August 27, 2009


America is the home of the brave. America is the land of the free. America is the country of the good, the just, the fair, the honest, the equal...

Back it up, there, and let's take a look at that last one.

Two hundred and thirty-three years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, one hundred and forty-six years after the Emancipation Proclamation was decreed, ninety years after the Twentieth Amendment became law, forty-five years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed... After the writing and publication of all of these landmark documents, after all this time, are all Americans finally equal, in rights as well as in truth?

I'd say not.

Look at the treatment legal immigrants receive in this country, especially those of Arab descent; all too often they are greeted with suspicion. Look at the treatment gay and lesbian citizens receive, or disabled citizens, or minorities, or women; all too often they are greeted with disdain, or condescension, or even hatred... the list goes on and on. We've made progress toward equality, that's for sure- but just how far have we come?

Sure, the positions of power are no longer entirely occupied by old, white, rich men. President Obama is African-American; Speaker of the House Pelosi is a woman. And these facts reassure me a bit in that the old hierarchy is falling, slowly but surely (and, hey, if we want to break the rise-and-fall cycle all the empires have gone through, if we want to survive as a civilization, then we need to change something, so that's a good thing in more ways than one).

But when I stop and think about it, I'm astonished at just how similar everyday prejudices remain. Take pay rates, for one (and how important they are in these tough economic times!). Women still don't receive the same salaries as their male counterparts. President Obama, in his words upon signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 in January, acknowledged the inequalities that women in the workforce face: "Women across this country still [earn] just 78 cents for every dollar men earn-- women of color even less-- which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime." And that piece of legislation- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law- should help to rectify that situation; but progress, as usual, is slow.

As always, I encourage you to think. Today let's ponder how equal we think we are in this day and age, and just how equal we actually are. I use women's pay as an example but there are countless prejudices still in place across the nation. And here's an important question: What can we do to fight those prejudices?

And here's an important answer: Let's live our lives without those prejudices, as best we can; let's challenge the pay gap between genders, or the automatic assumptions we make based on race or sexual orientation. Let's think about judgments we make about people based on the way they look or which socioeconomic category they fall in. Let's remove the casualness from these prejudices...

And move forward to a better day.


  1. rideabicycle1:54 AM

    I would like to begin by making it clear that it is outrageous that women make more than 20% less than men, on average. Such discrimination is unjustifiable, and I do not seek to explain it.

    However, if you would look into the text of the the L.L. Fair Pay Act, you'd notice that it is essentially useless. All it does is modify the period of time an employee has to file a pay-discrimination complaint under the 1964 Civil Rights Act from 180 days after the wages were agreed upon to 180 days after a paycheck was received. If women/minorities/etc are doing their due diligence, such a change should be irrelevant. This bill was simply a political tool to curry favor amongst the feminist voters. Considering how many of them were obliged to vote for Mr. Obama after he defeated Mrs. Clinton, it isn't unreasonable to suppose that the legislation was designed to reassure those voters and bring them in step with the larger liberal agenda. After all, it was a largely empty gesture, with a name suggestive of far more than the bill actually accomplishes.

    One could even argue that the act rewards those who don't deserve to be paid as much as someone who has the wherewithal to actually examine her salary within three months of agreeing to it. Such an individual certainly doesn't have the same aptitude as a higher earner should.

    Yes, a women is not inherently better or worse than a man...but honestly, three months without actually checking your paychecks? That's just careless.

  2. Anonymous2:14 AM

    You know, in all honesty, I am beginning to think that rideabicycle simply does not like you, Laura...

  3. recycleabicycle9:34 AM

    I think he just might be Laura's biggest fan.

    I'm frankly quite pleased to see someone who has clearly done their research comment on the blog posts and perpetuate dialogue. Well done!

  4. rideabicycle,

    You're right in that the actual piece of legislation itself doesn't do that much. (I did read it before writing my post.) However, instead of seeing it as a failure or an empty piece of legislation (or, as you say, a political tool, which it absolutely is, in part), I think perhaps we can also see it as a reminder to the American public and legislature that the issue exists. At least Congress is thinking about the issue of fair pay... Perhaps the passage of this act will lead to the passage of another with more substantial benefits. As I said: Progress is slow. But it is still progress.

    And you'll notice when you read the rest of my post that my point is not, indeed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act-- it is the idea of equality and just how inequal we all still are, and the remedies we can use to move forward to a more equal future.