Race & Gender Equity
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If it feels a little weird to think of race and gender equity as an innovation, consider the reality that inequity is the status quo.
Black people were kidnapped from Africa, brought to America in chains, enslaved, and treated as property until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865. After that, white people perpetrated one injustice after another on Black Americans, from lynching and segregation to the ongoing policing, criminalization, and exploitation of Black people and Black culture today.
The indigenous people of America were enslaved, murdered, and exposed to diseases to which they had no immunity. Their land was taken by British colonists, then by the United States as it spread westward and into Alaska, Hawaii, and the US territories. The US government engaged in ethnic cleansing of many tribes while it pursued its “manifest destiny” across the continental US. In 2009, in the Defense Appropriations Act, Congress finally apologized “on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.” Yet today, Native Americans still face discrimination and violations of their treaty rights for things like oil pipelines.
American women were all but shut out of education, business, military service, and politics until fairly recently. Women were not even allowed to vote until 1920. However, even after the 19th Amendment was adopted, voting rights were inconsistent or ineffective for many women until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, mostly due to ongoing discrimination against Native American women and women of color across the US.
For most of American history it has been against the law to love someone of the same gender. Women, transgender, and non-binary people have been and still are subject to laws about what they can and cannot do with their bodies, from using the restroom to playing sports to abortion, and more.
The Status Quo
Today, Black people, Native (indigenous) Americans, and other people of color (collectively, BIPOC), as well as women and LGBTQ+ people continue to experience many forms of discrimination. Some examples are wage inequality, employment discrimination, mortgage redlining, police violence, over-imprisonment, but there are many more.
While BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ people are theoretically equal under the law, this does not mean they have achieved equality in society, education, business, or politics. For example, while white men make up about 35% of the US population, they make up 86% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Most of the rest are white women. (Source.) Just 23% of both chambers of Congress are BIPOC, while about 40% of the US population is BIPOC. (Source.) In 2021, more women than ever are serving in Congress, but that works out to just 27% of both chambers even though women make up about half of the US population. (Source.)
On the other hand, Black and Native Americans are over-represented when it comes to poverty, traffic stops, police violence, and rates of incarceration. Meanwhile, white supremacy and racist violence are on the rise. (Source.)
Women, transgender, and non-binary people are still are subject to laws about what they can and cannot do with their bodies, from using the restroom to playing sports to abortion, and more. (Source.) Abortion is legal—just barely—and LGBTQ+ people did win the right to marry, but the ongoing #MeToo movement illustrates the sexual harassment women still endure.
These are just a few examples of the inequity faced by BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ people in the United States. I can’t possibly do justice to the full context of race and gender equity here, but I think these examples more than illustrate the fact that race and gender inequity are problems that need solving, perhaps more urgently than any of the other problems driving the innovations on this website.
Published on February 23rd, 2021. Last updated on March 3rd, 2021, by Sam Glover.