Yesterday was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day on which black women have earned as much since January 2016 as white men had earned on December 31, 2016. Yep, that’s seven months to catch up. Serena Williams, writing in Fortune has things to say about that.
In every stage of my life, I’ve had to learn to stand up for myself and speak out. I have been treated unfairly, I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and—in the most painful times—I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court. Luckily, I am blessed with an inner drive and a support system of family and friends that encourage me to move forward. But these injustices still hurt. …
Data doesn’t lie. It just gives a number to the gap women feel every day. It is my hope that I can give a voice to those who aren’t heard in Silicon Valley, and the workforce as a whole.
Let today serve as a reminder that we have a voice. We deserve equal pay for our mothers, our wives, our daughters, our nieces, friends, and colleagues—but mostly, for ourselves.
Consider Williams’ data in the context of Tressie McMillan Cottom’s “How We Make Black Girls Grow Up Too Fast,” published as a New York Times opinion piece.
Cottom writes about how black girls and women (even more than their white counterparts) are divided into good girls and whores, and how that division is used to defend the men who assault and rape them. She namechecks Mike Tyson and R. Kelly. She makes clear exactly how this false dichotomy is used against black girls specifically and disproportionately:
That’s the kind of comment I have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times, from men and women, to excuse violence against black women and girls. If one is “ready” for what a man wants from her, then by merely existing she has consented to his treatment of her. Puberty becomes permission.
All women in our culture are subject to this kind of symbolic violence, when people judge their bodies to decide if they deserve abuse. But for black women and girls that treatment is refracted through history and today’s context.
New research corroborates what black women have long known: People across gender and race see black girls as more adultlike than their white peers. In her book “Pushout,” Monique W. Morris shows that teachers and administrators don’t give black girls the care and protection they need. Left to navigate school by themselves because they are “grown,” these girls are easily manipulated by men.
Cottom pulls no punches, just as no one pulls the punches which attack the girls she cares about:
… for black girls, home is both refuge and where your most intimate betrayals happen. You cannot turn off that setting. It is the dining room at your family’s house, served with a side of your uncle’s famous ribs. Home is where they love you until you’re a ho.
If you’re wondering what the two issues–black women’s salaries and black girls’ safety–have to do with each other, think more carefully. Under white supremacy (and male supremacy), society protects the people it respects as human beings; under capitalism, employers pay the people they respect as valuable. Oddly enough, a culture generally protects the people it pays, and fails to protect the people it fails to pay.
This shit ain’t right. And the same voice Williams recommends to close the pay gap can work to close the safety gap.