For Black women educators — and for America’s future — let’s turn down the racket and promote equity’s promise 

OPINION: Universities across the country have been forced to reckon with efforts to weaken or eliminate diversity on campus. But making good on equity’s promise to Black women is a win for our country and the ideals we claim to support.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

In her powerful speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” Sojourner Truth summed up the vocal efforts to slow down the women’s rights efforts of her time. “Well, children, where there is so much racket, there must be something out of kilter.”

That was in 1851. Almost two centuries later, something, once again, is definitely out of kilter. Today, Black women are being bombarded by social media trolls, far-right media juggernauts, MAGA politicians and conservative judges who are hellbent on creating the false reality that all opportunities and barriers are equal and that equity efforts to advance our constitutional democracy are no longer necessary.

This is particularly true at America’s colleges and universities, where a zero-sum game mirrors our country’s polarized political and cultural environments. This game uses misinformation and disinformation — and, frankly, fear tactics — to outpace truth and undo the progress Black women have achieved.

In recent months, faculty, staff, and students across the country have been forced to reckon with efforts to weaken or eliminate diversity on campus. Claudine Gay’s resignation as Harvard University president, independent of her actions and good and bad faith interpretations of them, came after weeks of racial maligning rooted in misogynoir. Her audacity to be a Black woman leading one of the world’s top institutions of higher learning was more than enough for her to be targeted.

As a Black woman, I, and countless others, worry about this sordid trend. Black women — who are among the most educated and lead small businesses at the highest rates of any other group in the country — continue to break barriers and climb ladders: a Supreme Court justice, the vice president, C-suite executives, and more. Many people who benefit from systems created and maintained by the white majority feel threatened by this shift, and as such, are determined to keep the status quo — which means keeping women, specifically Black women, in their place. But if Black women aren’t allowed to hold leadership positions without being diminished, what does that tell us about the American Dream, the promise of this great nation?


That it’s not for us.

Any attempt to promote a level playing field is being met with vitriol and race-baiting that mirrors the thinking during Jim Crow. For Black women, there is an uneasy feeling that who they are, what they believe and what they have been taught about the ideals of equal opportunity for all are not being supported.

Malcolm X told us generations ago, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

In 2024, this doesn’t have to be America’s inalienable truth. We know that making good on equity’s promise to Black women is a win for our country and the ideals we say we support. But until we encourage understanding over bias, holistically social and emotional support over finger-pointing, and policies that nourish academic and professional growth over legislative recoil that shows little regard for a lifetime of achievement, this disturbing trend for Black women will continue.

A few years ago, the moniker “The Future is Female” took hold nationwide. Unfortunately, for Black women who buck the status quo, the future is not promised. But in the face of the mounting racket of today alongside memories and motivation of yesteryear, we will journey on. We will continue to believe in America’s promise — even if, at times, things seem out of kilter — because we have come too far to allow anyone to turn us back now.

Denise Forte is the president and CEO of the Education Trust. As one of the country’s leading voices on education equity, Denise is a fierce advocate for employing evidence-based strategies to create high-achieving learning environments that turn barriers and gaps into bridges and pipelines for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

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