Making Democracy Work

Social Justice

Equal Rights Amendment, Racial Justice

Two Interconnected Movements for Equality

The two movements, equality for women and equality for African-Americans, have paralleled and spurred each other. It was women abolition leaders who met at Seneca Falls in 1848 to demand the vote that women won in 1920. Following the African-American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, white women have been the largest number of beneficiaries, simply because they are 51% of the population while African-Americans are 15%. Historically, times that expanded rights blessed both; times that contracted rights dashed hopes and opportunities for both.The advancement of either women or African-Americans brings a backlash from fears of displacement, especially during economic contractions. This backlash is more severe in geographies containing large percentages of African-Americans, leaving a minority of white men. No Deep South state ratified the Equal Vote Amendment; none has ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. At times the two movements have clashed and, sadly, competed. They have been strongest when working together.

Ratify the ERA to Provide Strong and Permanent Equality

Women have no equal rights Let's dispel two myths. First, most Americans think that the US leads the world in positive social and economic indicators for women. In fact, the US is 45th--and slipping. Second, most Americans think that women have equal rights grounded in the US Constitution. They do not, as Justice Scalia pointed out in 2010.

What women have depended upon is statutory or changeable law from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. That law is still on the books but key parts are increasingly unenforceable; a law is only as good as its enforcement.

Let's take the equal pay law as an example. During World War II, there was an agency proposal to pay women equally in order to recruit Rosie the Riveter and her companion workers into nontraditional jobs. The war ended before it was implemented, but the idea became law in 1963, and was bolstered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In 2007, the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear ruled against Lily Ledbetter's equal pay case. After 20 years of work, she learned that she had been paid thousands less than men in her job. The degree of the current Supreme Court's hostility can be judged from their reasoning: that Ledbetter should have filed her claim within 6 months of the first unequal paycheck, despite the fact that she had no way of knowing her unfair treatment. Two years later, Congress "restored" the Equal Pay law. However, in a 2011 case brought against Wal-Mart for unequal pay and promotion, the Court said that the plaintiffs had to prove "intention" to discriminate, a virtually impossible bar.

The same type of on-and-off-again cycle has happened with discrimination against pregnancy and equal opportunity in education and sports, but if a plaintiff has to prove intention, the law is a hollow shell.

Equal Means Equal Logo

An Equal Rights Amendment would provide a permanent and high standard ("strict scrutiny" in legal terms) for judging sex discrimination. It would shift the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the opposition.

The years since the early Civil Rights laws like Equal Pay that helped women greatly have proven how quickly these advancements can be eliminated in all but name. That's why the permanence and strength of the ERA is needed.

Why Aren't American Women's Rights Guaranteed by Law?

Additional resources for the ERA and showing of Equal Means Equal

You can do now for the ERA

Honoring the Leaders of Civil Rights: 2018 MLK Parade

LWV members hold MLK banner Members of the Charleston area League of Women Voters participate in the the annual Martin Luther King parade.

Reading for Racial Justice

The Charleston League's bookmark provides partial but essential background for understanding today's issues.

Download side 1

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Learn about the needs of the Charleston area in this 2017 Racial Disparities Report

Screening of "13th" and LWV Panel Discussion

This powerful film about race, justice, and mass incarceration will be followed by a panel discussion led by the Charleston LWV. The event is Sunday, Sept. 17th, at the College of Charleston, Stern Center Ballroom, 71 George St, Charleston, SC 29424. Doors open at 1:30pm, the film starts at 2:00pm, and the panel discussion at 3:30.

Film on race and incarceration

Panelists Lisa Brock Lisa Brock (aka Doc Brock) is the Academic Director of the Arcus Center of Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, where she has worked to infuse social justice into Liberal Arts Education. Her writings on Africa and the African Diaspora have appeared in dozens of academic journals, political outlets, book chapters and the groundbreaking book, Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution. Lisa is currently Co-Chair of the Board Trustees of the Davis Putter Scholarship Fund and senior editor ofPraxis Center, an online blog and resource center for scholars, activists and artists. A rebel all her life, Lisa fought for girls' rights and Black rights while growing up in her native Cincinnati, Ohio area and against police violence and judicial misconduct in Washington D.C. while an undergraduate. She became a leader in the anti-apartheid movement while in graduate school in Chicago and lived in Mozambique as a Fulbright Scholar where she critically merged her academic interest with southern African liberation struggles. She worked to found the Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection at Columbia College Chicago (CCC) and to endow an international travel scholarship for students involved in African-American Studies. She has also led study abroad programs for faculty, students and activist to South Africa and Cuba. As an historian and justice leader, Lisa is an internationalist who views history as a way to enter contemporary discussions about race, class, gender, and global inequalities. Lisa attended Oberlin College and earned her B.A. from Howard University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in African History from Northwestern University.

Dr. Stacey Patton is an adoptee, child abuse survivor, and former foster youth turned award-winning author, journalist and child advocate. Her reporting on issues of child welfare, race relations, and higher education has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Al Jazeera, BBC News,, The Chronicle of Higher Education,, and Dame Magazine. She has made appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, FOX News, CBS, and Democracy Now. As a nationally-recognized child advocate, Dr. Patton travels the country delivering keynotes and professional trainings focused on combating racial disparities in child abuse cases, criminal prosecutions for child abuse, foster care placements, the over prescribing of psychotropic medications to children of color in foster care, the school- and foster care-to-prison pipelines, corporal punishment in public schools, diversion and restorative justice programs. She works as an intermediary between social service and law enforcement agencies seeking to improve services to communities of color. Dr. Patton attended Johns Hopkins University and New York University where she received her bachelor's degree in journalism. She earned her Ph.D. in African American history from Rutgers University.

Susan K. Dunn, a member of the SC Bar since 1977, has been the legal director for the ACLU of South Carolina since 2009. Prior to joining the ACLU, Dunn was in private practice in Charleston with extensive practice in both the family court and the court of common pleas. She graduated from Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, School of Law. Dunn litigated Ferguson v. City of Charleston, a ground-breaking 4thamendment case that was argued successfully before the U. S. Supreme Court and the 4th Circuit. Dunn was also counsel in Anderson v. Chesterfield County School District, a case which resulted in a consent order which assures separation of church and state in public schools. On behalf of the ACLU of SC, Dunn appeared as an amicus in the Turner case which raised the issue of right to counsel in child support contempt actions. In 1997, SC Women Lawyers Association awarded her the Bissell Award, given annually to recognize a person who paved the way to success for women attorneys in South Carolina. Dunn is the proud mother of Anna Hoffius, a pediatrician in North Charleston, and Jacob Hoffius, a teacher at an international school in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Among LWV's Engagements for Racial Justice Prior to 2017

Above, Michael B. Moore, IAAM President and CEO, spoke about the coming International African American Museum for the 2016 LWV Annual Meeting. This new museum contributes to an awareness as expressed in the words of Dr. Jeffery P. Robinson, Deputy ACLU Director: "To heal our racial wounds, we must honor the history that began at Gadsden's Wharf." .

Present and Future Leaguers participated in the "Unity March"for the Mother Emanuel 2017 Commemoration.

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