The Issue of Busing in the Democratic Debates

I don’t know about you, but I have been confused about Kamala Harris’s accusation on the debate stage during the first Democratic debate in June that Joe Biden did not support busing during the 1970s and 1980s. I heard Harris accused in the media after the debate of distorting the facts to bolster her political campaign. I also heard Biden deny repeatedly that he had been cozy with Southern segregationists and had not supported busing. He proclaimed over and over again that he had supported civil rights during that period. But something didn’t seem to add up. I am always suspicious about attempts to discredit powerful women. I wondered if Harris was getting the “how dare a woman show ambition and strength” treatment. And, of course, I wondered how race was playing into this whole dynamic. How could it not? As a black woman, was Harris experiencing a double whammy of backlash based on both race and gender?

For all these reasons, I found it very helpful and clarifying to read an article by Nikole Hannah-Jones in the New York Times. Hannah-Jones explains that Harris was right and provides helpful history and perspective. For example, Hannah-Jones identifies and explores the following race-neutral myths that have become the story we tell to allow people to pretend that the opposition to school desegregation was about riding a bus. Here are some of these myths:

  • The Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education failed to desegregate schools.
  • Busing was a failed strategy.
  • Busing caused “white flight” in cities.
  • White opposition to busing was not about race but maintaining neighborhood schools.
  • Northern whites thought Brown v. Board of Education applied to only Southern states.

Here are the facts about what really happened, according to Hannah-Jones:

  • Busing became a race-neutral code word for court-ordered school desegregation. School busing has been around since 1920, but only when it became a tool for integration did it become reviled. White communities blamed the act of busing for their resistance to integration, which allowed them to deny the role of racism in their protests.
  • Biden worked with Southern senators to pass a bill to ban busing for integration as part of the systematic anti-integration campaign known as Massive Resistance, waged by the white South against the Supreme Court decision.
  • The federal government got involved in enforcement only when local and state governments openly rebelled against the Supreme Court and refused to take any steps toward desegregation.
  • Busing became a vehicle of integration because, due to residential policies resulting in segregation, black and white people did not live in the same neighborhoods.
  • Biden did originally support busing for integration in 1972 but then flipped his position in 1975 and teamed up with ardent segregationists.
  • Politicians and the media blamed white flight from cities on busing, but studies show that cities with large black populations suffered from white flight whether they instituted busing or not.
  • When Northern states realized that Brown v. Board of Education also applied to them, support for Brown’s integration mandate plummeted.

The truth about integration is not the story we usually hear:

  • Busing as a tool of desegregation was very successful in the South. The South went from the most segregated region of the country for black children to the most integrated—which is still true today.
  • School desegregation significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children.
  • Research by Rucker C. Johnson of the University of California, Berkeley, found black children in integrated schools were more likely to graduate from high school, get out of poverty, earn more as adults, not go to jail, and actually live longer.
  • Data from the Education Department shows that still today, the whiter the school, the more resources it has.

In conclusion, busing did not fail and Harris was right. We need to clear away the myths and propaganda we have been fed to see the truth so that we can see the candidates clearly.

 

Photo courtesy of Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (CC BY 2.0)

Women and the Age Dilemma: When Are We Too Old or Too Young to Be Promoted?

Media coverage and public reaction to the slate of Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election offer a window into a core double bind for women—gendered perceptions of age that women face as they compete for advancement. A double bind is a term describing a situation where a person is caught between two irreconcilable demands or expectations. Jill Filipovic of the New York Times describes the age-based double bind for women represented by the excitement generated by the younger men running for president. She notes that in the world of work, research shows that women are promoted once managers see them perform well, while men are promoted if managers believe in their potential or promise. In other words, women have to prove themselves and men don’t. Filipovic observes that these same beliefs and practices are being played out now in politics.

The age range of the 2020 Democratic candidates is quite large: from 37 to 78 years of age. Filipovic notes that being between 37 and 46 years old and relatively unknown seems to be an advantage for the Democratic men who are generating excitement for being fresh faces and young, but for the women, “unfamiliarity and youth end up being tied to incompetence.” As in the workplace, the young men in the race are generating excitement without having accomplished nearly as much as the older women in the race:

  • Pete Buttigieg, at 37, is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana; Beto O’Rourke, 46, is the Texas congressman who lost a Senate race to Ted Cruz; Andrew Yang, 44, is a corporate lawyer turned entrepreneur; and Tim Ryan, 45, is known as the congressman who challenged Nancy Pelosi for the speaker role.
  • In contrast, the women in the race, who are in their 50s and 60s, had to prove themselves first. They entered politics later in life after spending years building up accomplishments and legislative and executive experience and recognition to be considered credible. But they are no longer considered “fresh” or exciting by the public or media.

In fact, Filipovic points out, age poses an unsolvable problem for women. She notes that “they are seen as too young and inexperienced right up until the time they are branded too old and tedious,” as is the case for Elizabeth Warren. In her late 60s, she is portrayed in the media as old, along with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, although she is ten years younger than they are. Men running for president in 2020 who are more or less the same age as Warren—Sherrod Brown (66), John Hickenlooper (67), and Jay Inslee (68)—are not lumped in with the white-haired candidates.

Filipovic notes that women in their 40s are seen as in a hurry, too ambitious and unwilling to pay their dues; women in their 50s are seen as old news; and women in their 60s are seen as old. She asks, “When, exactly, is a woman supposed to go to the White House?” That is the question that we must keep asking.

 

Photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash

The Pregnant Prime Minister and Other Working Moms

Many young women feel they must choose between pursuing a career and having children. While support is (slowly) growing for paid family leave and employer-supported day care, only a few role models exist of women in senior leadership roles who are also new mothers. Some recent examples provide inspiration for both women and men. Charlotte Graham-McLay of the New York Times reports that Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand recently became only the second world leader to give birth while in office (Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan was the first in 1990). While Prime Minister Arden acknowledged that she is privileged to have a partner who will be a stay-at-home parent, she also speaks openly about how her dual responsibilities as a leader and a parent still require a balancing act. “And there is guilt behind every door,” she explains. Her hope is that one day women will be able to feel satisfied with making choices and doing the best they can in both the workplace and the family without guilt. Prime Minister Arden notes that seeing women who are both leaders and new parents is still unusual, but she predicts that one day this situation will become normal. In fact, in the New Zealand Parliament, at least five lawmakers returned to work after the most recent elections as parents of babies under a year old. In the United States, Senator Tammy Duckworth became the first senator to deliver a baby while in office in April 2018, forcing changes in senate rules that previously did not allow children in the senate chamber. Another example of a new mother forging pathways is Rebecca Slaughter, a newly appointed Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioner—one of the nation’s top business regulators in Washington, DC. Cecilia Kang of the New York Times reports that Slaughter, who gave birth to her third child on the day of her nomination to the FTC, brings her nursing baby to work. Slaughter shares that while she is tired, she cares deeply about her career and her family and it feels worth it to navigate the two. None of the senior leaders in these examples say that having a new baby and a career is easy, but they stress that certain adaptations can help, like cutting back on business travel and evening networking events. Kang reports that the male colleagues of Slaughter say that her decision to continue working with the baby helps all working parents. What has worked for you?   Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash]]>

How Women Are Changing Mainstream Politics

Women are running for office in record numbers since the 2016 election. Michael Tackett of the New York Times writes that Clinton’s loss triggered not only a surge of female candidates but also a surge of young women managing campaigns and “reshap[ing] a profession long dominated by men.” Many women running for office want female campaign managers who will shape winning messages and plan bold platforms and strategies. Tackett reports that this year, 40 percent of campaign managers for Democratic congressional candidates are women—a dramatic increase from the negligible numbers counted in a 2010 study conducted by Rutger’s University Center for American Women and Politics. Many of the campaign messages produced so far this year by both Republican and Democratic women are changing the rules of politics. Stephanie Ebbert of the Boston Globe notes that “running like a man often doesn’t work” for women. Women candidates are throwing caution to the wind and, according to Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, are “running very boldly.” For example:

  • One Republican congresswoman running for the Senate told her party in a campaign ad to “grow a pair of ovaries.”
  • Two Democratic candidates for governor have created ads to pitch their candidacies while breast-feeding on camera.
  • A Democratic woman asked in her campaign ad, “Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting?”
  • The Vote Me Too PAC is running ads that say, “51 percent of our population has vaginas. 81 percent of members of Congress don’t have vaginas. [This] leads to a culture where sexual discrimination and sexual violence are tolerated.”
Ebbert quotes Kelley Ditmas, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University, who says that women are touting “their gender as a value-added, as a credential, as one among many merits that they bring to office-holding.” Susan Chira of the New York Times writes that women running for office are using motherhood not just as a credential but also as a weapon in some of the following ways:
  • They tell their own wrenching stories of sick children and their fears for them as they watch their government attack healthcare.
  • They tout their experiences with motherhood helping them to hone the skill of multitasking, which will help them cut through the gridlock in Congress.
  • They tell stories of their fears of gun violence in their children’s neighborhoods and schools as they support gun control measures.
  • In one campaign ad where the candidate was breast-feeding on camera, she linked her work as a state legislator to a bill she helped pass to ban BPA from baby bottles.
As part of the record-breaking surge of women running for office, Julie Turkewitz of the New York Times notes that a historic number of Native American women are running for elective office. No Native American woman has ever served in the U.S. Congress. Four are running for Congress and many more are running for seats in state government. This surge is partly the result of liberal energy unleashed by the 2016 election, the #MeToo movement, and a broader move of Native Americans into mainstream politics in recent years. Turkewitz shares the story of Deb Haaland of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, a Native American woman running for office. Haaland argues that many of the issues affecting native communities, such as low wage jobs, violence against women, and access to safe and affordable healthcare, affect everyone. In several states, the Native American population is large enough to sway elections. Having more women in elected office can create great change as issues concerning women gain more support. These are exciting times to support women candidates. Let’s encourage everyone to vote in primaries and the November elections.   Photo courtesy of Chris Tse (CC BY-ND 2.0)]]>

Women Are Breaking Barriers

Women are breaking barriers and forging new pathways. Michael Tackett of the New York Times reports that because they are dismayed by the direction the country is going and energized by the Women’s March in 2017 after Trump’s inauguration, women are running for office in record numbers. Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List, the largest national organization devoted to electing female candidates, reports that more women than ever before have contacted Emily’s List about running for office. Schriock notes that about a thousand women contacted Emily’s List in the year before the 2016 election, but in the twelve months since the election, twenty-two thousand women have contacted the organization. Here’s what we know at this point:

  • 11 women flipped seats in the Virginia House of Delegates race in November 2017. Their numbers included the first Latinas, the first Asian American woman, and the first transgender candidate in Virginia.
  • 354 female candidates are running for the United States House of Representatives in 2018, which is four times the number of women who ran in 2016. Twice as many women are running for the United States Senate in 2018 compared to 2016.
  • While the majority of the female candidates are Democrats, Republican women are also running in larger numbers than ever before.
When asked why they are running, many female candidates report that damage to the social safety net, threats to the Affordable Care Act, attacks on reproductive rights, and the recent flood of sexual harassment allegations, some against Trump himself, have motivated them to seek election. Tackett notes that, after all, both Republican and Democratic women know how it feels to be harassed. Women are running for local offices as well. Rick Rojas of the New York Times writes about a town council race in Greenwich, Connecticut, where women have taken a sudden interest in running for council seats. This race, which has previously had more seats available than candidates to fill them, currently has 270 people, 110 of whom are first-time candidates and over half of whom are women, running for 230 seats. Some of the women running explain that they were motivated by the Women’s March, where they heard the message “If you want to make a change, start locally.” One candidate explained that she couldn’t “be a bystander anymore.” The record number of women running for the United States Congress in 2018 even includes some veterans. Michael Tackett writes in the New York Times that Elaine Luria, Amy McGrath and Mikie Sherrill, all graduates of the United States Naval Academy, are trying to do something that “no female Annapolis graduate has ever accomplished: to win seats in Congress.” Luria commanded an assault ship with a crew of four hundred in the Persian Gulf, McGrath was the first female Marine to fly an F-18 fighter jet in combat, and Sherrill was a Navy helicopter pilot. The three were motivated to run after Trump’s election. Tackett notes that military credentials have always propelled men to office. We will see how these well-credentialed military women do. In another first, Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois and a veteran of the Iraq War who lost both of her legs in combat, will become the first United States senator to give birth while serving in the Senate. Matt Stevens of the New York Times reports that Senator Duckworth will be one of only ten women who have given birth while serving in Congress. This will be the senator’s second child. Her staff report that Duckworth, as a working mother, brings an “important” and “underrepresented” perspective to Congress, where she has sponsored legislation to support working mothers. Change is in the air. What changes are you seeing in your local elections?   Image courtesy of JIRCAS Library (CC BY 2.0)]]>

Maxine Waters: A Strong Black Woman Who Is a Role Model for Us All

United States Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California has become a heroine to many of us, especially millennials, since she stood up for her principles and refused to attend President Trump’s inauguration or his first speech to Congress. Her willingness to speak honestly about her values and beliefs has won the respect of people in all age groups. As Sarah D. Wire reports for the Los Angeles Times, Waters explained that she doesn’t honor this president because of “his insulting comments about former presidential rivals Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton, the lewd ‘Access Hollywood’ video in which he bragged about grabbing women and his mocking imitation of a disabled reporter.” In addition, Lottie L. Joiner of Crisis Magazine reports that Waters is determined to do what she can to stop Trump’s agenda of undermining African American contributions to our democracy. According to Wire, Waters was born one of thirteen children raised by a single mother in St. Louis and began working at the age of thirteen. After high school, she moved with her family to California, began a career in public service as a teacher in the Head Start program, and earned a bachelor’s degree. She was elected to the California State Assembly in 1977, where she became a very effective legislator. In 1991, she was elected to Congress. Maxine Waters is my heroine because she has consistently fought for social and economic justice on the local, state, federal, and international levels. For example:

  • While serving in the California state legislature, she led a drive to force the state pension system to divest billions of dollars in shares of companies that did business in South Africa in order to help end the oppressive system of apartheid.
  • In her congressional district, she helped found organizations that promote black women and provide job training to young people.
  • She helped write the Dodd-Frank Act, which instituted broad oversight of the banking industry after the 2008 market collapse.
  • She helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Waters created legislation to put money back into minority communities devastated by the crash of the housing market to produce housing for low-income people.
  • Waters worked hard to draft legislation that funded HIV/AIDS research among minority populations.
  • Currently Waters is working on closing the enormous wealth gap between blacks (and other minorities) and whites in the United States.
Waters provides inspiration to the rest of us, encouraging us to step forward and make a difference in our communities and in our country as volunteers, as activists, or by running for office. What steps are you taking to make a difference?   Photo courtesy of mark6mauno for a Creative Commons photo with the Share-Alike 2.0 license.]]>

Good News: Women Are Getting Involved in Politics

Here is a piece of good news for all of us: women’s involvement in politics is skyrocketing.  The ways to get involved are endless, including petitioning Congress, attending meetings and rallies for causes you support, holding elected officials accountable for their votes, registering voters, and running for office.  Running for office can include running for school board, town council, state legislature, governor, or US Congress.  Gail Collins of the New York Times writes that “groups that help prepare women to run for office are reporting an unprecedented number of website visits, training-school sign-ups and meeting attendance.” Why is it good news for all of us that women are preparing to run for office?  Studies show that women, as a group, are better at working with others.  Collins points out that female senators in Washington have regular bipartisan dinners, while I have observed that the men, even those in the same party, cannot work together or agree.  In the recent past, women senators were able to work together, across the aisle, to move stalled legislation forward. Brittany Bronson of the New York Times mentions the state of Nevada as a case study of the positive impact for everyone when women are well represented in legislative bodies. Bronson explains that with women making up 39.7 percent of Nevada’s lawmakers, the state ranks second only to Vermont in women’s representation in state politics. This translates to a focus on issues important to women that are usually ignored by male legislators, such as family-friendly policies in the workplace, the gender wage gap, and the “pink tax”—the extra amount women are charged for feminine hygiene products. The female legislators of Nevada have also sponsored legislation supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and eliminating copays for contraception. Collins notes that if more women get into office, “it’ll be about time.”  She explains:

  • Women hold under 25 percent of the seats in the nation’s state legislatures.
  • Women hold just under 20 percent of the seats in Congress.
  • There are only six women governors.
  • We have never had a woman president.
Encourage the women you know to run for office, or run for office yourself.  Support and vote for women, and get involved in any way you can.  The more women are engaged in politics, the better it will be for all of us.   Photo courtesy of businessforward. (CC BY 2.0)]]>

Respect for Women: Where Are Our Role Models?

When President Trump and Melania Trump visited France this July,  President Trump’s first action was to look First Lady of France Brigitte Macron up and down and pronounce her to be “fit.” Trump said to her, “You’re in such good shape.” He then turned to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and said, “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” Clearly uncomfortable, Brigitte Macron grabbed Melania’s arm and stepped back away from Trump. This incident was broadcast live around the world. What message does it send when the American President treats the First Lady of France like a sex object? This public example of sexist behavior—disrespectful treatment of women as sex objects—is what keeps the “bro culture” in place in the workplace and in society. Author Dan Lyons of the New York Times, writing about the cultures of many technology startup companies, explains that, “Bro cos. become corporate frat houses, where employees are chosen like pledges, based on ‘culture fit.’ Women get hired, but they rarely get promoted and sometimes complain of being harassed. Minorities and older workers are excluded.” Author Áine Cain of Business Insider agrees that “the resulting ‘bro culture’ tends to prioritize young men over all other employees, creating an environment that’s ripe for toxic behaviors like excessive partying and systemic harassment of colleagues.” Bro culture exists in all sectors and industries in the United States, though, not just in tech startups. In another article, Sam Polk of the New York Times  describes the bro culture in Wall Street firms that results in women being overlooked for a promotion, being ridiculed or ignored in meetings, and generally being treated disrespectfully. There is a close connection between all of Trump’s anti-woman actions:

  • His public displays of disrespect for women
  • His proud comments about sexually assaulting women in the Access Hollywood tape
  • His assault on women’s reproductive rights
  • His executive orders to strip women, especially poor women, of access to health care by attempting to defund Planned Parenthood and weaken Title X
Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times writes, “Mr. Trump doesn’t care about women’s health or rights.” I agree. I would add that he does not respect women. Period. As a role model to young men about how to treat women, he is a disaster. As a role model to all men about how to treat women, he is a disaster. We must all speak out, women and our male allies, to provide a different example and to challenge this one.   Photo courtesy of The White House. Public domain]]>

When Women and Men Work Together: The Costs and Benefits

Many women and men are still wary of working together when their work requires them to have one-on-one meetings or to travel together for business. New research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times  reveals that almost two-thirds of the 5,282 registered voters surveyed by the New York Times say, “People should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work.” Miller notes that these results also partially explain “why women still don’t have the same opportunities as men. . . . They [women] are treated differently.” Like many women, my work sometimes requires that I travel with male colleagues for my business. I currently have wonderful male colleagues with whom I have respectful and trusting relationships. I also have had those other experiences, so I understand the need for caution, especially for younger women. Early in my career in two different contexts, two senior male colleagues who had the power to offer me business opportunities used their power to demand sexual favors. Both were married, older men. They may not have thought of themselves as “demanding favors” and may have thought they were offering me a compliment by propositioning me—but they probably knew they were abusing their positions. Because of their power to cut off my much-needed income, their actions put me in a very difficult position. I did rebuff them both—and they both stopped hiring me. The financial impact was devastating for me. Women and men need to be able to work together, yet Miller describes real reasons to be wary:

  • Power differences do make it difficult for the lower-power individuals to protect themselves. Their vulnerability is real. This is true for both women and men. However, men do still hold a higher proportion of the high-power positions, so women are still more likely to be vulnerable.
  • The recent examples from Uber and Fox clearly show that sexual harassment is still being perpetrated and tolerated and ignored by the highest levels of leadership. This makes women and men more afraid to report unwanted and unwelcome advances.
  • The perception of inappropriate behavior in the workplace, whether or not it has actually been experienced that way, can ruin careers.
The discomfort women and men can experience working together can clearly result in negative impacts on women’s careers:
  • People tend to hire and promote people like themselves with whom they are most comfortable. Miller, in a previous article, described this phenomenon as “homophily.”
  • Women may not be invited to join a male boss on a business trip because of his fear of a perception of inappropriate behavior by the female employee or by others. Women may, then, lose opportunities for advancement and exposure to new business networks. This can be career limiting.
  • If women have difficulty getting one-on-one meetings with male bosses, they may not be able to demonstrate their readiness for promotions.
I wrote in a previous article about the “tax” women pay due to fear of sexual assault and sexual harassment. What can organizations do? Miller suggests keeping office doors open for one-on-one meetings, utilizing conference rooms with glass walls, and going for after-work drinks or dinner with multiple coworkers. Communication is key—companies can teach women and men how to have honest conversations about how to work together. Organizations should also have multiple, clear procedures and supports available for employees to use when they feel inappropriate behavior has happened. Often, perpetrators are unaware of the impact their behavior has had, and they need some low-key feedback and counseling to change their behavior. I wish it was not still necessary for women and men to exercise thoughtful caution when working with each other, but it is. We can manage this dynamic and have enjoyable and productive work relationships without penalizing women’s careers. What has worked for you?   Image courtesy of Highways England. CC by 2.0]]>

Why Women Are Good Lawmakers—and Why We Need More of Them

Do you know a woman who has recently decided to run for office? Suddenly, I know several. Brittany Bronson, writing for the New York Times, explains that the 2016 presidential election “was a wake-up call for American women, one that has inspired their increased grassroots activism and political involvement.” One of the main reasons that women have been so poorly represented in government in the past is that few women ran for office. That is changing, and the results will be good for all of us. The state of Nevada provides a case study of the positive impact for both women and men when women are well represented in state legislatures. Bronson explains that with women making up 39.7 percent of Nevada’s lawmakers, the state ranks second only to Vermont in women’s representation in state politics. The impact has been a focus on issues important to women that are usually ignored by male legislators, such as family-friendly policies in the workplace that benefit both women and men, the gender wage gap, and the “pink tax,” or the extra amount women are charged for feminine hygiene products. The female legislators of Nevada also have sponsored legislation supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and eliminating co-pays for contraception. How can men benefit from having more women colleagues in legislative roles? Bronson notes that studies have shown that while women may support a wide range of positions, “they are often more compassionate, better at working across the aisle, and more willing to compromise, qualities intricately bound in successful policy making.” Having more female lawmakers will help everyone get more done. Encourage the women you know to run for office—and vote for women candidates. As noted by Hillary Clinton in her recent postelection interview, we need women to get involved in making laws if gender discrimination in our society is ever going to be removed. Vote for women and help them get elected. Their engagement as lawmakers will be good for all of us.   Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats. CC by 2.0      ]]>