Grievances and Hopes

Y’all Don’t Pay Me Enough to Afford Fireworks …

Ahhh, July 4th. A day where patriots across this never-so-great land celebrate our foremothers and fathers waging and winning war against the Redcoats and declaring U.S. independence once and for all. Personally, it’s a day where I get to gorge myself on red meat and spend time with family. Why not tear into some ribs and feel proud to be an American?

Well, while we won’t delve into the more obvious (and infinite) reasons of why Independence Day is a farce for black and brown people of color *cough cough* trans-Atlantic slavery, the Trail of Tears, the KKK, redlining, Jim Crow, Flint, MI’s water crisis, Tr*mp and his horde of trolls *cough cough,* let’s do take a moment to talk about independence. And, in a famed inquiry made by the Trill Young Savage, Webbie, do you know what that means?

Independence. Defined as the fact or state of being independent. Synonymous with self-government, self-rule, sovereignty, autonomy, freedom, liberty 

Maybe this seems unrelated but bear with me. I [like many other black women I know] sometimes worry about feeling like a burden — to our partners, our employers, our families, and friends. Even though I am lucky enough to have safe spaces in which I am able to lay out my worries, feel affirmed, or decompress, there’s sometimes still a feeling of doubt that I’m doing enough. My friends and I talk through these things often. We fret over feeling self-sufficient and being capable of blooming fully into the successful, brilliant women we are meant to be. We affirm each other. We share credit-boosting tips and coupons and free web resources and life hacks…any and all things conducive to the collective “glow-up.” We strive to make it all count toward something greater because we work twice as hard to fulfill the American Dream (read: delusion) for half as much.

In the United States overall, black women who are employed year-round, full-time, are typically paid about $.63 to every white man’s dollar. In Mississippi, black women are paid about $.58 to every white man’s dollar.

According to a 2015 report from the Economic Policy Institute, this ever-widening gap is hitting young black women the hardest. Since 2000, when the gap began widening, black women just entering the workforce (read: broke, stressed college grads) have seen their wages fall the farthest compared to both white women and men with the same qualifications. Differences in educational achievement and other factors, like the fact that black women are more likely to work in the south, account for only one-third of that gap. This of course accumulates to a stunning disparity in career wages over a lifetime. The typical white woman loses $431,000 in career earnings, reducing her long-term assets and those of her family. The amount of money a black woman loses in career wages over a lifetime, you ask? $877,450.

Eight. Hundred. Seventy-seven. Thousand. Four-hundred and fifty dollars.

Generational wealth how Hov?!

It couldn’t be more obvious at this point that women are the engine that drives America’s workforce, with nearly two-thirds of its families with children relying on a woman’s earnings for a significant portion of the family’s income. Minus whiteness as a quantifier, I’m failing to see the supposedly self-evident truth of equality here, or how it even fits into the hetero-normative, multi-child-and-dog family narrative that America favors. Not at all to presume that we all have posterity and family in mind, but the prospect of not being able to give your loved ones the best they deserve (and what’s owed to them when you pass away) is a scary thought for many. With all of this in mind, the idea of sustained independence seems like a faraway island reserved for the few and the privileged.

Now, let me say…This is not at all meant to shove you into a pit of Netflix Original and Talenti-binging despair, friend. Do not neglect your bonnet tonight or splurge on that thing you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy but can’t forreal forreal afford right now. This is an acknowledgment of you, your work, your brilliance, light, and perseverance in spite of everything. I hope that your mental and physical peace be kept when times get trying, as they often do. I hope that you believe your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. I hope that you vie for that raise. Take that course. Get that cert. Attend that conference. Raise your freelancing rates.

I hope you know that you are worth every dollar and every minute, if you didn’t after Bey said so.

I hope you know that you are enough.

rharvey@loveblackgirls.org'
About the author

Reagan is the project and research associate for The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects. She enjoys baking sweets, spending too much money on candles and being an obsessive Game of Thrones fan in her spare time. Keep up with her and the LBG crew on Twitter @luvblkgrls. 

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