Making Sense Of The Issues And Ideologies That Shape Politics In The United States

Monday, April 16, 2012

Undoing 150 Years Of Civil Rights Gains

Did you know that over a week ago, Wisconsin rescinded their Equal Pay law? Neither did I (until this morning). Not only are women no longer allowed to sue for pay discrimination, they are not even allowed to find out how much they are paid in comparison to their male counterparts. I guess the latest sensational details on George Zimmerman's character flaws are more important.


For 150 years, since women first began to hold conferences to organize and fight for the right to vote, they have clawed their way in the direction of equality. A determined faction of the Republican party is now methodically seeking to reverse many of those gains. They have been most visible in Virginia and Wisconsin, but the sentiment in nationwide. A significant portion of our conservative male leadership (often backed by their doting wives) is intent on putting women "back in their place."


Did you know that back in January, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich advocated for replacing professional janitors with school children? Not only does this idea throw thousands of working class people into unemployment, it drags us back to the 1800's and the shameful practice of child labor. During that time, children as young as four were required to work oppressively long hours in life-threatening conditions. Their enslavement helped fill the coffers of that era's infamous "robber barons."


Today, the Republican party might not be pushing for a return to those practices, but they do want to loosen federal guidelines that protect children and the rights of workers in general. For example, teachers' unions have come under fire in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states as conservatives seek to strip some of our most important and hard-working citizens of their basic rights to organize. Is it a coincidence that teaching as a profession is still predominantly female?


Did you know that Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky and Tea Party darling, believes that businesses should have the right to refuse service based on race? He claims that no business would do such a thing, because it would not want to lose those customers. Apparently, Rand needs to ask his father (another Republican presidential candidate) what life was like in the South before the Civil Rights movement.


Today, many in the Tea Party and the Republican Party in general (though not all, to be fair) are trying to roll back the gains we've made in racial equality. From Rand Paul's historical amnesia to the neighborhood school movement to racist email chains about the president - there is a subtle but vicious campaign to reutrn our society to the way it was in 1955 (or for some folks - to 1855).


We know how ridiculous and unjust this reactionary movement is. We know that we need to fight to retain the gains in civil rights that have been earned for women, children, workers, and minorities.


My question is this: Why is our president not speaking out more to fight to preserve what is right? If he did, his re-election would be a shoo-in.

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