Jul 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Underrepresented groups step into the 2020 spotlight

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus and Black Lives Matter protests have supercharged a diverse, intersectional civil rights movement.

The big picture: 2020 is provoking a cultural awakening — a unique moment in American history that Black Americans, immigrants, Latinos, women, people with disabilities and advocates for LGBTQ rights are all hoping to seize.

"We are definitely trying to leverage what's going on to get our asks out there, and advocate for the needs and the rights of people," Claire Stanley, advocacy outreach specialist for the American Council of the Blind, told Axios.

Driving the news: The converging crises of 2020 are raising the public's awareness of issues that any number of underrepresented communities have been focused on for years, and highlighting the connections among them.

  • The coronavirus has laid bare the gross inequities of the health care system at the same time as massive protests over systemic racism in policing and criminal justice.
  • The virus has also highlighted the need for more accessible absentee voting — something people with disabilities — in particular, people who are blind or visually impaired — have long fought for.
  • And immigration advocates hope the debate over America's militarized police forces will carry over into greater concern for the militarization of immigration enforcement.

Between the lines: Media reflect the leading edge of this movement.

  • People with disabilities have been lobbying for better representation in Hollywood — both to create more characters who have disabilities and to hire more actors with with disabilities, as the New York Times reported.
  • The Los Angeles Times Guild’s Latino employees have created a Latino Caucus to advocate for better representation at the paper and to push for more coverage of their community. In a letter to the company's owner and top editors, the group says that the Los Angeles Times "has covered the Latino community in dehumanizing ways, painting us as criminals or victims or simply ignoring us."
  • The latest public service announcement campaign from the nonprofit Ad Council addresses racism and harassment against the Asian and Pacific Islander community in light of COVID-19.

What they're saying: "The more you can show the success of people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ community, the more rapidly people will embrace employing, partnering with, working with people who are different," said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of the non-profit RespectAbility which is deeply involved in representation fights in Hollywood.

  • "People make assumptions about what people with disabilities can and can’t do. It’s sometimes difficult to get beyond that," Rita Martin, deputy director of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, told Axios.

The bottom line: In what has been a disastrous year in many ways, "I would like to look at one silver lining," said Sergio Gonzalez, deputy director at the Immigration Hub.

  • "It has awakened consciousness again around race and civil rights in a way that didn't exist before. I think that when we've seen major progress, around issues of social justice and civil rights. It's been when movements have been able to work together and across space.... I hope and believe that that's what we're seeing right now."
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