Rapper Remy Ma knows all too well the struggle of being incarcerated and its lingering effects. When she said incarcerated black women are routinely forgotten while on HuffPost’s weekly rap show, “BARS,” she wasn’t lying. Once a black woman makes it out of prison she still isn’t free of her past. “You try to fill out … a job application,” she said, “You try to [apply] for housing. You try to do anything [as] simple as voting you can’t do because of something that you did. So it’s never really like you paid your debt to society. You’re constantly paying for it over and over. … The system is designed for you to fail.”
According to The Sentencing Project, women comprise a larger population of the prison system than ever before. The number of women going to jail has outpaced men by more than 50 percent. For black women, the numbers are even more alarming, as the imprisonment rate of black women is more than twice that of white women.
As the mass incarceration epidemic is growing, the number of black women who are still being punished after serving their time is as well.
Living in the nation’s capitol is expensive, even for those of us who have obtained gainful employment. The rising cost of rent coupled with the lack of housing options makes it hard to find somewhere affordable to live. It also makes it harder to find a safe place to live. Despite these being some of the challenges we face in the housing market in D.C., there are other black women who are faced with an even bigger challenge. A report from the Equal Rights Center explains that black women who have a criminal background have a harder time securing housing in D.C. than their white counterparts.
According to Alexis Squire of ERC, “This report shines a light on what is happening to these women long after their interaction with the criminal justice system has ended.” Black women and one white woman were chosen to apply for housing in 60 multifamily complexes in D.C. Each woman was given a profile to use when applying for housing detailing their crime and their annual income level and profession. Then that profile would be matched with sites depending on the cost of rent.
The report concluded that there is a difference in how information and service are provided to black women. This difference includes things like being offered different housing fees (application fee, renter’s fee). It also found that there were different reactions to an applicant’s criminal record when white rather than black. The study found that white women were more likely to receive helpful info and a sympathetic reaction to their history.
It’s hard being a black woman in America, but being a black woman with a past makes us unworthy in the eyes of so many. The fight to protect ourselves and push for equality has to come, with or without a presidential candidate putting it on their agenda.