There are moments when issues of social justice become a little clearer in our thinking. (Call it old-fashioned consciousness-raising). Last night, at the Oscars, two such moments occurred.
#1 – Patricia Arquette called full attention to the gender wage inequality issue.
#2 – John Legend and Common reminded us that the quest for racial injustice is long, and maybe it doesn’t always bend fully toward justice.
So, here are their words from last night, and a few confirmations of their words from books in recent years.
• On Issues of Wage Equality for Women —
Patricia Arquette, in her Oscar Acceptance Speech:
“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights,” shouted a fiery Arquette. “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!”
And plenty of books back her up. Just a couple: from Womenomics : Write Your Own Rules for Success by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay (2009):
Women “at the top” produce more profits and success in all economic categories. Women have more college degrees (undergraduate: 57% graduate – 58%).
Women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States in the early 1980s. 72 Despite these gains, the percentage of women at the top of corporate America has barely budged over the past decade.
A meager twenty-one of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold about 14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials. …even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats, and 5 percent of congressional seats.
• On issues of Racial Justice
In his acceptance speech, Common linked the civil rights movement to similar movements in France and Hong Kong. “The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to those in Hong Kong, protesting for democracy,” he said. “This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated with love for all human beings.”
John Legend got more explicitly political in his speech. “We say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” he said. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today then were under slavery in 1850.”
“We are with you, we see you, we love you and march on,” he concluded.
And here are a few thoughts from the book Imprisoning America The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration New York: Russell Sage Foundation (2004), Mary Pattillo, David Weiman, and Bruce Western, Editors:
The growth of the U.S. penal system over the past twenty-five years has significantly altered the role of government in poor and minority communities.
Imprisonment is no longer a symptom of deviance.; its sheer extent challenges us to think about incarceration as an increasingly normal event in the lives of young disadvantaged men… The penal system’s reach is so broad as to be a significant influence in the distribution of social power and large-scale patterns of social inequality.
African-Americans are seven times (7x) more likely to be incarcerated than whites.
Issues of inequality, and social injustice are so easily ignored, and forgotten. And for those who do not know, pay attention to, and/or remember our history, the reaction is frequently “why do you keep bringing up these unpleasant stories and facts.” The answer is simple – until we get closer to genuine justice, reminders of injustice need to be shouted far and wide.
So, thanks to Patricia Arquette, Common, and John Legend for doing just that.