Stand Up For Your Rights Before it is Too Late

Twenty-seven years ago, Anita Hill came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against a man being nominated for the Supreme Court. Hill was not the only woman who came forward with this claim, but she was the only one allowed to testify. She received death threats due to her allegations, people did their best to smear her character, and Clarence Thomas was sworn in. Whether or not her allegations were true is still widely debated, but the rudeness and violent behavior against her was undeniably inappropriate. It has been 27 years and we would like to think that we have made progress, but have we? What progress have we made in these last 27 years, and more specifically, what progress have we made when it comes to civil rights? Unless you are talking about gay marriage, the answer is none.

Civil RIghts FistAs far as women’s rights go, the last legislative progress that was made was in the 1970s, when Title IX passed. The next year, Roe v. Wade gave women rights to their own bodies, but other court cases and state laws continue to chip away at it. Since this influential court case, what has happened? For 50 years, the national civil rights of women have remained untouched, backsliding in some regards, and yet, many people still seem to think we are making progress. Why? Women have no constitutional protection, and the EPA has never passed. In fact, the closest it ever was to passing was in 1970, the first time it was proposed. Since then it has received less support. As far as representation goes, women hold only 83 of the 435 seats (19.1 percent) in the House of Representatives and 22 of the 100 seats (22 percent) in the Senate. For context, women make up 50.6 percent of the total population of the United States. As of 2017, women still only make 82 cents on the dollar of what men earn, and this gap has held fairly steady for the last 15 years.

Women’s rights are not the only ones that have been backsliding with little
discourse. The civil rights of people of color have been declining as well. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has done little to curb discriminatory voter ID laws in states, making it harder for black, Native American, and Latino citizens to vote. Case law and state laws have been chipping away at this right as long as it has been in place, and representation in the government isn’t much better. According to U.S. News, 97 percent of all Republican elected officials are white (76 percent of which are white males) and 79 percent of all Democratic elected officials are white (65 percent of which are white males), despite the fact only 31 percent of the U.S. population is comprised of white men. This means that that only three percent of elected Republicans are people of color and 21 percent of Democrats are people of color. For the last four years in the U.S., hate crimes based on race, sexuality, and religion have been steadily increasing, according to FBI statistics. For transgender people, the number of hate crimes per year have been steadily increasing each year since 2013.

LGBTQ* community rights are even more underdeveloped. The ENDA (Employment Non-
Discrimination Act, a proposed amendment to the constitution giving queer people equal rights) was never passed. Even though the U.S. policy “don’t ask don’t tell” (preventing out-LGBTQ* members in the military) ended in 2011 and gay marriage was made legal in 2015 by the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, these are the only legal steps taken since anti-sodomy laws were abolished. Recent laws ban transgender people from serving in the military and a recent executive order is looking at changing the definition of gender so that transgender would be defined out of existence by describing gender as one’s sex at birth. If this happens, it will be the most dramatic step federally taken against trans rights to ever occur. Currently, only seven
people currently serving in the House and Senate are members of the LGBTQ* community (1.3 percent).

I originally began this piece to talk about Christine Blasey Ford and how little progress has been made when it comes to sexual harassment and assault allegations despite the fact many people believe society is progressing in this regard. I could easily write that article and may in the future, but I came to the realization that we have made almost no progress and have regressed on civil rights as a whole. And yet, some still think we are moving forward.

I used to say “there will never be a better time than now” regarding human rights, but this simply is not true. As a rule (excluding the legalization of gay marriage), civil rights on the federal level haven’t progressed since the ‘70s, so I can’t figure out why I, and so many other people, believe that civil rights have slowly expanded over time. “There will never be a better time than now” is not a true statement. It should be, but what are we doing to make it one?