Carol & Helen

We've been thinking a lot about discrimination lately. Not that that is something new for us, but our attention has been drawn to this issue a bit more than usual, and we've been pondering why.

Perhaps it is the increased media focus upon all of the wannabe presidential candidates jockeying for front-runner position. While the majority are white males, it's nice to see a woman and a black man in the running, and we think they might make a good team if they can balance their ideologies and, of course, one of them would have to settle for second position if they did manage to grab that gold ring of power.

Or maybe it's the change in several university administrations that went from a reflection of color back to mostly all white and male.

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And then there is the whopping 70-cent increase that those living on minimum wage will have available to them for spending on frivoloties such as food, clothing, school books and maybe a movie? Scratch that latter option, as they will be way too busy working three or four minimum-wage jobs to pay for the basics to find time for any form of entertainment.

Oh, yes, and let us not forget the new form of harassment of women being carried out by the media, which focus on the partying habits of young female celebs. Can they not allow youth to be young and make some mistakes? Can they adequately critique motherhood from the back of a speeding TV van?

It should be enough to cover the activities of the rich and famous without ascribing motive or intent or including interpretative commentary based upon unknown facts.

Uh-oh, almost forgot to mention what appears to be an increase in violence toward women and children, perhaps worldwide but certainly in our country, where family violence is distributed almost as freely as McDonald's toys.

And then there have been the renewed attacks on women's health care and their right to determine their own status as a wife or mother and monitor their own health care.

Well, we could go on and on, but we know you get the picture.

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Maybe we are simply crazy (we know we have our detractors), or is there a trend here? Could be we are just hysterical women with a rebellious, leave-no-stone-unturned attitude. But we think there is an increase in openly hostile and sometimes threatening discrimination as a direct result of the significant strides being made by folks of color, women and the LGBT community.

We know that when oppressed groups finally say enough and stand up for their rights, pushing those resistant to ceding power off their self-appointed pedestals, societal conflict ensues. Reflection upon the violence during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 70s demonstrates our point.

Consistent with this thinking is that women and LGBT individuals' "pushing" over the past 30 or so years has led to a renewed focus on keeping us down and disempowered. This would seem to be disadvantageous to our overall society because a whole is only as good as its parts.

To disenfranchise parts of a culture prevents growth and instead fosters stagnation and decay. By not availing ourselves of the various talents, abilities, visions and philosophies at hand, we are short-changing our own potential to be the very best we can be.

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Okay, you are saying, we sort of know all of this, but what can we do to really effect change? Sorry to say we have no easy answers here.

You really do have to get off the couch and become a doer instead of an observer.

As much as we love some TV programming and can be guilty of spending time vegging out, we do make an effort to evaluate what we are watching and the messages inherent in the imagery.

Those in power control the media and create life in their own image. If you see things that aren't reflective of you, then you aren't being adequately or correctly represented. How many ads or programs do you see that represent a lesbian, gay or transgender family or individual who isn't the comic neighbor or aberration in the work place?

And doesn't this lack of normal/healthy representation make you angry and cause some personal pain knowing that you are seen as a joke and not taken seriously as a human being? Of course it does! The internalized homophobia among LGBT people is evidenced by persistent feelings of unworthiness propagated by media at our expense.

We must always keep the divided-we-fall slogan in mind because as long as our society permits the humiliation of an individual or group it is breeding anger that, lacking a viable outlet, we turn on one another. This will prevent us from ever emerging as a forceful voice.

If you disagree just review the struggle of women over the years. Women have been taught to mistrust one another in the competitive arena with men, and that competitiveness carries over to lesbians and their mainstream reliance on men for approval, as opposed to supporting and working with other lesbians and women in general.

Black people have been taught to mistrust themselves and one another, just as lesbians, gays bisexuals and transgenders have. All of this self loathing and group hostility prevents empowerment and success among individuals and in groups.

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We have been pleased to see some strong women characters on TV of late, but note that these shows are on various cable channels and not the big 4 (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) that are available to anyone with an antennae. Is this a selective marketing strategy or are we being too paranoid?

We remember not too long ago when there were several black characters on shows and a few Hispanics as well. Where have they gone?

Almost seems like diversity is sort of a "group-of-the-year club" where we each get our time in the spotlight to demonstrate the equity effort, but then the focus moves on to another group without time to allow for any deep or lasting cultural change.

If this is the case then we need to take advantage of our time on the stage and work together to make such an impact that our light can no longer be dimmed.

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We must find and support political candidates who represent real change and stop critiquing them based upon hair style, youthful indiscretions, preferred suit colors or family wealth.

There are individuals who could effect representative change if given the opportunity to do so, and that means grassroots financial support and effort based upon truly equitable values that benefit everyone, not just those of bipartisan special interest groups.

We need to welcome everyone and help those in need, encourage youth to grow and help them avoid damaging pitfalls, such as excessive drug and alcohol use. In essence, we need to stop criticizing everyone, stop being envious, mean and spiteful and replace revenge with tolerance and patience.

And, this means everyone, women, men and youth from all ethnicities, religions, spiritualities, gender and sexual identities.

Does this seem like a monumental undertaking? It shouldn't be since those are touted as the great American ideals. Perhaps we should actually make them a reality.

Helen Harrell and Carol Fischer can be reached at and .