We Must Not Overlook Recent Historic Diversity Milestones

Neville BilimoriaBy Neville Bilimoria

During the pandemic, it is so hard for us to stay connected and focused, much less remember what day of the week it is. Some, like myself, seem like we are glued to our screens, working away, and have little time to look up and focus on what is happening outside of our isolated home offices. That’s why I feel we have to step back, take a breath, and really internalize and absorb some of the historic diversity milestones that have occurred just recently over the last month, and not let the coronavirus and our collective isolation divert our attention away from these history-making milestones:

1) The Passing of a Hero (July 17, 2020): First, there’s Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death last month. Congressman Lewis showed us all that is right and good with the important Civil Rights Movement over the years. His passing allowed us to look back upon his storied life, urging us to continue his legacy of making “good trouble.” His historic march on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr., his march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama on “Bloody Sunday” where he was beaten almost to death by State police, and his general march for equality will remain ingrained in our history despite his death, with his legacy marching on in the conscience of all Americans that he so duly affected to implement change. In his legacy, watching his funeral, I saw the numerous depictions of his amazing life. I realized that we have to honor his great legacy by continuing his pioneering ways as we all strive toward equality and justice for all, to a time where we can eliminate racism, bias, and inequality in America.

2) Equality Takes Flight (July 31, 2020): Second, there was the announcement that Lt. j.g. Madeline G. Swegle would be the U.S. Navy’s first Black female tactical aircraft pilot, marking a historic milestone for naval aviation. This one even I couldn’t believe. What was shocking to me was that only now did we have the first Black female to break this Navy glass ceiling! Also shocking was the fact that the only other time the glass ceiling was broken in the Navy for women was way back when Rosemary Mariner became the first female jet pilot in 1974, and when Brenda Robinson became the first Black woman to become a Navy flight instructor, evaluator and VIP transport pilot in the 1980s. What an achievement for Lt. Swegle, especially significant given the particular timing this summer of her ascendance, placing hope in our hearts for continued change in a year that has been fraught with social unrest. Did anyone else shed a tear when they saw the images of her receiving her “golden wings”? Truly historic, and an event that had everyone saying “it’s about time!”

3) A New Race In A Political Race (August 12, 2020): And then there was the announcement by Vice President Joe Biden of his choice for his Vice Presidential running mate, Congresswoman Kamala Harris. This is now another first for Black women, and Asian women, with Harris becoming the first Black and Indian woman ever to be considered for the vice presidency on a major campaign ticket. Should Biden and Harris win, this will be yet another watershed moment in our history for African Americans everywhere, and will undoubtedly help to strengthen the ongoing fight for equality in our country. Her acceptance speech as the running mate of Joe Biden on August 12, 2020 was heartfelt and poised. Her speech and her ascendancy also showed everyone that she was taking center stage not just as a “diverse” candidate in front of America, but as a strong, powerful woman deserving of her role as possibly the next Vice President.

Bringing the historic events full circle, in her speech Congresswoman Harris honored John Lewis and his legacy by demanding passage of the Voters Rights Act championed by John Lewis, tipping her hand to those that fought before her, and who paved the way to allow her to ascend to her mark as the first Black female Vice Presidential candidate.
These three historic moments help us to gain hope for acceptance in these times of despair and social unrest. I am thankful for these glimmers of hope that not only make us proud to be Americans, but that also compel us and inspire us to do more to achieve the true diversity and inclusion that is still needed in America.