight their experiences and reveal systemic racism. Understand the effects of racial injustice and bias, not only on people of color but on the character of our nation.
The 400-year-old tide of racial bias may be showing signs of turning. Let’s make sure it does. Black lives matter.
Ann Birch, President of the League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County