Op-EdOpinion

WILLIAMS: Equal Rights for Women Long Overdue

We get so consumed with stuff about the train wreck in the White House that we forget or miss important things going on in the nation and the world. Well, something good and historic happened in the U.S. Congress recently. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler held a hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment! That should be so ordinary that it shouldn’t even make the news. Yet, it had been 36 years since such a hearing had taken place.

This wasn’t even a vote to make the ERA law, but women were actually excited that a hearing was held. It was only a hearing — not the passage of a bill to make it law. Yet, the hearing was historic. I had the honor of being one of several speakers for the press conference that followed the hearing. Women actually celebrated the fact that the issue got a hearing! As much as we talk about equality in this country, and as much as some of our leaders go around the world preaching to leaders in other nations about human rights, women in this nation still don’t have equal rights in the Constitution!

It’s unbelievable that women still do not have equal rights under our Constitution, but women aren’t giving up. It’s time for women to stop asking to be a part of the Constitution. We must demand our rights. Women must demand of the current Congress to make us a part of the Constitution or elect people who are willing to do so. Supporters can be men or women, but we must not continue to accept second-class citizenship.

Women brought millions of other women to the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. We must bring millions more in 2020. We need more of our sisters to heed the words of Abigail Adams when she wrote her husband a letter that said: “I long to hear that you have declared an independency and, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

That was well said, Abigail! Where is that spirit among more women today? We’ve asked too gently. Most often we hear the gentler form of Abigail speaking to her husband to “Remember the ladies,” but what she said more and sounds like she had a lot in common with Michelle Obama, who was very influential in her husband’s life.

The ERA did pass in the 1970s but didn’t get enough state votes to ratify the amendment when an arbitrary deadline was placed on passage. If 94 percent of the people support equality for women in the Constitution, what is it that prevents passage?

I fear that too many women don’t understand that we cannot successfully bring a case that is gender-based in federal court. The ERA would give us that right. The ERA gives us the real possibility of succeeding in federal court with cases of hate crimes against us evident in so much derogatory and misogynist rap music. In the case of Black women, we’d have a shot at winning on both race and gender. We have as much to gain with ERA as anyone else. Let’s get more involved in its passage soon!

Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women and host of WPFW-FM’s “Wake Up and Stay Woke.”

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