The Pulse on Gender Equity in Seattle & Beyond

It's All Connected: Race and Gender Part 2

It's All ConnectedMartha BurwellComment

Rekia Boyd, say her name!  Aiyana Jones, say her name!  Sandra Bland, won't you say her name!

Do these names sound familiar?  For me, the first two were unfamiliar.  But they should not have been. 

Last week, we discussed with Seattle King County YWCA's Patricia Hayden how race and gender overlap, especially how the feminist movement has handled race.  This time, Patricia and I (Martha) talk about the reverse:

(Martha): It’s also been said that the anti-racism movement excludes women of color.

For example, last year when Obama created his “My Brother’s Keeper” program, which aims to address some of the barriers that boys and men of color face.  It has been criticized for not including women and girls of color, who also face many of the same barriers.  What do you think, Patricia?

(Patricia): “Of course you don’t want to leave out women and girls of color…  However, I believe that Obama’s response was really to the assault on this country on black men and boys…. (because) if you look at what’s going on throughout the country, there is more visibility about black men being killed, black men being imprisoned, and so on.”

That said, she added, you clearly can’t incarcerate or remove the men of a community and not have the women and girls impacted.  Whether it’s how they respond, whether it’s fathers being dragged off, mothers trying to be both parents, I mean, there’s a huge amount of impact from this.  And the violence that is happening within our community appears to come from the interaction with institutions like the criminal justice system.”

Another example is the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which was actually created by three black, queer women--though few people know that, because mainly young black have been pictured in the movement.  And as Patrisse Cullors, one of said cofounders, explained in a recent article, even though the female founders “provided the framework for a movement that has swept the country (they) have found women’s stories almost erased from it.”  

One response to this has been the #SayHerName movement, spearheaded by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum.   Ms. Crenshaw also released a statement last month called “The Charleston Imperative: Why Feminism and Antiracism Must Be Linked,” which argues that “while patriarchy and racism are clearly intertwined, all too often, our struggles against them are not."

Patricia and I continued our interview.  When it comes to race and gender, she said, “you cannot address one without the other.  They should be addressed in the total conversation.  Any part of the community that is vulnerable and that is impacted by social inequality—there needs to be a discussion of that intersection, and how that is impacting the quality of our lives.  So it’s not ok to say that it’s just race.  It’s not ok to say that it’s just gender.  It’s all of it!”

Can you give an example of what happens if you don't address race and gender together?

If we look at teaching, a traditionally female dominated field, and its intersection with racism we can find a prime example of what happens when we do not intersect race and gender," emphasized Patricia.

"When school desegregation happened in the 1950’s, black teachers who were more qualified and better educated to teach were fired because there was fear that white people did not want black people teaching their children. Ninety percent of black principles lost their jobs as well."

" Ye Old Classrooms " by  Alan Levine  is licensed under  CC BY 2.0.

"There were 82,000 black teachers prior to desegregation and 11 years later 32,000 had lost their jobs to white women. Currently, white females make up 84% of teachers and black females and males comprise only 8% of teachers. If we had thought about how structural racism was going to affect desegregation and career opportunities for women, we could have had a very different outcome.”



How our culture perceives the intersection of race and gender is highly complexAnd yet, we have an serious lack of data and research on this intersection.  The limited research that has been done, though, such as in the STEM field (such as scientists being mistaken for janitors), sexual harassment (not being believed or taken seriously), the wage gap, the criminal justice system, and even the death penalty, show that this ‘double layer’ of prejudice for both being a woman, and being a person of color, adds up.

What it comes down to is that ending racism and sexism is something that we’re all responsible for.  It’s so much easier to ignore it.  But that’s what perpetuates oppression—a lot of people quietly accepting their privilege. 

But that’s what perpetuates oppression—a lot of people quietly accepting their privilege.

We can all do a little bit to learn more about our own privilege, and start breaking down oppression.  In our own way.  The first lines in this post were from Janelle Monáe's fierce remake of her song (listen below), a fierce remake of Hell You Talmbout, where she uses her own style to "challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue. Silence is our enemy. Sound is our weapon. They say a question lives forever until it gets the answer it deserves… Won’t you say their names?”

What can you do, in your own way?

Take Action:

If you’re white will you commit to addressing your white privilege in at least one small way?

I’ll start: I commit to making my work on gender equality more intersectional, by learning and writing more about racism. 

Learn More:

Gender and Race: How Overlapping Stereotypes Affect our Personal and Professional Decisions” from Science Daily

The Intersection of Victim Race and Gender: The “Black Male Victim Effect” and the Death Penalty” from the Journal of Race and Justice.

At the intersection of race, gender and STEM” from the Daily Kos.

Race, Gender, and the School to Prison Pipeline: Expanding our Discussion to Include Black Girls” by the African American Policy Forum.