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It’s no longer a man’s world

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It’s no longer a man’s world

Photo credit: Helen Suh

Photo credit: Helen Suh

Photo credit: Helen Suh

Photo credit: Helen Suh

Emma Vidak-Benjamin

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Over the past week, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has made a controversial announcement about our beloved $20 bill. It’s been decided that Harriet Tubman (former slave and abolitionist who was heavily involved in the Underground Railroad) will replace Andrew Jackson as the face of the $20 bill, while Jackson will be reduced to a smaller image on the back near an image of the White House.

Lew’s decision to replace Jackson with Tubman is a monumental and progressive change that is long overdue in our society. I strongly believe that it’s about time our nation honors a female leader of social and civil rights that changed the course of history for African-Americans. I would hope that everyone in the country can agree that Tubman is a woman that deserves to be honored and revered on a national symbol such as the $20 bill.

After Lew’s announcement about the monetary change, there has been great opposition against removing Jackson as the face of the bill, especially from his home state Tennessee. They are instead viewing the change to the bill as “an attack on the historical contributions of Jackson,” and shocked that he’s being ripped of his position as the face of the $20 bill. Tennesseans view this change as just as much an attack on Jackson as it is an honor to Tubman.

However, does Jackson actually deserve to be on the $20 bill anymore? Jackson was a white slave-owner, advocate of slavery and he displaced thousands of Native Americans that led to the bloody Trail of Tears. While I know it’s difficult to examine the life of a 19th century man through the lens of 21st century views, I still don’t think this should override the injustices that Jackson caused throughout his leadership.

I’m not trying to tear down a national figure at all, but some of Jackson’s actions were questionable in regards to social equality and justice. In contrast, Tubman serves as a good replacement for the face of the bill, because she stands for the triumphs and justices of African-Americans against slavery advocates such as Jackson.

Tubman would be the first female honored on the front of paper currency, excluding Martha Washington who was featured on the $1 silver certificate. Lew says the final designs for the bill will be available in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 123842 PMpngThis is a mock design of what the new $20 bill could look like with Harriet Tubman.

I’m very happy with the news of a female face finally being honored and represented on a national symbol, and I commend Lew for realizing the importance of progressiveness in our government systems. Placing a black female abolitionist on a bill is an extremely progressive move that is respectable but also necessary now in the year 2016.

In regards to Andrew Jackson, I think it’s perfectly OK for our country to move away from staples of the past in order to adopt, embrace and celebrate the diversity and strong-willed female leaders that have been so crucial to our nation’s social development.

Emma Vidak-Benjamin can be reached at [email protected] or @gnarlyemma on Twitter.

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It’s no longer a man’s world