February 22, 2019

This week on To The Contrary with Bonnie Erbe, our panelists discuss the Catholic Church’s summit to stop sexual abuse, the black suffragists’ story, and in honor of Black History Month, interviews with two prominent African-American congresswomen.

On the panel this week joining host Bonnie Erbe is: Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Patrice Lee Onwuka, Senior Policy Analyst, Independent Women’s Voices; Angela Sailor, Heritage Foundation; and Megan Beyer, Women in Public Service.

Click read more to see what they had to say!

Pope Francis & Sexual Abuse

The Catholic Church holds a historic summit to stop abuse of minors

  • Del. Norton:”The Church is finally compelled to act. Now the law enforcement authorities, like those in Pennsylvania, are moving aggressively.”

  • Megan Beyer: “People feel this is so very long overdue. And it echoes what we have seen in other patriarchal hierarchies, where there is a circling of the wagons. We’ve seen it with military and sexual assault. We’ve seen it with police abuses. Enough is enough. We have to rebuild the trust that people have in their institutions, and of course, that would include their church”

  • Angela Sailor: “As they are going through the summit, there’s got to be transparency and accountability in order for people to regain trust in the institution. We’ve seen Pew Research data that shows Catholics are losing confidence.”

  • Patrice Lee: “Outside of the Catholic setting, in the Christian world, lots of denominations struggle with [the issue of sexual abuse of minors.] Unfortunately, because there’s a lack of accountability, because independent churches have no one imposing rules that bring accountability, this goes undealt with. This should be a cautionary tale for every faith that you need to be careful about the leaders.”

  • Bonnie Erbe: The [Catholic sex abuse] scandals broke in Australia 30 years ago, and hit the US 20 years ago, I know that’s a split second in the history of the Catholic Church... [but will the summit be] just chipping away, incrementally?

Black Suffragists

How white suffragists frequently turned their back on their black sisters

  • Del. Norton:”What [white suffragists] were caught in is the racism of their time. Bear in mind, that many of these suffragist leaders had been leaders in the abolition movement. In fact, the first abolitionists were white women... They took a very strategic and unprincipled position - all of this desegregation that we’ve been waiting for takes a backseat, and I mean literally backseat. A strategic position surrounded by an American philosophy that said ‘Blacks are inferior anyway. They’ve taken care of everyone but us. We are the majority and we are claiming our rights.’ And in doing so, they lost the respect of the black suffragettes. And shows what it takes to do two things at one time.”

  • Angela Sailor: “It would have been a risk [white suffragists] would have to take [to include black women.] When you’re in the middle of a movement, and you’re tired of waiting... they probably didn’t feel like they had the time and space. But I tell you this, I salute the black women for having the persistence and the dedication to continue to fight not only for their rights but their families’ rights”

  • Patrice Lee: “It’s sad to look back at the strategic decisions that were made, where you’re willing to accept racism, just because you wanted to get women the vote. Just because you wanted to end temperance.”

  • Megan Beyer: “In the 1960s there was a congressman who was trying to kill the Civil Rights Bill. He was a Jim Crow Democrat from Virginia. And he said ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll put women in there.’ And so he put women in the bill.  And the only reason the Civil Rights Bill in the 60s had covered women was because they thought it was a poison pill.”

  • Bonnie Erbe: “Call it explicit insensitivity by people who should have known better. Call it Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other white suffragists acting as products of their own racist times. But black suffragists who fought equally hard for women’s right to vote suffered the demoralizing effect of racism from the white women running the movement.”

Black History Month

We speak with Reps. Karen Bass and Barbara Lee about African-American role models

  • Del. Norton: ”The growth of women in the Congressional Black Caucus says everything about how African-Americans perceive leaders and leadership. African-Americans have always been at the forefront of understanding what women can do, and the increase in the number of black women who represent districts is a continuation of that faith.”

  • Patrice Lee: “We shouldn’t just have one month dedicated to learning about our black heroes, it should be woven throughout teaching, and civics, and US history. Unfortunately, it’s not.”

  • Bonnie Erbe: “Isn’t the purpose of Black History Month, to use a period in time every year to remind people, and to hope one day that the Barbara Lee’s and the Congresswomen Nortons of the world are written into history as they should be?”

  • Angela Sailor: “I think more attention could be given to [conservative black women in history.] I’m so excited about Kay Coles James taking the helm of the Heritage Foundation. Her position there resonates back out to all of America, in terms of an image of a person who can lead.”


Be sure to tune in this week for more discussion! Click here to check your local listings.