Missing in the Conversation: America's Black Women
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because race and gender can combine in a cocktail of marginalization.
By Eromo Egbejule
OZY’s exclusive town hall television show with A&E Networks, The Time Is Now: Race and Resolution, is now available to stream online here as well as the A&E, HISTORY and Lifetime apps.
As many cities sidle into the third week of synchronized protests against police brutality in America, human rights activists are pointing out the omission of African American women and girls in the conversation about systemic reforms.
Black women make up less than 7 percent of the U.S. population but account for 10 percent of all missing person cases nationwide. Those who become victims of extrajudicial killings hardly get the same level of coverage in the media or public outcry; Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency medical technician killed in her bed by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, has been relegated to a footnote even as demonstrations gather steam worldwide.
Femininity is only a weapon if you’re a white woman.
Tiffany Loftin, youth and college division director of the NAACP
“America has never respected Black women,” argued Tiffany Loftin, youth and college division director of the NAACP, on The Time Is Now: Race and Resolution, hosted by OZY Editor-in-Chief Carlos Watson on A&E Networks. None of Taylor’s killers have been arrested yet because “femininity is only a weapon if you’re a white woman,” added Loftin.
Whether in life or death, African American women are usually neglected in conversations around race, dating back to the era of slavery. “We are at the bottom of the totem pole,” says Zakiyyah Modeste, adjunct professor of health and physical education at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Black women are the most marginalized sector of the population in the United States. We do not receive the same equity in regards to opportunity, whether financial or societal, as white males, white women, Black males.”
Hollywood actress and TV show host Yvette Nicole Brown, also a guest on The Time Is Now: Race and Resolution, attributed the institutionalized treatment of Black women as second-class citizens to the myth of the “strong Black woman.” Black women have had to fend for themselves because they are “neglected, unprotected and disrespected,” she said.
According to a 2018 U.S. government report, 28 percent of Black women work in the service industry — the lowest paying employment — compared with just 20 percent of white women. Consequently, many Black women dabble in entrepreneurship, which can pay even less, in addition to being homemakers.
Even within the Black community, these women feel sidelined. And they’re eager for change. Said the NAACP’s Loftin: “We need to see more investment to ensure Black women’s voices are heard.”
- Eromo Egbejule