The recent “Unite the Right” events in Charlottesville saw the mobilization of violent individuals by organizations working to exploit hate and fear in an effort to advance white supremacy. The emboldened white nationalist movement in the United States requires redoubled efforts to address racism in America in all its forms, from structural racism and inequitable public policies, to outright terror.
As an organization focused on how intersections of gender, race, and ethnicity affect opportunity, safety, and prosperity, we feel it is an important time to examine what we know about the status of women of color in our society, and to consider how policy can work toward equity and move away from policies that reinforce racism.
The Status of Black Women in the United States and the Status of Women in the South reports present social and economic indicators, illustrating how women, White women, and women of color are doing in comparison with White men. These reports also provide the indicators and additional data on a state-by-state basis and can help inform action toward humane policies motivated by principles of equity.
Findings like these can help to focus action in unsettling times:
- Women who work full-time, year-round earn less than similarly-employed men. In the South, the site of recent violent racist incidents, women earn 70% of what White men earn, 4 percentage points lower than in non-southern states.
- The poverty rate among women in the South l (16.4 percent) is nearly 20 percent higher than in all other states outside the South (13.7 percent). Among women from the largest racial and ethnic groups in the South, Black women have the highest poverty rate at 25.5 percent, followed by Hispanic (23.4 percent) and Native American women (20.9 percent). For perspective, the poverty rate among men in the South is 12.2%.
- Nationally, Black women are two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than are White women. South Carolina has the highest murder rate in the country at 2.32 per 100,000 women—nearly double the national rate.
- Young Black women aged 18-19 were four times more likely to be imprisoned than young White women. Girls and women of color are the fastest growing populations in American prisons.
- In the South, median annual earnings for U.S.-born women are 28 percent higher than earnings for immigrant women.
Despite challenges, Black women and other women of color have consistently been at the front of the social justice movements, pushing for social and policy changes that benefit society as a whole.
In recent months, false narratives have succeeded in altering public debate and policy leaving evidence-based rigor behind. Grounded in evidence and democratic values, voices that seek openness, tolerance, and equity must be raised and strengthened.