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Respect is the pathway to equity



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Sen. Kamala Harriscampaigns during her then-presidential run Nov. 2, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Harris was named former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate on the Democratic ticket for president last week. Tribune News Service

Respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. 

The late Aretha Franklin taught us all about what this word means to her. Respect is the due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others. This includes the elementary concept of not speaking out of turn or over others when they are speaking — out of respect. 

The fight for receiving respect has been a battle fought long and hard by Black women in America. In the hierarchical structure that America has been built upon, Black women are the lowest on the totem pole. White men are at the top. With respect comes power. 

“Mr. vice president, I’m speaking. I’m speaking,” Senator Kamala Harris, D-CA, said as she was interrupted by Vice President Mike Pence during the 2020 vice presidential debate Wednesday.

Why is it that moderator Susan Page remained silent as Harris repeatedly came to her own defense throughout the debate as she was cut off by Pence during discussion? Respect. 

Harris’s simple yet powerful quote spoke volumes. She was condemned for being too sassy and “petty,” extremely common for perpetuating the “angry Black woman” stereotype. On the other hand, many viewers made comments on social media commending Harris for keeping her composure. 

Responsibility, empathy, sincerity, patience, equity, compassion and truthfulness. These are all key components of what respect reflects and how equity is distributed. 

The struggle for equity for Black women can be examined through the passing of the 19th Amendment on May 21, 1919. Despite the fact that the amendment “prohibits the states and federal governments from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex,” Black women were not alloted this right until the Voting Rights Act of 1965

This is a prime example of how Black women are undermined and completely disregarded. A law was passed outlawing gender descrimination, yet somehow Black women were still not afforded the right to vote.

The late civil rights activist Malcolm X said “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” 

These words were spoken more than 60 years ago, and yet sound like they were spoken yesterday. 

Uplifting Black stories, perspectives and art from IU and Bloomington. Reach out at blackvoices@idsnews.com.

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