Political correctness has dictated exclusive use of portraits of white men on our paper currency (with the 19th-century exceptions of Martha Washington and Pocahontas). Nonetheless, many Americans welcomed the April 2016 announcement that a portrait of Harriet Tubman would be placed on the face of the $20 bill in 2020.
The recent announcement by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin that Harriet Tubman’s appearance will be delayed until at least 2026 was a disappointment to those of us not committed to total white, male political correctness on U.S. paper currency.
This decision is obviously not as important as such issues as school segregation, housing discrimination, employment disparities, mass incarceration or Black Lives Matter, but symbolism is important. Despite the alternative explanations offered by Secretary Mnuchin for no African American woman appearing on U.S. paper currency as long as Donald J. Trump remains president of the United States, the decision to stick with only white men strikes me as discouragingly racist and sexist.
Under the most benevolent interpretation, Secretary Mnuchin’s announcement reveals a disturbing blindness and deafness on the part of the current administration to the disheartening appearance (even if unintentional) of blatant racism and misogyny.
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