[News] Why We Should Keep Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks Off the $20 Bill

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Apr 14 19:30:02 EDT 2015

  Why We Should Keep Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks Off the $20 Bill

With the state of black women in this country, putting one of these 
icons on U.S. currency is not progress—it’s hush money.

By: Kirsten West Savali 
Posted: April 13 2015 1:12 PM

* http://www.theroot.com/articles/politics/2015/04/keep_harriet_tubman_and_rosa_parks_off_the_20_bill.html?wpisrc=newsletter_jcr%3Acontent%26*

Harriet Tubman or Rosa Parks may be the next face featured on the U.S. 
$20 bill—that is if WomenOn20s <http://www.womenon20s.org/vote2> (W20), 
a grassroots organization committed to the realization of female 
representation on the nation’s currency, has anything to say about it.

After a “robust” voting process spearheaded by W20, the civil rights 
icons, along with former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Wilma 
Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, were selected 
from a multigenerational pool of accomplished women spanning diverse 

“We believe this simple, symbolic and long overdue change could be an 
important stepping stone for other initiatives promoting gender 
equality,” said W20 on its website <http://www.womenon20s.org/>. “Our 
money does say something about us, about what we value.”

Yes, it absolutely does, and that “something” is not black women. No 
amount of subversive symbolism changes that fact.

This country was founded on the idea that all white men are created 
equal and no one else. As such, Andrew Jackson—slave owner, seventh 
president of the United States and current face on the $20 
bill—represents exactly the values and ethics upon which this country 
was founded. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig—the pig 
in this case being a capitalist structure hell-bent on the expansion, 
maintenance and protection of white supremacy at any costs.

Specifically, there is something both distasteful and ironic about 
putting a black woman’s face on the most frequently counterfeited 
and most commonly traded 
dollar bill in this country. Haven’t we been commodified and trafficked 
enough? Slapping a black female face, one of our radical icons, on a $20 
bill as if it’s some attainment of the American dream would be adding 
insult to injury.

When nearly half of all single African-American women 
have zero or negative wealth, and their median wealth is $100—compared 
with just over $41,000 for single white American women—it is an insult. 
When black women are the fuel for the prison-industrial complex, with 
incarceration rates increasing 800 percent since 1986 
and black girls being the fastest-growing population 
of a corrupt juvenile-criminal system, it is an insult. When 
African-American women earn on average 64 cents 
<http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/fair-pay/african-american-women-wage-gap.pdf> (pdf) 
for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, compared with the 78 
cents that white women earn for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic 
men, it is an insult.

And frankly, putting a white woman’s face on a bill would be akin to 
Hillary Clinton becoming the president of the United States: a woman’s 
face on the same old racist, patriarchal political system that continues 
in both insidious and blatant ways to disenfranchise women and people of 

That’s not progress. It’s hush money.

WomenOn20s has stated that its goal is to petition the White House to 
make the change by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of 
the 19th Amendment 
which purportedly gave all American women the right to vote.

Let’s be clear: Not all women are white 
Not only did African-American women face discrimination within the 
women’s suffrage movement 
but we most certainly did not attain the right to vote 95 years ago. 
After decades of literacy tests and other disenfranchisement tactics, it 
was the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that finally allowed African-American 
women to vote somewhat freely—the same Voting Rights Act that in 2014 
was gutted by the Supreme Court 

So, no, 2020 isn’t a landmark year for black women, and cosmetic 
diversity is nothing but a placebo in the service of white, liberal guilt.

I don’t want Harriet Tubman’s face on a $20 bill; I want our people to 
be free from the chains of institutionalized racism and economic 
slavery. That’s how we honor her.

I don’t want Rosa Parks’ face on a $20 bill; I want black people to be 
able to travel from point A to point B without being targeted by 
discriminatory and violent policing tactics. That’s how we honor her.

Although I’m sure that WomenOn20s <http://www.womenon20s.org/our_team> 
and its approximately 256,000 voters mean well, the very narrow lens 
through which they appear to view gender equality and sociopolitical 
progress leaves very little room for the lived experiences of black 
women throughout America’s history and into the present day; in fact, it 
erases them.

And the cost of that erasure is a hell of a lot more than $20.

/Kirsten West Savali is a cultural critic and senior writer for /*The 
Root,*/where she explores the intersections of race, gender, politics 
and pop culture. Follow her on Twitter <https://twitter.com/KWestSavali>./

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