Equality in America

"This is an introduction to a weekly series of reflections on equality in America – social, political, and economic – and what 2018 means for our country, whose greatest strength is its diversity"

The last year was a tumultuous period for the American people. Donald Trump’s first
year in office witnessed a massive surge in social justice movements, both domestically and abroad. Tough questions and harsher truths concerning the inherent inequality of race, gender, and LGBTQ rights were brought to the forefront of the American political conversation. Women, minorities, and the LGBT community won tremendous victories while also suffering major setbacks, many of which were delivered directly from the White House.
The untimely, tragic death of social justice activist Erica Garner on December 30, 2017 –
the daughter of Black Lives Matter icon Eric Garner – was a jarring reminder of the continued struggle that minorities face to achieve equality on a daily basis. Despite a growing awareness and visibility of the many injustices still being committed in America, this year has still seen black men representing a disproportionate number of victims of police brutality, excessive force, and a broken criminal justice system. Awareness alone is insufficient to combat the deeply rooted systemic racism that minorities face when trying to achieve equal opportunities in employment, education, and representation.
In the last few months alone, the #MeToo hashtag, which began with revelations of horrific sexual assault, harassment, and abuse committed by Hollywood’s most powerful men, has turned into a worldwide call for gender equality. The movement has revealed the pervasive nature of the problem not only in the entertainment industry, but in every corner of society. The #MeToo hashtag has become a rallying cry for women – and men – to speak openly about their daily experiences with harassment and provides a platform to demand fundamental change from.

It was a watershed moment in American history, though years, decades, and centuries in the making. It was so significant that Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” – those who bravely spoke out against assault harassment – as its 2017 Person of the Year.
Trump’s election was a particularly shocking moment for the LGBT community. Last
year has been to many a “horrific” year for LGBT rights. His administration has rolled back
numerous, hard-earned protections and victories from previous years. Only several days ago, Trump summarily fired the remaining cabinet of his HIV/AIDS council who hadn’t already resigned, in what GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Ellis called part of his “continuous effort to erase LGBTQ people and people living with HIV from the fabric of our country.”
What does equality look like in America today? Compared to fifty years ago, are we any
closer to the ideals written in our Constitution, that we as people are granted “certain unalienable rights… Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?” As we enter 2018, it is essential to review events and movements that contextualize where we stand as a country in terms of equality, and most importantly, what we as citizens can do to bring about lasting change.