Step one: cleanse the skin?
“Black women have had to develop a larger vision of our society than perhaps any other group. They have had to understand white men, white women, and black men. And they have had to understand themselves. When black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every segment of society.”
—Angela Davis, political activist
In December, after Alabama voters voted to send Doug Jones to the Senate, rather than Roy Moore, Democrats celebrated, and many gave particular cheers to black female voters who had helped tip the vote in Jones’ favor.
That state election was reminiscent of what happened in November 2016 when 90 percent of black women voted for Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.
In January, after her speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey spent a week being encouraged to run for president by a significant number of left-leaning voters.
Writer Maya Francis contributed this to the website Dame after the Alabama election:
What does it mean for Black women to be put in charge by someone else, to have power conferred to them, instead of something we independently assert and claim for ourselves? What does it mean when Black women are positioned as some kind of political defender of the faith, charged with the task of righting injustice and improving the lives of everyone else, while we are “300 percent more likely than White women to die” trying to bring life into the world, according to the Center for Reproductive Justice?
The selective visibility of Black women, the acknowledgment of our value when it best suits a bottom line is not new. In fact, it’s traditionally American. But be clear, Black women voted to save themselves, not Alabama. Not the country. The good faith decision-making, the righteous dissent that’s suddenly in vogue, comes from generations of knowing that no one will protect us but ourselves, and not being afforded the luxury of second chances.
The 2017 Status of Black Women in the United States report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the National Domestic Workers Alliance concluded that “Black women’s contributions to U.S. society and the economy have been undervalued and undercompensated.”
Black women, along with multiracial women, have the highest labor force participation rate in the nation among women, but at all educational levels Black women are concentrated in lowerpaying jobs than most other groups of workers. When working full-time, yearround, Black women earn just 64 cents to every dollar earned by comparable White men. In addition, Black women are overrepresented in the service sector, doing crucial work to care for children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities while earning low wages and receiving few benefits.
Black women have been showing up for years — to vote, organize and speak out. When will the rest of the country show up for them?
- Amber J. Phillips Writer, digital media and organizing strategist, political commentator and co-host of The Black Joy Mixtape podcast; @amberjphillips
- Maya Francis Culture writer and cultural commentator; @MF_Greatest
- Chandra Childers, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research; @IWPResearch
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