It Matters if You're Black or White
My morning purge of which emails to read now, read later, and what to delete was going as usual this morning until I came across this subject line “Today is Black Women's Equal Pay Day." My excitement was matched by disappointment in myself for not knowing that this was even a thing.
As a Los Angeles Ambassador for Ladies Get Paid, I spend quite a bit of my time focused on all things gender wage gap related. As a Black woman I’ve spent my entire life observing the lack of resources and been on the receiving end of the lectures from friends and family about having to work twice as hard just to be seen as “average." I’ve shared moments with other Black women as we share the first time we were referred to as “combative” or “aggressive” in the workplace for being assertive. I’ve seen the post of social media asking for input on deciding whether to straighten our hair before a job interview, as if straight hair will erase the blackness.
All of these things have taught me how to operate in the workplace, in the world. Work harder, try not to offend anyone with your existence, we do these things and still earn less.
The truth is, this gap in pay has long standing impacts. I look at my three-year-old daughter as she twirls around the house, and I wonder, "how do I explain this to her?" I struggle with passing down the “work twice as hard” lecture.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” - Audre Lorde
It’s been on my mind for a few days: what’s a white girl to do on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day?
When folks talk about the wage gap, most cite the well trafficked statistic that women earn 78¢ for every dollar a man makes, but this isn’t an accurate picture. Black women earn 63¢ for every dollar a man makes. (And Hispanic women make 55¢.)
It’s deeply irresponsible to have a conversation about the wage gap without addressing the intersection of race. This profoundly important issue won’t ever be solved if we aren’t being honest about the hard truths of gender and race in America.
As a white woman, it’s my responsibility to do my part, to always talk about the wage gap as it breaks down by race. I also know it’s my responsibility to use my privilege and take meaningful actions to lift up Black women.
What are some things you can do to be a better ally to Black women?
Hire Black women to tell Black stories.
Promote Black women.
No matter how uncomfortable -- and it will be uncomfortable -- you must speak up. You must ask questions. You must educate yourself.
Talking about money, race, and gender may be the hardest thing you can do, but you must do it. How can we make change if we can’t event talk about it? It is our belief that we only have come as far as those who still struggle the most among us. Women need to lift other women up and together, we will all rise.
Are you a Black woman with a business? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, we want to hear from you.