Dorothy Height Dies: Key Civil Rights Leader



225px-DorothyHeight_Book_Nordstrom_VA_15feb97Civil rights activist, Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, died today at age 98. In her long and distinguished career she was an educator and civil rights activist. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 during the Clinton administration.(photo: wikipedia)

President Obama made this comment on her life, calling her “the godmother of the civil rights movement”:

Dr. Height devoted her life to those struggling for equality … and served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil Rights Movement — witnessing every march and milestone along the way.

Wikipedia has this on key aspects of her long life:

Height was born in Richmond, Virginia. At an early age, she moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania. Height was admitted to Barnard College in 1929, but upon arrival, she was denied entrance because the school had an unwritten policy of admitting only two black students. She pursued studies instead at New York University, earning a degree in 1932, and a master’s degree in educational psychology the following year.

Height started working as a caseworker with the New York City Welfare Department and, at the age of twenty-five, she began a career as a civil rights activist when she joined the National Council of Negro Women. She fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women, and in 1944 she joined the national staff of the YWCA. . . . In 1957, Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. During the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Height organized “Wednesdays in Mississippi” . . . which brought together black and white women from the North and South to create a dialogue of understanding.

American leaders regularly took her counsel, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Height also encouraged President Dwight D. Eisenhower to desegregate schools and President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint African American women to positions in government. In the mid 1960s, Height wrote a column entitled “A Woman’s Word” for the weekly African-American newspaper, the New York Amsterdam News.

She will be greatly missed.

New Research: Confronting Racism Boosts Self-Esteem

A new study of Filipino Americans by researchers at San Francisco State University demonstrates that confronting racism helps boost self-esteem for some.
The study was conducted by Alvin Alvarez, professor of counseling at San Francisco State University and Linda Juang, associate professor of psychology.  They are co-authors on a new article, “Filipino Americans and Racism: A Multiple Mediation Model of Coping,” which appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology.  Alvarez surveyed 199 Filipino American adults, both men and women, in the San Francisco Bay Area and found that 99 percent of participants had experienced at least one incident of everyday racism in the last year.   The study focused on “everyday racism” — subtle, commonplace forms of discrimination, such as being ignored, ridiculed or treated differently.  In an interview, lead researcher Alvarez explained:

“These are incidents that may seem innocent and small, but cumulatively they can have a powerful impact on an individual’s mental health. Trying to ignore these insidious incidents could become taxing and debilitating over time, chipping away at a person’s spirit.”

For men in the study, dealing with racism in an active way, such as reporting incidents to authorities or challenging the perpetrator, was associated with decreased distress and increased self esteem.  The authors caution that what makes a healthy coping mechanism is influenced by such factors as gender, socioeconomic status, age, English language capacity and length of residency in the United States.  There seems to be a different dynamic at work for women in the study who did not report the positive self-esteem boost associated with “active coping,” in the same way that men did.  For women, the “avoidance” coping strategy increased psychological distress and decrease self-esteem.

“What’s striking is we found that racism is still happening to Filipinos. Therapists need to look beyond the frequent portrayal of Asian Americans as model minorities and help clients assess what their best coping strategy could be, depending on their resources, what’s feasible and who they could turn to for support.”

Of course, this new research lends further support to the argument that Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin have done in their book, The Myth of the Model Minority, in which they document the widespread experience of everyday racism among Asian Americans.