It’s no secret that America has a problem with inequality. Whether it is race, gender or socio-economic background, just a quick scan of some of the biggest news stories over the past couple of years in this country show what are are up against today.
Women are fighting legislators all over the country to have access to certain types of healthcare. Black men make up the majority of prison inmates in America today, and have been the victims of police brutality and shootings despite being unarmed.
Low-income families and single-parents families are crying out for wage increases and lower taxes in order to be able to stay above the poverty line.
The news stories are enough to make you lose heart, lose hope and just give up the fight. But when we do that, we give up on the people who need our help the most. Change is possible and it can happen, we just need to know the most effective ways to bring it about.
Sure, we need cultural change and an about-face with some of our attitudes when it comes to issues facing the aforementioned groups, but it is also going to take key decision-makers in our country to stand up and use their power to benefit the people.
YWCA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron spoke to Forbes Women about her ideas that could bring about the end of racial and gender inequality.
She first outlines 5 major obstacles that stand in the way of equality: economic instability, racial inequality, violence against women and girls, lack of access to healthcare for women and their families, and the United States’ lack of commitment to empowering women and girls on the global stage.
Dara is a big supporter of certain types of legislation that she believes would tackle the above problems.
“To advance economic stability, there should be a strong work and family agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, fair scheduling practices,and paid sick days. Racial inequality can be addressed by supporting the End Racial Profiling Act and highlighting the unique needs and experiences of women of color as targets of racial profiling. Domestic violence related homicides can be reduced through the enforcement of legislation designed to remove firearms from the hands of domestic violence perpetrators. Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act is necessary to ensure access to healthcare for millions of women and families. And the United States must ratify the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), illustrating to the world and the American people our nation’s commitment to women’s equality.”
To date, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world which has no form of government-mandated parental leave. This affects the decision women make about families and careers, and also how employers view women as employees vs men, given that they possibly have to choose between family and career.
Dara believes Congress must act upon what they see and hear going on in communities in order to bring about legislation that is the most effective and needed.
“Now more than ever, Congress has the opportunity to make a strong legislative commitment to women and communities of color.”
She said the best way to measure whether equality is happening is by looking at the changing numbers in certain sections of society.
“We can look at economic advancement in terms of reducing the racial and gender wage gap, ensuring fair workplace practices and decreasing levels of poverty, especially among single mothers. We can see progress when incidences of violence against women and targeting of communities of color decline. Finally, we can measure success when we see an end to healthcare disparity.”
Violence against women is a big issue that the YWCA are focused on combating. It may send a whole section of society up in arms (no pun intended) when she mentioned tighter gun control, but she explained her reasoning pretty darn well with this point:
“ Violence against women manifests itself differently in every community or culture. Here in the United States, firearms are the most lethal weapons perpetrators use, resulting in the deaths of 48 women at the hands of their intimate partner each month. The accessibility of guns in the United States makes firearms a weapon of choice for perpetrators. Around the globe, there are other types of weapons used to perpetrate violence against women. For example, in Pakistan and India, acid attacks are more common because the substance has little to no regulation and is therefore widely accessible.”
She also says that the underlying problem to disproportionate violence against women and girls is a misogynistic and patriarchal mindset that still exists. Addressing this issue is the first step to getting anywhere with domestic violence.
“According to a recent United Nations report, 35 percent of women say they have experienced violence, 1 in 10 girls under 18 have been sexually assaulted, and 38 percent of women who are killed are murdered by their intimate partners. These statistics are indicative of a global epidemic of violence against women from which the U.S. is not exempt.”
The YWCA’s signature initiative in 2015 is Stand Against Racism which is designed to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism.
They want to see the end of racial profiling, or allowances in certain laws that don’t explicitly ban this practice, by working with policymakers to “support passage of the End Racial Profiling Act in an effort to correct patterns of systemic racial bias in policing and its negative and often lethal impact on various communities of color.”
“We believe that all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or gender should be ensured justice and protected equally under the law.”
According to research by the YWCA, black women are more likely to be targeted for searches, frisks and arrests. Women who are sex workers, undocumented immigrants, or those with limited English proficiency, are more likely to be targets of sexual misconduct by police.
This is key legislation that doesn’t just affect one small section of society, but everyone. These are the types of important, progressive and protective laws that should be unanimously voted in so that we don’t have to keep addressing problems that should’ve been gone in the 1950s and 60s.
It’s super important to have organizations like the YWCA raising awareness for this issues, but we also hope that it will not fall on deaf ears. As we move toward another Presidential election in 2016, we as a media website want to do our part in standing with the men and women who are working to see a better future for America by ensuring a more equal society for everyone.