Since it looks like the Harriet Tubman $20 bills won’t be released anytime soon, let’s take a moment to appreciate that – for the first time in American history – Lady Liberty will be depicted as an African American woman on the $100 coin.
The U.S. Mint and Treasury wanted to celebrate its 225th anniversary with something special – and let me just say, my first reaction was the same as my reaction to any form of diverse representation:
It’s important to see people who look like you succeeding in order to believe that you can also succeed – this is psychologically proven to be true. On an even more basic level, it’s important to see people that look like you, period.
I should not have to get excited every time I see a brown person in a movie, and then stomach my frustration when they turn out to be the nerdy guy who is really good at math, telling myself that I’m lucky the brown character was there at all.
Representation should not feel like a privilege in America. It is a right that all Americans have just by being here: those of us who are members of marginalized communities know that, in order for people to see us as a part of our country, they need to see us in the first place.
And if people are not looking at or noticing us, they need to be shown.
Representation flipping matters.
All throughout school, we learn primarily about these white male leaders of our country. And in general, American history is taught as though it’s simply chock-full with straight white men.
Which is ridiculous, hands down.
Let’s just take every president before President Obama, for example. What effect does this have on every child who is female, black, or a person of color? How can we honestly and with what integrity can we tell these kids that they can grow up to be the president one day, when even we have never seen that happen?
Sure, kids can make miracles happen the way flowers can push upward and grow through cracks in the pavement. But why should some of us be stuck under pavement in the first place?
It may seem like a small thing to some – a black woman’s profile on a coin – but it matters. It will continue to matter, until it becomes so prevalent that the representation no longer has to.
A native New Yorker, I’ve always known Lady Liberty to be the gargantuan, green woman that towers over Manhattan from across the water. But there is no reason Lady Liberty should not be black, or any other color. Lady Liberty herself is an emblem of freedom; she has always been more than just a white woman.
America is born of immigrants who sought freedom from all over the world, and this is what the Statue of Liberty stands so tall for, torch and tablet in hand, meant to enlighten us all.
As for this new $100 coin, editions of it in the future will go on to depict Lady Liberty as a woman of various backgrounds, including Native American (yay!). I’m so excited to see Lady Liberty as a black woman. It’s more than extremely appropriate and, if anything, about a bajillion years too late.
I want to end with a call of action of sorts. I hope to see more representations of women of color as big and as bold as the Statue of Liberty herself: unable to be ignored, looming over us, and replacing complacency with a desire for (pun intended) true change.