During a one-hour conversation about DACA with Gloria Steinem at Los Angeles City College, over one hundred students, faculty and Los Angelenos streamed into the Herb Albert Music Center to hear Steinem speak about equality and DACA with Samantha Ramirez-Herrera, a world renown expert in multicultural communication for the Latin and Hispanic communities.
Steinem a prolific writer, lecturer, editor and trailblazer of feminism discussed the repercussions from the recent decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Initiated under President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA protects immigrants who arrived in the United States in their youth from deportation and allows certain undocumented immigrants to apply for deferred action and be eligible for work permits. Since President Trump decided to phase out the program, the futures of approximately 800,000 DACA recipients, often referred to as “Dreamers,” have been in limbo.
“People should not be bargaining chips,” said the 83 year old Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree. She spoke eloquently about her activism for Dreamers and the #MeToo movement. “Clearly, at this moment in time, we are gaining our voices in a way that has never happened before,” Steinem said.
Columnist for New York Magazine, and a co-founder of Ms. magazine, Steinem told her audience, she is more comfortable speaking at Los Angeles City College than Harvard or Yale. “It’s far more interesting, because we all look like the people in our country and can instruct one another.”
Just weeks before, Steinem marched in the second Women’s March and voiced how there is more unification right now, than last year at the first National Women’s March, when five million women of all ages, races and nationalities gathered together to protest gender equality. Many of these empowered women found a sense of unity and purpose in the #MeToo movement.
Steinem outlined how she educated women in the 70s by saying, “Remember I’m not crazy, the system is crazy,” reflecting how women in the 70s were made to feel crazy if they worked outside their home. They were made to feel like second class citizens. “In the 70s, if you were a feminist, you were labeled a lesbian,” said Steinem. “There were all kinds of myths that are gone now. We are the majority.”
Steinem believes black women were a huge part of the civil rights, and the heart of feminist activism. She gave examples of how black women voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election, while white women voted more for Trump. “Black women are more feminists than white women. Look at what they did for Doug Jones in Alabama,” Steinem said.
Now Dreamers are rising up with allies and pushing forward. “We need Dreamers in this country. They are more motivated, hard working and have lower arrests,” Steinem said.
How can we merge groups and work together? “Don’t say what should I do today, say what can I do today. There are people all around who will listen to you and ask what can they do,” Steinem said.
Before leaving to fly back to New York, Steinem urged everyone to get out and vote. “Look at each other, instead of looking up for leadership in this administration,” Steinem said. “I’ve been around a long time and have never seen such social activism to have a voice and make a change. The Dream Act bill shouldn’t be included with border wall funding or increasing border security. It’s not about politics, it’s about people.”