I don’t think anyone would have ever put J.C. Penney and the US Dept. of Treasury in the same sentence. However, that is immediately where my mind went after the announcement that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill was quickly retracted to say that Harriet Tubman would share the $20 bill with Andrew Jackson. Let the head scratching begin!
Now, why do we care? Looking across all of our currency options, it is clear that the American experience that they espouse is one that is decidedly Caucasian. To an extraterrestrial visitor, it would appear that the only individuals that made this great country what it is today were white. Obviously this is patently false and I was gladdened when the US Treasury announced plans to change our currency to better reflect the history of our nation. Then my joy quickly ceased.
After the initial announcement, the report was changed to say that some of the new people on our money (individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt) would share their bills with the existing faces on them. Why? If you’re going to make a bold change, make a bold change. Why can’t we have bills with different individuals on them in circulation at the same time? This seems like a great opportunity to sell those albums where you collect one of each bill, much like the ones for state quarters from my youth.
However, the crux of the matter here is, why did they only go halfway? Why not stand up to public pressure (and there was plenty) and give Harriet the entire bill? I don’t think she and Andrew Jackson see eye-to-eye on issues of race to put it mildly. She also probably would not be a fan of his ethnic cleansing either.
This is not the first time that an organization made a bold announcement and then waked it back a day later.
J.C. Penney did a similar thing when they announced Ellen DeGeneres would be their spokesperson a few years ago. They made a splashy announcement one day, and then they quickly changed their tune when conservative groups clapped back because they did not want to shop somewhere where a lesbian was the spokesperson.
So what? Corporations being PC is nothing new and Harriet Tubman gets a place on the $20 bill, a first for a black individual. Isn’t that good enough?
The answer is a resounding no!
We need to push our leaders and corporations to make bold choices and to stand behind them. Much like the Campbell’s Soup’s Star Wars ad showcasing two gay dads and their child, they did not cave to pressure to apologize. In fact, they doubled down and basically told their detractors to grow up and have a heart. We need to encourage more of this behavior and force our government and corporations to showcase the varied and colorful parts of the world that we actually live in, not simply the Caucasian one.