January 31, 2013
“From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall”—the Importance of Recognition.
Writing in The Nation, Melissa Harris-Perry has given us this thoughtful and moving essay about President Obama’s second inaugural speech. She calls attention especially to this statement: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall. . . .” Harris-Perry says that “when the president name-checked the watershed moments of the women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBT equality movements, he offered a powerful moment of official recognition,” and she goes on to tell why fair and accurate recognition of the humanity and unique identity of any social group is not only meaningful but crucial (a point she also made in her recent book, Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America). “All presidents use inaugural addresses to reflect on the American people” she says, “But naming citizens solely by their national identity ignores how identities like gender, race, class, and sexual orientation profoundly shape what it means to be an American.”