This week’s Good Look features Melissa’s Sunday Footnote, in which she remembered the late Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas, who delivered the Democratic National Convention’s keynote address in 1976, becoming the first African American woman to do so. I was reminded of Jordan’s speech when I saw another woman address this year’s convention, one without elected office, but with similar social ostracism as the gay, black Congresswoman with multiple sclerosis.
On Wednesday night, 27-year-old Benita Velez became the first undocumented immigrant to address a national party convention. In her speech, she defended her inherent American character and identity while also expressing an optimism about how we all can contribute, politically, socially, and economically.
Paraphrasing something Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson once told me in an interview about the struggle for racial equality, it’s all about being put on a level playing field, not gaining some sort of retributive advantage (as those with the built-in advantages would have us believe). Given the venue in which Velez made her remarks, it’s fitting to quote something Jordan said about the Democratic Party:
We believe in equality for all and privileges for none. This is a belief – this is a belief that each American, regardless of of background, has equal standing in the public forum – all of us. Because – because we believe this idea so firmly, we are an inclusive rather than an exclusive party. Let everybody come.
At their 2012 convention, Democrats lived up to that, to an extent (I still needed to see a speaker who wasn’t cisgender, for example). And outside of the venue where Velez spoke, there were still undocumented immigrants protesting for the very pathway to citizenship, screaming and blocking traffic to be a full part of this nation. In that regard, even for Democrats, the struggle continues.
Join us for a full breakdown of the Democratic convention, and much more, at 10am on msnbc!