As the nation mourns the loss of Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, her legacy of principled public policy positions over the past 80 years serves as a compass for Americans interested in eliminating the isms – sexism, racism, and militarism – in our society.
Dr. Height righteously resisted the false notion of gender superiority. She dedicated a portion of her life to the reality that human development has occurred by the contributions of men and women. Whether famous couples such as Akhenaten and Nefertiti in ancient Egypt, or President Barack Obama and First Lady Michele Obama the duality of leadership has been the bedrock of the formation of higher thinking, written language, and national governments.
It was Dr. Height, along side historic men and women leaders who advocated for the passage of the Federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 (amended in 1982). Yet, despite its legislative passage nearly 30 years ago, women only make 73 cents to the average man in the United States of America. In fact, research reveals that college graduates with similar transcripts are separated in earning by gender. Therefore, Dr. Height would stand for the enforcement of gender equity laws at the federal, state, county, and municipal level.
Since the founding of our Republic, an educational gap has existed between the haves and the have-nots. In the main, the wealthy have had exponentially higher chances of receiving a high-quality education than the working poor. For example, women and people of color were not originally included as citizens set forth in the United States Constitution. Thus, the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th amendments and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had to be added to the Constitution in order to grant full citizenship to non-white males in America.
In particular, the public school system was developed despite vigorous opposition of wealthy Americans who argued that the poor need not receive a quality education.
While the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown v. Board of Education outlawed racial segregation in public education in 1954, the American education system remained divided by race and economics. Today, Dr. Height would exclaim, “open wide the freedom gates of opportunity” to all students, regardless of race or resources.
With respect to the issue of immigration, only Native Americans and Mexicans did not come to America as immigrants. Remember: America annexed parts of Mexico into what is now the state of Texas. However, beyond the southern border of the United States there exists a variance of policy preferences for many ethnic groups seeking entry into our nation. Haitians are judged differently from Eastern Europeans; and Cubans have a different standard for immigration than Australians. In fairness, Dr. Height would advocate for legislation that contains one immigration standard for all nationalities entering each American border.
One of the most propagated falsehoods by American media since the election of President Obama is that somehow, despite overwhelming evidence of racial discrimination across the nation on a regular basis, America has morphed into a “post-racial” society. Conversely, the United States should not aspire to be post-racial, but post-racist. Dr. Height would push lawmakers to enact laws that promote appreciation of ethnic differences such as meaningful hate crimes legislation – both federal and in individual states.
Most of all, Dr. Dorothy I. Height would encourage all of us who care about bringing about a more perfect union to join (or create) an organization dedicated to eliminating the isms than render our nation, in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou, “the yet-to-be United States of America,” and hold her back from truly becoming a great nation in the eyes of the world.
Today, Dr. Height would stand for individual and institutional accountability. In short, she would demand that we “do something” to make the world a better place.