I recently had an exchange with someone online (i don’t think I can call it a conversation when it’s a series of posts, can I?) in response to their statement that selecting a woman of color as Vice President of the United States was both “racist and sexist.”
You can imagine how it went.
After stating we lived in the least racist country in the world (I’m guessing they got that information from this Swedish study in 2013), and suggesting the “best white males are no longer welcome in my world” (I keep telling my husband but he just won’t leave), I tapped out. But they did say something that got me thinking:
“name one other country that has more black millionaires, mayors, police chiefs, congressmen, senators, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and a 2 term President.”
I’m not going to do this kind of research because the metric is stupid. And we weren’t just talking about people of color, we were also talking about women (they seem to have lost the thread on this). The message, however, was clear – isn’t it enough? If the United States is the least racist country (their words not mine), isn’t that enough? If we have the most black millionaires, mayors, police chiefs (yadda, yadda, yadda), isn’t that enough?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg was often asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ to which she would respond ‘When there are nine,’ leaving people shocked. But as RBG said “there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”
It will be “enough” when we are not the “least racist” but when we eradicate racism. When everyone feels safe letting their kids go for a walk, without fear. When everyone has the same opportunities, and we not only recognize but address the fact that some of us have been given advantages others have not. And when everyone is paid the same amount for the same work.
It will be “enough” when we are no longer focused on how someone is the “first.” When we haven’t had one president of color, or one female vice president, but many leaders of many colors and genders in politics and private business going back years. And when the idea of a leadership team made entirely of women or people of color isn’t radical, but completely and utterly boring.
It will be enough when we don’t need to attend conferences, create caucuses or otherwise create safe spaces and advocacy groups because all the spaces are safe. When we don’t have to explain the importance of representation and diversity because it will be a given. The default.
I wish I had said these things during our conversation, but I also recognize my words will continue to fall on deaf ears.
Since the inauguration of Joe Biden (one of the best white men, but who’s keeping track?), there is no question that I feel more hopeful. But it’s going to be a very, very, very long time until it’s enough.