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Today marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, signifying the number of days that a Black woman has to work to earn what white men earned in 2019. That is to say, it takes Black women 226 days to catch up to their white male coworkers’ earnings. 

Why so long? To this day, Black women continue to make 62 cents to every dollar that a white man earns. This is a pay disparity that has not tapered for the last 25 years. 

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The wealth gap is the offspring of America’s long history of racial injustice: slavery, segregation, redlining, and restricted access to welfare (and that's just the beginning). The reason why Black women are unduly burdened by the wealth gap, in particular, can be explained by what civil rights activist and Communist leader Claudia Jones coined as “triple oppression,” or the convergence of classism, racism, and sexism. This intersection of oppression entrenches racial and gender pay disparities by creating a cycle in which Black women are positioned at an economic disadvantage and therefore restricted from advanced educational opportunities and career advancement. 

On average, according to the National Women’s Law Center, this pay disparity costs Black women $1,962 each month, $23,540 a year, and $941,600 over a 40-year career. And now, in the age of COVID-19, things are getting worse. 

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Consider this: 80 percent of Black women are the primary breadwinners for their families, and two-thirds are single mothers. Yet, they also comprise an overwhelming majority of essential workers, making up 26.1 percent of care aides, home health aides, and nursing assistants. Thus, the majority of Black women are charged with the dual responsibilities of caregiving and earning: both of which have been complicated by COVID-19. 

Job losses have been skyrocketing for Black women since the start of the pandemic. According to a survey by the National Women’s Law Center and Mothering Justice, the pandemic has caused two-thirds of Black women living in Michigan to either lose their jobs or have their working hours reduced. Additionally, industries dominated by women have been more heavily impacted than industries dominated by men. These include retail, restaurants, and offices, each of which overrepresent Black women. Compounding these losses, research has revealed that in an economic shutdown, women and minorities tend to be the first fired and the last rehired. 

Even though Black women were struggling to make ends meet before COVID-19, the consequential economic impacts have made Black Women's Equal Pay Day more important than ever. “If we do nothing, [the pay gap] won’t close for another 40 years,” C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told CBS News. “For Black and Latina women, it won’t close for more than 100 years.”

Black women and their families cannot afford to wait another 100 years. To learn what you can do to celebrate Black Women’s Equal Pay (and by ‘celebrate,’ we mean fight against injustice, of course), check out some of these ideas here.

Header image via @joshappel on Unsplash

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What Is Wokefishing?

Riley Mayes is a student at Smith College where she is pursuing her BA in English. She currently lives in Brunswick, Maine, where she loves to go hiking, take care of her plants, and read the heaps of books on her bedside table. New to the twitter game https://twitter.com/RileyMayes3 

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