“There’s no wrong time for a black woman to be in charge.”
Two years ago this week, the Treasury secretary announced civil rights and women’s icons would be on America’s money. Where are they?
Martin Luther King’s daughter believes the challenges of the past 15 months have strengthened her father’s legacy, not diminished it
Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald rose to the occasion with their paintings of the former president and first lady, while—importantly—continuing their radical projects in black portraiture.
Even as Zendaya, Yara Shihidi, and Amandla Stenberg become voices for a new generation, there is concern that only a certain ‘type’ of black girl gets the spotlight.
By Gabrielle Bozarth and Naomi Kellogg/
In honor of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, regular Race and Beyond columnist Sam Fulwood III invited interns Gabrielle Bozarth and Naomi Kellogg to reflect on the intersecting barriers of gender, race, and age in the U.S. workforce.
Tomorrow marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which observes the amount of time it takes the average black woman to earn the same pay that the average white man earns in one calendar year. Because black women earn 60 percent of what their white male counterparts do—a rate much lower than the 79 percent national pay gap for all women—it takes approximately eight additional months for them to reach pay parity with white men. Years of advocacy and progress have resulted in black women working across all fields and reaching high levels of academic achievement, with more than half of all black women between the ages of 18 and 24 enrolled in college. While black women have made notable professional contributions and become the most educated group in the nation, these advancements have not shown a considerable effect on wage disparities.
Black women’s pay disparity is especially concerning for Millennials—the nation’s most diverse generation ever—who now make up the majority of workers. In May 2015, Millennials surpassed Generation Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, and in April 2016, Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation. As the youngest Millennials get older, graduate college, and begin looking for jobs, many are faced with two specific barriers: their race and gender. As young black women of the Millennial generation, we shoulder both the struggles and the hopes of our mothers and grandmothers: to be more, build more, and catapult our families to new heights—and new tax brackets. In this legacy, wage equality is our principle concern.
In the current U.S. economy, securing a first job out of college can be difficult, especially for black Americans. Regardless of educational achievement, black American unemployment rates are similar to or higher than those of less-educated white Americans. For example, the unemployment rate for black Americans with bachelor’s degrees or higher is nearly double that of their white counterparts: 4.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
Even if we ace the interview and land the job, as black women, we are likely to be underpaid. This is a frightening prospect as we wrap up our undergraduate college careers and look to build a life and a future of financial success. Men make more than women in all but five occupations, and even in those occupations, women of color are paid the lowest on average.
Black women in the workplace face a number of struggles: from stereotypes about women’s roles and harsh critiques of women’s leadership to lack of informational and mentoring networks in many fields. Black women experience unique obstacles that are a result of our compounded identities. Income inequality presents many barriers, as black women may also have to work multiple jobs or longer hours and do not have the time to network and develop the relationships with their coworkers and superiors that are key to career advancement.
Black women who are pregnant face even greater barriers to success in the workplace. While many pregnant women are able to work through pregnancy without difficulty, some women need temporary job modifications in order to continue working safely. A 2008 report noted that women of color and immigrant women are disproportionately likely to work in physically demanding and low-wage jobs and thus are highly likely to need accommodations during pregnancy—similar to those defined in, but not enforced by, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers often refuse to make these adjustments for pregnant women, forcing young black women, like us, to make an impossible choice between keeping our jobs and advancing our careers or protecting our health. Our struggle as young black Millennial women is multifaceted, and making 60 cents to the dollar of our white male counterparts further exacerbates these issues.
The unfortunate reality of the wage gap is that black women are set up to fail; the 40 cents we miss out on accumulates and limits us from fully participating in the U.S. economy. This money could help us pay off student loan debt, buy our first home, or purchase a car. It could help us pay for quality care for our children or put healthy food on the table. On average, black women earn $19,399 less than white men every year, and in 2013 dollars, this would be enough to pay for: feeding a household of four for two years with more than $4,000 to spare, the median cost of rent and utilities for one year, full-time child care for a four-year-old for two years, student loan payments for four years, or more than 300 tanks of gas with $1,000 to spare.
But earning less does not just affect our present, it affects our future. Being underpaid for equal work contributes to an increasing wealth gap and inheritance gap, infringing on prospects of upward mobility for future generations. Black women head 68 percent of black households, and black families have 13 times less wealth than white families, holding only $11,000 in comparison to the $141,900 in wealth white families possess. A lack of wealth and savings also means black families have less to pass down to their children, widening the inheritance gap.
Lack of inheritance coupled with lower earnings for equal work inherently limit the upward social mobility of black women and their children. Half of black children who are born poor remain poor, and 70 percent of black children born in middle-class families end up worse off than their parents.
Under current public policy, total wage equality for all women will not be reached in the United States until 2059; this means that in some states, our grandchildren may be the first to earn an equitable wage at the start of their careers. This inequality is not only of concern for us and our families but also for the nation’s future. Given the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling and globalization of markets, money has become inextricably tied to power.
As we end our undergraduate careers and begin to enter the workforce, it is troubling to note that our starting salaries may be too low, our upward mobility too slow, our purchasing power too weak, and our investments too small to become this nation’s leaders. Economic repression of black women is a strategy for maintaining the status quo—and so far, it is working.
Gabrielle Bozarth is a rising senior at Dartmouth College, studying government and women, gender, and sexuality studies. Naomi Kellogg is a rising junior at Indiana University, studying nonprofit management and education policy. Both served as Progress 2050 interns at the Center for American Progress during the summer of 2016.
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Black History Month 2016: 15 Interesting Facts About Famous African-Americans And The February Celebration
BYON 01/31/16 AT 8:09 AM
Are you ready to learn? Black History Month begins in the U.S. Monday, and the observance, celebrating African-Americans’ achievements and contributions to the country, runs throughout February. Although some chapters of the national story are famous — such as the one centered on Jackie Robinson’s debut as the first black Major League Baseball player — others are less well-known.
Here are 15 bits of information you should know about Black History Month.
1. Black History Month started in 1926. The observance was proposed by Carter Godwin Woodson, an author and historian, as Negro History Week. It expanded in the 1970s.
2. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909. It’s now considered “the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil-rights organization,” according to its website.
3. The U.S. isn’t the only country to celebrate Black History Month. Canada also observes it in February, while the U.K. recognizes it in October.
4. There are more than 45 million African-Americans living in the U.S.,according to Census Bureau data. That’s about 15 percent of the nation’s population.
5. In 2013, New York had the most African-American residents, with 3.7 million.
6. There are more than 2 million black veterans.
7. By 2060, the black population is forecast to make up almost 18 percent of the U.S. population.
9. The first black birth on record in what would become the U.S. happened in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1606. And the first African-American birth occurred in 1624, according to the African American Registry.
10. The first black NBA player was Earl Lloyd in 1950. He played for the Washington Capitols and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame more than half a century later, in 2003.
12. One out of every four cowboys in the 1800s was black, CNN reported.
13. The 114th Congress, the current one, is the most diverse ever. Forty-six House and Senate members are black, according to the Pew Research Center.
14. The first black U.S. senator was Hiram Revels in 1870. The day he officially joined Congress, “visitors in the Senate galleries burst into applause as … [he] entered the chamber to take his oath of office,” according to the Senate website.
15. President Barack Obama proclaimed February to be Black History Month Friday, writing that as the nation observes it, “we recognize these champions of justice and the sacrifices they made to bring us to this point, we honor the contributions of African-Americans since our country’s beginning, and we recommit to reaching for a day when no person is judged by anything but the content of their character.”
From the archives of the NY Times, July 1, 1963, Pages 1, 16:
The new initiative is an awaited counterpart to last year’s initiative for young men, ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’
On Friday, a long-awaited answer was delivered at an all-day forum at Wake Forest University dedicated to the issues facing women and girls of color. The White House Council on Women and Girls announced a five-year initiative that will include $118 million in public and private partnerships devoted to empowering women and girls and lifting them out of poverty.
The conference centered around a White House report, Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color, that focuses on education, health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity, among other issues. While gains have been made for marginalized American women in recent years, the report noted, significant inequity and barriers to success remain.
While the average woman makes just 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, for example, the gender pay gap is even starker for women of color. Black women earn just 60 cents per dollar earned by the average white man, while Latino women earn only 55 cents. In spite of representing a smaller percentage of the overall U.S. population than do their white counterparts, black and Native American girls are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. Girls of color are more than twice as likely than white girls to become pregnant as teens, decreasing their odds of earning a high school diploma.
Obama addressed the inequalities facing women and girls of color in September during a speech before the Congressional Black Caucus, foreshadowing the initiative announced Friday.
“When women of color aren’t given the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential, we all lose out on their talents; we’re not as good a country as we can be,” Obama said. “So we’re going to have to close those economic gaps so that hardworking women of all races, and black women in particular, can support families and strengthen communities and contribute to our country’s success.”
JULY 24, 2015
I AM tired of writing about slain black people, particularly when those
responsible are police officers, the very people obligated to serve and protect
them. I am exhausted. I experience this specific exhaustion with alarming
frequency. I am all too aware that I have the luxury of such exhaustion.
One of the greatest lies perpetrated on our culture today is the notion that
dash cameras on police cruisers and body cameras on police officers are tools
of justice. Video evidence, no matter the source, can document injustice, but
rarely does this incontrovertible evidence keep black people safe or prevent
Sandra Bland, 28 years old, was pulled over earlier this month in Waller
County, Tex., by a state trooper, Brian T. Encinia. She was pulled over for a
routine traffic stop. She shouldn’t have been pulled over but she was driving
while black, and the reality is that black women and men are pulled over every
day for this infraction brought about by the color of their skin.
We know a lot about Ms. Bland now. She was in the prime of her life,
about to start a new job at Prairie View A&M University. She had posted on
Facebook earlier this year that she was experiencing depression. She was
passionate about civil rights and advocacy. According to an autopsy report, she
committed suicide in her jail cell after three days. What I find particularly
painful is that her bail was $5,000. Certainly, that is a lot of money, but if the
public had known, we could have helped her family raise the funds to get her
As a black woman, I feel this tragedy through the marrow of my bones.
We all should, regardless of the identities we inhabit.
Recently, my brother and I were talking on the phone as he drove to work.
He is the chief executive of a publicly traded company. He was dressed for
work, driving a BMW. He was using a handsfree system. These particulars
shouldn’t matter but they do in a world where we have to constantly mourn
the loss of black lives and memorialize them with hashtags. In this same
world, we remind politicians and those who believe otherwise that black lives
matter while suffocated by evidence to the contrary.
During the course of our conversation, he was pulled over by an officer
who said he looked like an escapee from Pelican Bay State Prison in California.
It was a strange story for any number of reasons. My brother told me he would
call me right back. In the minutes I waited, my chest tightened. I worried. I
stared at my phone. When he called back, no more than seven or eight minutes
had passed. He joked: “I thought it was my time. I thought ‘this is it.’ ” He
went on with his day because this is a quotidian experience for black people
who dare to drive.
Each time I get in my car, I make sure I have my license, registration and
insurance cards. I make sure my seatbelt is fastened. I place my cellphone in
the handless dock. I check and double check and triple check these details
because when (not if) I get pulled over, I want there to be no doubt I am
following the letter of the law. I do this knowing it doesn’t really matter if I am
following the letter of the law or not. Law enforcement officers see only the
color of my skin, and in the color of my skin they see criminality, deviance, a
lack of humanity. There is nothing I can do to protect myself, but I am
comforted by the illusion of safety.
As a larger, very tall woman, I am sometimes mistaken for a man. I don’t
want to be “accidentally” killed for being a black man. I hate that such a
thought even crosses my mind. This is the reality of living in this black body.
This is my reality of black womanhood, living in a world where I am stripped
of my femininity and humanity because of my unruly black body.
There is a code of conduct in emergency situations — women and children
first. The most vulnerable among us should be rescued before all others. In
reality, this code of conduct is white women and children first. Black women,
black children, they are not afforded the luxury of vulnerability. We have been
shown this time and again. We remember McKinney, Tex., and a police officer,
David Casebolt, holding a young black girl to the ground. We say the names of
the fallen. Tamir Rice. Renisha McBride. Natasha McKenna. Tanisha
Anderson. Rekia Boyd. We say their names until our throats run dry and there
are still more names to add to the list.
During the illfated traffic stop, most of which was caught on camera, Mr.
Encinia asked Ms. Bland why she was irritated and she told him. She answered
the question she was asked. Her voice was steady, confident. Mr. Encinia
didn’t like her tone, as if she should be joyful about a traffic stop. He told Ms.
Bland to put her cigarette out and she refused. The situation escalated. Mr.
Encinia threatened to light her up with his Taser. Ms. Bland was forced to
leave her car. She continued to protest. She was placed in handcuffs. She was
treated horribly. She was treated as less than human. She protested her
treatment. She knew and stated her rights but it did not matter. Her black life
and her black body did not matter.
Because Sandra Bland was driving while black, because she was not
subservient in the manner this trooper preferred, a routine traffic stop became
a death sentence. Even if Ms. Bland did commit suicide, there is an entire
system of injustice whose fingerprints left bruises on her throat.
In his impassioned new memoir, “Between the World and Me,” TaNehisi
Coates writes, “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is
heritage.” I would take this bold claim a step further. It is also traditional to
try and destroy the black spirit. I don’t want to believe our spirits can be
broken. Nonetheless, increasingly, as a black woman in America, I do not feel
alive. I feel like I am not yet dead.
Roxane Gay is the author of “An Untamed State” and “Bad Feminist” and a
contributing opinion writer.
A version of this oped appears in print on July 25, 2015, on page A21 of the New York edition with
the headline: On the Death of Sandra Bland.
© 2015 The New York Times Company