It’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day — Here’s How Black Women Are Speaking Out

Michelle Santiago Cortés

“You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have” is more than just Olivia Pope’s mantra, it’s a fact. According to a report by the National Women’s Law Center, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn. Despite being the most educated demographic in the country, Black women earn 61 cents for every dollar their white male counterparts earn.

Today is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which means it takes until the end of August for Black women to reach pay parity with white men. Over the last two years, the country has regressed in any efforts to pay Black women equally. Last year’s date was August 7th, and in 2017, it was July 31st. And as the National Women’s Law Center report points out, this staggering difference amounts to a loss of $23,653 a year and $946,120 over the course of a 40-year career. As we grapple with those unacceptable numbers, people are speaking out across the internet (and our Twitter feeds) about Black women getting the payment they deserve, for all the work they do. Because Black women take on both visible and invisible labor: In addition to typical work duties, think of all the emotional labor Black women put into helping their non-black colleagues, including women, address racist behavior — they should be able to charge for that.

Just the way in which findings about salary inequality are grouped – women and then Black women – points to the flaws in our well-intentioned fight for equality for and among women. The fight for equal pay for women should prioritize equal pay for Black women. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Black women of all industries and career-levels are chiming in on why equal pay is important to them. Here is just a sample of what’s keeping the conversation going on Twitter:

Ava DuVernay, one of the most prolific and impactful directors of our time, highlighted exactly how many days it takes for Black women to reach pay parity with white men.

Unlike soccer, tennis has a much better track record when it comes to equal pay for all players. However pay disparity is still a problem. According to the New York Times, while Roger Federer earned $731,000 for defending his title, Serena Williams (arguably the best athlete of our time) earned just under $500,000 for doing the same.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, who represents Michigan’s 14th district (which includes some the lowest and highest incomes in the state), points out how Black mothers are more likely to be their family’s primary breadwinner and underpaying them impacts generations.

It's not lost on Presidential candidate Kamala Harris that this year's Black Women's Equal Pay Day is more than two weeks later than last year's.

#BlackLivesMatter movement co-creator and activist Alicia Garza also chimed in with a shoutout to the Phenomenal Woman campaign's work to raise awareness.

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