One of the frustrating dichotomies of Madison’s status as a racially disparate city in terms of student achievement, employment, income and criminal justice, is the city’s long tradition of protecting equal rights. And while we must not rest until current inequities are righted, we must also acknowledge the contributions of those who fought to provide the tools we have today to fight against the racial disparities that so stubbornly remain.
Fifty years ago, the Rev. James C. Wright and a number of others including the League of Women Voters and the Madison Citizens for Fair Housing, drafted and successfully passed the Equal Opportunities Ordinance. Madison’s law pre-dated the U.S. Civil Rights Act by eleven years and remains today as one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the nation.
Thursday evening, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Dr. Richard Harris and others will hold a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the City of Madison Equal Opportunities Ordinance. May it remind us of what we can accomplish if we have the commitment and determination to do so.