Harriet Tubman Honored
How does a nation recognize its heroes?
One way is to put their faces on its money. And for the first time, the face that will greet Americans, and anyone around the world who pulls an American 20 dollar bill out of their wallet, will be that of an African American, and a woman no less. What a statement.
Dollars were once used to legally buy and sell men, women, and children in our United States. Rewards for runaway slaves were posted with that famous dollar sign.
These sobering facts at the heart of the gravest injustice in our national history have been front and center on my mind with the news that Harriet Tubman will now likely replace Andrew Jackson on the 20 dollar bill in a process that had been predictably derailed by the previous president. But the run-away slave who courageously returned to lead others to freedom has persevered once again.
Slavery is about individual human spirits being reduced to a mercantile value. It is anathema to every ideal expressed in our founding documents, and the currency that has powered our democratic ideals. When Harriet Tubman was born, those in power over her life, those who were given all the rights of citizenship that she lacked, saw in her, not a person, but the dollar value of chattel. Now her face will circulate the world over as a reminder of our own moral failings and the progress we have made, as imperfect as it is, to become a nation more just and more accurate in the depictions of its citizens.
May we take this day as inspiration to further the cause of equity. To give a seat at the table and return a rightful place to those whom history diminished and denied. It is not a solution to the sins of our past, but perhaps it can be a show of good faith. On a long and uneven road of reckoning and reconciliation, perhaps it can be a start.