Small steps forward

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By: Megan Graves, Columnist

As you may have already heard, Harriet Tubman is going to replace Andrew Jackson on America’s $20 bills. But only on the front, and not until 2020.

Before I go deeper into my analysis of this idea, let’s acknowledge the progress we as a country will be exemplifying by placing on the front of one of our most used bills of currency the first woman in over a century, and the first African-American, well, ever.

For those who don’t know, Harriet Tubman, who was born in Maryland in the early 1820s, is known for escaping slavery and helping hundreds of others escape to Northern freedom by means of the Underground Railroad. She then aided the Union during the Civil War, and all the while fought for women’s rights.

To sum it up, Harriet Tubman was heroic, iconic and undoubtedly incredible.

Now let’s talk about Andrew Jackson. He was born in 1767 and is best known as being our seventh president. He was also part of the founding of the Democratic party and was known as the “people’s president.” Though by “people,” I’d say they meant “white people.”

Jackson signed and implemented the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which essentially forced Native Americans in some states out of their ancestral homelands. The decisions he made during his presidency, including this one, resulted in the Trail of Tears in 1838, one of the most inhumane and heart wrenching occurrences in American History.

He also owned more than 150 slaves by the time he died, which creates the question: why are Tubman and Jackson sharing space on the $20 bill? One was a well known slave owner, and the other is perhaps one of the best known abolitionists. Why can’t we just remove Jackson completely?

I understand that he is a prominent member of American history, but history is fluid. It changes alongside society, and our society decided quite some time ago that slavery is abhorrent and should absolutely not be celebrated.

Imagine the impact of entirely replacing a racist slaveholder with Harriet Tubman, someone who dedicated her entire life to the overall freedom of humanity. Imagine the progress and change we would be demonstrating as a country.

By keeping Jackson on the other side, we are only making half of that impact. We are only giving Harriet Tubman half of the credit she deserves. We are only giving American women and people of color half of the credit that they deserve.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled with this progression. While placing Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill is not an ends to our battle for equality, it is a start. A start which proves that our efforts are making a difference, that our voices are being heard. While this gesture has not satisfied me, it has motivated me to work even harder. It may sound corny, but we really can change our world. We just have to keep trying.

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