Black women are well known as the backbone of our democracy—and, as of this week, a Black (and Asian) woman could well be on her way to making history as our country’s next vice president. As one of the most active voting blocs in America (h/t Center for American Progress), Black women are already well aware of our political influence, but as we consider what issues we’d like our chosen candidates to focus on amid the unprecedented intersection of a pandemic and protests for racial justice, establishing pay equity needs to be among the highest priorities.
“Existing gender and racial inequities intersect to make Black women especially vulnerable to COVID, meaning pay equity is literally a life or death issue,” said In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda President and CEO Marcela Howell on August 13, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. “In November, Black women must send a strong message to candidates up and down the ballot that, in order to count on our support and our votes, they must take action to pay all women and all people of color what we earn.”
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda is a national Reproductive Justice organization focused on supporting and elevating the voices of Black women, femmes, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people and youth in the ongoing fight to secure reproductive justice. On Friday at 7 pm ET on Facebook Live, Howell will be hosting and moderating “I Am a Voter: Voter Suppression and Black Women,” a live panel on voter suppression and voting rights, featuring Founder of Fair Fight Action Stacey Abrams and La’Tasha D. Mayes, executive director New Voices for Reproductive Justice.
A release provided to The Glow Up specifically addresses what’s at stake in this election, and how those stakes have been exponentially raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to rage throughout the country with little to no federal response.
Because African Americans face disproportionately high COVID-19 death rates and are more likely to live in areas experiencing outbreaks, simply being a Black worker is tantamount to a lethal preexisting condition. Black women also face disparities in access to healthcare, affordable childcare and employer-provided benefits like paid sick leave— all contributing to the outsized harm caused by the pandemic. Because Black workers are more likely to be in front-line jobs deemed ‘essential,’ and are also less likely to be able to work from home than white workers, many are being forced to risk their own lives, and the health of their family, just to earn a living.
Additionally, job flexibility for low-wage workers often only comes in the form of reduced hours, resulting in reduced pay. With Black women more likely to be single heads of households and single parents than white women, and the added pressure on 80% of Black mothers who are the primary breadwinner, this leaves few options for those fortunate enough to still have jobs.
As the pandemic rages on for much of the country, the Trump campaign — and Administration—have made voter suppression a core tenant of his reelection strategy, governors in Republican-led states continue their campaigns to disenfranchise Black and brown voters, and the right works to destroy the U.S. Post Office and undermine faith in the validity of absentee and mail-in ballots.
In the wake of so much obstruction and corruption, it’s easy to feel powerless in protecting both our communities and our votes. But as Howell urges, our commitment to casting our ballots is the greatest fear of Trump and his enablers, and the greatest overwhelming power we can wield in response.
“If our votes didn’t matter, bad actors in state and federal government wouldn’t be working so hard to suppress them,” she said. “With only three months left before election day, it is more urgent than ever that we work to expand voter access and strengthen voting rights so that we can use the power of our voices and our votes to address the economic inequities causing additional suffering— starting with closing the wage gap.”
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