Why Women Can’t Wait
By Bonnie McDaniel, founder Women Are Talking
As a child of the Civil Rights era, I remember so well the images of my elders locking arms, swaying to the rhythm of the old Negro spiritual, We Shall Overcome. This song helped to define the Civil Rights era and all of its struggles and ideals: that if we just believed in our hearts and had patience, we would overcome a world of oppression and inequality. We believed if we waited with patience, just a little while longer, our change would come.
And as much as this song represents such an important part of my history as an African-American woman, it also creates an overwhelming feeling of ire and distaste when each February during Black History Month, we Americans dust it off, and on cue, lock arms and obediently sway in the wind of an era that has outlived its usefulness for the challenges that we face today. History is important for knowing the richness of one’s origin; it should not, however, become an excuse to ignore the fact that the Civil Rights era was the beginning of the journey and not the destination. I love that this is a part of my history, but I reject that it can and will define my future.
As an African-American and a woman, I own the fact, without remorse, that in 2013 I am no longer interested in waiting to overcome. I have become impatient with the idea of passing this outmoded idea of waiting down to my daughter, thereby suggesting that she should sit quietly and meekly while others decide when or if she deserves to be treated like the first-class citizen that she already is.
What is obvious to me is this: If you have to ask someone to grant you freedom and equality, neither will ever be yours. It is the nature of human beings to occupy whatever space they are strong enough to claim as their own. Unfortunately, this concept goes against the very nature of how girls are raised, not just here in this country, but in countries around the world. Girls are taught to ask permission before they decide to occupy, which immediately places them in a position of compromise. And because we hesitate or question whether or not we deserve a place at the table, very often the question is never asked. No woman should be relegated to the whims of a man’s idea of what she is or is not worth, and asking means having to accept whatever he perceives she deserves.
Before you paint me as a man-hater, let me share this. I value family, and I am married to a wonderful man who, over a few decades, has supported my efforts on this subject in every way. I am the mother of a son and a daughter, and I think men are the key to helping to remove the barriers that continue to block the paths of women. During my years in corporate America, it was males, white males in particular, who provided me with access to not only enter the board room, but take a seat at the table. And because they chose to look past not only my color but also my gender, I was able to realize what my grandfather had taught me as a child, and that was that I could do anything.
Women can no longer wait as the world continues to churn yesterday’s waste. We can no longer trust that men can deliver to us things that they do not understand. We have opportunities to create, children to feed, wars to end, and a world to make better.
Now is the time for women to assess our places in the world and bring the results of those assessments to a collective table and recognize the fact that as women we have already overcome, and together, we can do anything! We are not absent of power and if we are not allowed at the table built by men, we must garner the courage to build tables of our own. Change waits for no one, but instead it adopts the qualities of whatever exists in the moment, and the moment for women is now.
Tomorrow is for dreamers – today is for doers! Do not wait until tomorrow to do what today so richly affords that which is right in the palm of your hands.
Catch the wave, add your voice and talent to the conversation, and be overcome by the change that has already happened!
©2013. This material cannot be published or reproduced without express permission granted by Bonnie McDaniel & Women Are Talking.