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By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt, PMP, CLTD
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Military University
For more than 60 days, the images from Portland, Oregon have shown demonstrators, tear gas and federal officers in an unending battle. While the Governor of Oregon has announced that an agreement was reached for federal officers to leave the city, the latest overnight reports prove the necessity of continuing to combat systemic racism.
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What’s impressive is a group of mothers called “Wall of Moms” who have joined the protest to show solidarity in the fight to address systemic racism in the United States. Their actions include literally inserting themselves between protestors and police to protect protesters. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Wall of Moms in an effort to legally protest against the federal agents’ response to the Portland demonstrations.
Was this lawsuit a politically savvy move or another means to add fuel to the protest fire? Regardless of your thoughts, it’s important to have a crucial conversation about the issue that led to this point in history: systemic racism.
The History of US Racism
Historically, racism has plagued the United States for over 400 years. The first African slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619 on British boats. According to Jagran New Media writer Afra Javaid, the slavery system was based on whites retaining legally or socially sanctioned privileges and rights while these same rights were denied to other races and minorities.
In January 1865, the U.S. Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This act abolished slavery in the country and freed four million slaves.
However, the news of freedom took up to two years to reach some slaves. According to The International Lawyer, Juneteenth commemorates that day, “which represents how freedom and justice in the United States has always been delayed for black people. The decades after the end of the war would see a wave of lynching, imprisonment, and Jim Crow laws take root.
What followed was systemic racism — the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies, and a lack of economic investment. And now, as national attention remain focused on acts of police violence and various racial profiling incidents, it is clear that while progress has been made in black America’s 150 years out of bondage, considerable barriers continue to impede that progress.”
While you cannot truly summarize 400+ years of unrest in one article, it is a verifiable fact that the injustices of slavery have been modernized to create a systemic system of racial inequity.
Women’s Contributions to the Civil Rights Movement
While there are a multitude of groups and organizations united to address systemic racism, it’s important to acknowledge how women have historically contributed to the civil rights movement. movement. For instance, Rosa Parks ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 when she was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white patron. For over a year, peaceful protests resulted in a Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregated busing.
While the recent passing of Congressman John Lewis has renewed interests of historically capturing the plight of the Big Six, Dorothy I. Height was instrumental in the civil rights movement. She served as President of the National Council of Negro Women for 40+ years and was key in organizing the March on Washington. In fact, she allowed Congressman John Lewis to speak in her place in 1963.
Similarly, a little-known fact about the Black Panther Party, founded in 1963, is that over half of its membership was women at the height of the civil rights movement to challenge racism against the African-American community.
According to the Library of Congress’ Civil Rights History Project, it is well documented — but not widely known — the significant contributions women have played in the civil rights movement. Mildred Bond Roxborough, a long-time secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), notes the importance of women leaders in local branches: “Well, actually when you think about women’s contributions to the NAACP, without the women we wouldn’t have an NAACP. The person who was responsible for generating the organizing meeting was a woman. Of course, ever since then we’ve had women in key roles —not in the majority, but in the very key roles which were responsible for the evolution of the NAACP.”
If you go to the Black Lives Matter website, you’ll see that the founders of the movement were three black female activists: Alicia Garza, Patrice Cullors and Opal Tometi. This organization also has the goal of eradicating and dismantling systemic racism.
Since 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement has expanded virally via social media and has over 40 chapters across the country. The BLM’s movement was sparked by the death of Trayvon Martin, and now his mother, Sybrina Fulton, has been actively campaigning for racial reform. She is now running for public office in Florida.
From a Wall of Moms to a Wall of Allies
Joe Biden, the Democratic presumptive nominee, stated he will select a woman to be his vice presidential running mate, and make the announcement in early August of 2020. The potential running mates on Biden’s shortlist have all contributed to advancing civil rights and eradicating systemic racism.
The reality is that systemic racism can only be addressed when everyone contributes to it — from first acknowledging the issue and then progressing to advocacy and action. What’s important is for history to properly document women’s contributions to addressing systemic racism and create not just a Wall of Moms, but a wall of allies to eradicate the injustices that have plagued the United States for over 400 years.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Military University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
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