gender and diversity panel

Steve Shevitz (
Thu, 20 Jun 1996 11:01:42 -0400

The comments by Melissa Keyes about gender and diversity sparked a
responsive chord, since I, like many of us working in gender equity, had
experiences that paralleled hers -- emerging from the civil rights
movements of the 1960's. As we look today at the attacks on affirmative
action and multicultural education, the marginalizing of gender and race
issues at national and local levels, the anti-immigrant sentiment, the
targeting of educational equity programs for elimination by Congress, the
backlash against equal rights based on sexual orientation, the resistance
by some to implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act, the burning of
Black churches, the rise of white supremacist militia groups, it is evident
that the need for addressing equity concerns in a comprehensive manner is
greater than ever before.

The importance of interweaving equity issues was reinforced for me by
my experiences helping to coordinate Educational Equity Advocates, an
advocacy group focused primarily this year on preserving educational equity
programs at state departments of education and regional equity
(desegregation assistance) centers. These programs, fdereally funded for
the last two decades under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with the
Women's Educational Equity Act, have been the major source of direct
services to school districts nationwide on gender, race, and national
origin issues. As Congress sought to eliminate these services, Educational
Equity Advocates, founded originally as a gender equity advocacy network
began an outreach effort to address other equity issues. Gender groups
supporting the Advocate's efforts, such as the National Coalition for Sex
Equity in Education, the National Coalition for Women and Girls in
Education, and the American Association for University Women were joined by
such groups as the NAACP, National Committe for School Desegregation, the
National Association for Multicultural Education, the National Association
for Bilingual Education, the National Education Association, the Black,
Women's, and Hispanic Congressional Caucuses, and local disability rights
organizations. Individuals who belonged to organizations that generally
focused on only one equity issue commented during the year on the need to
continue the collaborations that were developing. It became more and more
apparent that to be most effective in serving the needs of all children or
to affect change in any one equity area, all areas must be addressed. This
includes not only political action, but honest dialogue across gender,
sexual orientation, race, ethnic, and disability concerns.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said that "In a real sense all life is
interrelated. All people are caught in an inescapable network of
mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one
direcly afffects all indirecly. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice
everywhere." And Alice Walker stated that, "If, by some miracle and all
our struggle, the earth is spared, only JUSYICE to every living thing will
save humankind."

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