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Posted under: News Politics

Black Twitter, Politicians And Celebrities Tackle Pay Inequality On #BlackWomensEqualPayDay

Black women have to work 19 months to make what white men make in 12.

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July 31 is Black Women's Equal Pay Day.

Why this particular date?

Well, according to the National Women's Law Center Fact Sheet, the average white male could go on vacation from January to July — seven months — and still earn the same as the average black woman who works all year long. 

Put another way, a black woman has to work a year and seven months to make what a white man makes in a year. So, if you start the clock at the beginning of 2016, black women have today made what it took their white counterparts just 12 months to make.

The absurdity of this data has us all like:

Photo: Harpo
Photo: Harpo

As we noted on Equal Pay Day, women, regardless of race, are paid less than men. An American woman makes 79 cents for every dollar a man makes.

Black women, however, have the intersectional workplace challenge of being not just women, but also black. According to the Economic Policy Institute, college-educated black Americans (regardless of sex) make roughly 80 cents for every dollar that a white college-educated American makes.

According to Bustle, when you compare black women and white women, the data show that black women are paid 13 percent less than white women who have the same level of education.

This means that a white woman could stop working in early November, and still make the same that a black woman who works all year makes.

All of this shows that when race and sex combine, we get a pay crisis.

To help combat pay inequality, celebrities, politicians, social justice organizations, women and men of all races united on Twitter today.

Not satisfied with hashtag activism, many in the public eye used the platform provided by Black Women's Equal Pay Day to argue in far more than 140 characters for equal pay.

Today, former Obama administration advisor Valerie Jarrett got a new job, one that hopefully comes with a salary that matches those of her white male colleagues. She also wrote an essay for Refinery29  that put the fight in moral terms.

"Eight out of 10 black women are breadwinners, and many the sole breadwinner, so their contribution to the family income is vital," Jarrett wrote.

She also suggested that unfair wages contribute the black poverty rate. "A quarter of black women live in poverty, with nearly the same rate being trapped in service occupations, with the lowest wages. These low wage jobs often lack paid sick leave, family leave and other essential benefits, all of which contribute to a vicious cycle of inequality and poverty."

And should numbers be more your thing, Jarrett had those, too.

Black women, she said, "are participating in the labor workforce, and starting businesses. Just consider that in the last decade, the number of businesses owned by black women increased 178 percent — the largest spike among any racial and ethnic group of women or men. Yet, pay inequality costs black women with Bachelor’s degrees an average of $10,000 their first year out of college."

Given these challenges, what is a black woman to do?

Serena Williams, tennis champion and who, along with her sister, has long advocated for equal pay in her sport, had some suggestions in an essay she wrote for Fortune.

"Changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition and courage for employees to demand more. In short, it’s going to take all of us. Men, women, of all colors, races and creeds to realize this is an injustice. And an injustice to one is an injustice to all," Williams wrote.

In her essay, Jarrett acknowledged that demanding more is no easy feat, and said that doing so was something she once struggled with.  "I remember how afraid I was to speak up the first time I asked for a promotion nearly 30 years ago. I thought my boss should recognize my worth and just give it to me. Silly me. I learned that I could not sit around and wait for him to do the right thing. I needed to swallow my pride and ask for what I deserved."

Williams agreed with her. And, if you want to ask for more, but aren't sure how, the champ had these words of encouragement: "Black women: be fearless. Speak out for equal pay. Every time you do, you’re making it a little easier for a woman behind you. Most of all, know that you’re worth it. It can take a long time to realize that. It took me a long time to realize it. But we are all worth it."

And know too, that you aren't fighting the fight alone.

Senator Kamala Harris wants you to know that she has your back, and that she is working towards a political solution for this very ugly problem.

Also in Bustle, Harris wrote today, "We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill I’ve co-sponsored, which requires employers to show that pay differences are not due to gender and cracks down on employers who break the rules or punish employees who seek to be paid equally."

Like every other battle for equality, the fight for equal pay won't be an easy one. But by keeping pressure on our employers, by keeping pressure on our politicians and by spreading awareness, we can, as Williams wrote today, "get back those 37 cents," and ensure that all Americans are paid fairly and equally for their efforts.


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