Race shouldn’t be ignored in the gender wage gap conversation
May 8, 2018
By Jasmyn Story, AFROPUNK contributor
I love watching how and which narratives are crafted during marches and protest. There was one protest narrative that I observed during this post-election period that caused me to pause. Posters that addressed the wage gap between genders seemed to use statistics that were representative of only wage disparity between White women and White men. The posters that align with this narrative sparked lively dialogue between my peers and me about the importance of intersectionality in a movement aimed towards policy shifts that will forge equity and equality for all. We deeply explored our responsibility as activists and the need for pause and self-critique.
Though many the posters I observed were not naming and or addressing intersections between race and gender, it’s important that we unpack these statistics and fill in the gaps in our understanding of our sister’s experiences.
According to the Pew Research Center, White women and Asian women have been able to slowly close the wage gap between them and White men. In 1980, White women earned around 60 cents for every dollar a white man earned. This is in comparison to the more stagnant growth of Black and Hispanic women. Black and Hispanic women in 1980 earned 56 and 53 cents for every dollar earned by a White man. In 2015, the Pew Research Center states that White women now earn 82 cents on the dollar. Meanwhile Black women (65 cents) and Hispanic women (58 cents) see little improvement in wage equality. The National Partnership for Women and Families reported that in the state of Louisiana, Black women make as low as 48 cents on the dollar. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. writes that
“injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Research institutions are providing us with information that allows us to name the unimaginably insulting gender wage gap and the slower to shift racial wage gap.
While discussing intersectionality, I would like to name that these statistics do not capture the wage gap between transwomen and white men. These statistics do not capture the wage disparities between women with differing abilities. These numbers do not represent the experiences of undocumented women from varying national origins. Within our community of women, there are protected minority identities that throughout history have been structurally excluded from equal access to both private and public structures (i.e. schools, loans, housing, voter suppression).
These narratives, these statistics, expose the strength and power involved in the systematic oppression of those of differing identities. It is vital that the narrative around our demand for change, around our outrage at governmental mistreatment, grounds itself not solely in the narrative of our most privileged, but instead around our sisters who are barring more weight. Thickening our narrative to include the multilayered oppression of our sisters only makes sense.
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* Thank you to my elder, Regina Lynn, for the providing me with this resource