What do Sui Sin Far, Nella Larsen and Dolores Huerta have in common? They're all women of color who played important roles in getting the voices of marginalized groups heard. Yet, they're hardly household names in North America, where their work made the biggest impact. This Women's History Month, I'll be spotlighting the contributions of women from a range of ethnic backgrounds because all too often the achievements of women of color are given the short shrift when women's issues are the topic at hand.
Black women, Asian-American women, Native American women and Latinas have all played fundamental roles in shaping the course of the United States through their involvement in the suffrage movement, the abolition movement, the civil rights movement and the women's rights movement. But nothing in recent memory showed that a divide remains between minority women and white women like the 2008 presidential election when a number of feminists, including the late Geraldine Ferraro, made comments that proved alienating to black women and men.
Because of the racism and sexism they face, women of color remain in what black feminist Frances M. Beal has described as "double jeopardy." While Hillary Clinton declared that her 2008 presidential campaign put thousands of cracks in the glass ceiling, upward mobility is an uphill struggle for many women of color. A recent survey of black women by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that black women struggle to pay their bills each month. But financial stability is far from the only challenge women of color face.
Native American women face disproportionate rates of sexual assault. Black women have been accused by right-wing anti-abortion groups of committing genocide for having abortions. Undocumented immigrant women from Latin America and elsewhere remain vulnerable to rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence as they try to survive life in the United States. Asian-American women face disproportionately high rates of suicide. The pressing issues women of color face show without a doubt that their contributions to the United States should be applauded rather than marginalized. Without their courage and perseverance the nation would be an entirely different place.
On another note, March is also Irish-American Heritage Month, so I'll be trotting out facts and figures about Irish Americans and discussing the impact of discrimination on Irish Americans and other groups.