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Dr. Boyce: Note to the Obama Administration: Women are Civil Rights Leaders Too


by Dr. Boyce Watkins

I wrote to you recently about the scheduled meeting today between President Barack Obama the presidents of the NAACP and Urban League. Marc Morial and Ben Jealous got together with the president in a situation that is eerily similar to the meeting the three had with Rev. Al Sharpton not so long ago.


At the time, I mentioned to Rev. Sharpton that a woman should have been present at the first meeting with the president. Rev. Sharpton made the accurate point that the late Dorothy Height had been invited, but couldn’t make it because of the weather. I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed that it might be challenging for a 98-year old woman to come out in one of the worst blizzards in Washington DC history.

A backup to Dr. Height would have been appropriate, or even having women outnumber men would not have been out of the question. Dr. Julianne Malveaux would have been a perfect choice, since you don’t exactly see scores of black women with PhDs in Economics from MIT. Given that the men had gathered to discuss job creation and economic growth within the black community, I can only imagine that Dr. Malveaux might have something productive to say.

The fact that Dr. Malveaux, along with every other talented black woman in America, is consistently left to the side in these important conversations should be disturbing to all of us. As we fight for the civil rights of our community, we might want to take a second to realize that we are not immune from the temptation of oppression.

Adding insult to injury, Dr. Height mentioned to President Obama that it is time that a black woman be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court. Instead, the Obama Administration barely glanced at the thousands of talented black female attorneys and judges across the country and chose another Harvard University alum (Elena Kagan) with a horrifically racist hiring record.

The goal in making these points is not to bash President Obama or the men who conduct meetings with him. It is to make it clear that black men must take the lead in insisting that women be allowed to advocate for our community as much as our men. I hope and expect that Jealous, Sharpton and Morial are in agreement.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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