Commentary

The State of Black Women in the U.S.

Jun 08, 2017

A new report from the The National Domestic Workers Alliance offers a broad picture of the experiences of black women in the U.S., and aims to inspire the creation of programs that remove barriers to their economic success. The NDWA is an advocacy and membership group for domestic workers, including nannies, housekeepers, and home care workers, many of whom work informally and without the benefit of legal protections.

The Statue of Black Women in the United States is the first ever report of its kind for the organization, and it analyzes the broader experience of black women in six categories - political participation, employment and earnings, work and family, poverty and opportunity, health and well-being, and violence and safety.

It’s a treasure trove of stats and recommendations. Here's a quick snapshot: From 2004 to 2014, Black women’s real median annual earnings declined by 5%. As of 2014, for black women who worked full-time, year-round, the median annual earnings was 64% of what it was for white men. Some 28% of black women work in the service industry, and 80% of black women are the sole or primary breadwinners of their families. While the number of businesses owned by black women increased by 178% between 2002 and 2012, our lives remain fraught: We are underinsured, more likely to be afflicted by preventable diseases, more likely to be incarcerated or experience domestic partner violence than most other ethnic cohorts.

Black Lives Matter co-founder and NDWA special projects director Alicia Garza has written the forward, and puts the findings into historical context:

White women were able to enter and succeed in the workforce largely because of the work of Black women and other women of color. Without Black women’s labor inside of white households, white women would not have been able to break (some) of the barriers of sexism that relegated the value of women’s contributions to the sphere of the home.

Though slavery was legally abolished in the United States in 1865, the conditions that existed under slavery continue to persist today. Black women continue to be at a severe disadvantage in many aspects of our democracy and our economy. Whether one examines Black women’s access to health care, Black women’s earnings, or Black women’s access to much needed social supports like childcare and eldercare, Black women are getting the short end of the stick--despite having contributed so much to the building of this nation.

The result is a racialized economy where Black women are losing ground. The care economy was built, in large part, from Black women’s labor. Today, the care economy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the US economy, overall. Yet, in the fastest growing sector of the economy, wages are not growing. The people who care for those we care for the most are underpaid, undervalued, and under-protected. While the care workforce today is comprised largely of immigrant women from Central America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia, Black immigrant and Black American women are still concentrated in the sector. Thirty percent of the workforce that cares for us are Black American women.

While the report is a great start, there are gaps - the experiences of black immigrant or transgender women in the care industry are not fully explored. (Garza points to resources who are filling in those gaps.)

Garza ends with a call to action. "We hope that the information and recommendations contained within can be a contribution to a social movement that works hard each day to bring forward the world we know that we all deserve," she writes. "Ultimately, we aim to contribute to that movement by ensuring that Black women- -cisgender, transgender, gender non-conforming, immigrant, low income, disabled, US born, with children or without--are at the center of an economy and a democracy that works for all of us."

On Point

Why white men still dominate the board room

This opinion piece by Coco Brown, the founder and CEO of Athena Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to increasing gender diversity on corporate boards, explains how favoritism plays into the board selection process. It’s just human nature. “[T]hose who already have a seat at the table are far more likely to invite favorite members of their own networks to fill any spaces that open up beside them,” she explains. By combing their networks for candidates, which is how 87% of board seats are filled, they tend to find their favorite people – who tend to be just like themselves. “Favoritism at work hurts affected individuals, but in-group bias damages the business,” she says.

Fortune

The Uber executive who obtained the medical records of a customer who was raped has been fired

Eric Alexander, the president of business in the Asia Pacific, obtained the medical records of a woman who was raped during an Uber ride in India. He then showed the records to, among other people, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and SVP Emil Michael. This was just one of the incidents that had been reported to two law firms as part of an ongoing investigation into mismanagement and improprieties at the firm. Recode has the entire ugly story, and it’s worth your time if you can stomach it. The company was facing government inquiries over potentially inadequate background checks – the rapist, now in prison, was then awaiting trial on four other criminal counts. Kalanick and the others raised the prospect that the woman’s story was untrue and worse, that a competitor had encouraged her report as a form of sabotage.

Recode

Salesforce expands the categories that employees can use to self-identify

Companies are increasingly exploring ways to better understand the diverse needs of their employees while publicly signaling their commitment to inclusion. This latest example of this intersection comes from Salesforce, with a new video and announcement that the company’s decision to increase the categories of “self-identification,” data they plan to collect. “In addition to the usual self I.D. fields that most people recognize (e.g., marital status, race/ethnicity, abilities) we've updated self I.D. for veterans, and added three new voluntary fields for everyone: sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender pronouns,” explains Chief Equality Officer Tony Prophet in a blog post. “While individual’s information will remain private, we’ll use the data in aggregate to better understand our diverse Ohana and develop programs to promote Equality within our company and beyond.” It’s a nice video, too.

Salesforce

Trump supporters call for Muslim internment camps

This appalling trend, documented by writer and commentator Shaun King, is even more striking because the proponents are comfortable using the term “internment camp” and are even linking them affirmatively to the ones set up to imprison Japanese Americans during World War II. King cites an appearance on a Fox news program by Nigel Farage, who said of the recent London attacks, “We want action. And if there is not action, then the calls for internment will grow.” A regular Fox guest, Katie Holmes agreed. (The host stated that it was not the position of the Fox News Network, calling the idea “reprehensible.”) King cites other examples, one in an op-ed, another from the British editor-in-chief of Breitbart News.

New York Daily News

The Woke Leader

The time that Isamu Noguchi visited a Japanese internment camp to be helpful and was then forced to stay

Noguchi was already a well-known and highly sought after sculptor and designer, working on large scale public projects like one in NYC’s Rockefeller Center, and sculpting portraits of the Hollywood elite. But when a Bureau of Indian Affairs official suggested the Los Angeles born artist set up an art center at the newly constructed Poston War Relocation Center, he agreed. It was only after he arrived that he realized that he too, was under suspicion, and the authorities would not let him leave. A fascinating profile of a profoundly optimistic and resilient spirt, who thrived despite the deep and bitter racism of his time. A must read.

New Yorker

Barbecue is a beloved American tradition, just not in the way you think

Food historian and chef Michael Twitty explains in delightful detail how despite the strict rules of local barbecue customs, the origins of the technique are richly nuanced and are an amalgam of traditions from many lands. “If anything, both in etymology and culinary technique, barbecue is as African as it is Native American and European, though enslaved Africans have largely been erased from the modern story of American barbecue,” he says. Enslaved people shaped the barbeque tradition in the New World by bringing specific flavors and techniques from their homelands. “And the word barbecue also has roots in West Africa among the Hausa, who used the term ‘babbake’ to describe a complex of words referring to grilling, toasting, building a large fire, singeing hair or feathers and cooking food over a long period of time over an extravagant fire.” You’ll be hungry after you read this.

The Guardian

Opinion: Yoga teachers need to go to ethics school

A spate of high-profile sexual assault charges leveled against well-known teachers and practitioners reveal a deeper problem within professional yoga circles: The industry needs an ethics makeover. This is the charge of Sarah Herrington, who says that there are countless whispered stories of teachers coming on to or serially dating students. The predatory nature of the behavior diminishes the “industry” and endangers the well-being of students. She makes a poignant case. People often first try yoga or related spiritual practices like meditation because they are seeking peace. And that makes them vulnerable. “They come recovering from broken bones and hearts, and usually at some greater personal crossroads. They come with trauma, addictions or eating disorders. They come after divorce. They come with hope,” she writes.

New York Times

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