Black Women: Racism and Sexism

Black women make up 7% of the United States population and they spend an estimated $565 billion dollars annually. What’s it going to take for them to be recognized and treated equally in the United States? A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry introduces economic and societal pressures in the mid-20th century faced black women today. This issue includes income inequality, racism in the workplace and schools, which are still widely affecting their daughters today.

Black women were subject to income inequality 60 years ago, like they are today. “The wealth gap can help us to understand why black women’s earnings are so far behind those of both white men and white women. In 2013 the median white household had 13 times the wealth of the median black household — specifically, the median white household had about $134,000 to the median black household’s $11,000” (AAUW). Black women and girls are forced to live with both sexism and racism in their lives. While sexism and racism are both very serious types of discrimination that take different forms and causes ripple effects all throughout black women’s lives. This discrimination contributes to both racial and gender wealth gaps and income inequality. This can also be traced back to hundreds of years ago. “Son – I come from five generations of people who was slaves and sharecroppers – but ain’t nobody in my family never let nobody pay ‘em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth. We ain’t never been that poor. We ain’t never been that – dead inside” (Hansberry 143). The wealth gap for black women started long ago with historic inequalities such as slavery and segregation, leading into ongoing systemic racism. This imbalance in wealth stretches across generations causing a decrease in the amount of resources black families can devote to education and occupation. Mama and the rest of the Younger family are facing financial troubles but, must hold on to their pride and dignity. Pride is depicted in almost every part of the play, particularly through the family’s economic struggles.

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Black women have been struggling with racism and sexism in the occupational field for centuries in the United States. In today’s world, black women are still dealing with problems in their careers that should have been put to rest long ago. “According to the Women in The Workplace 2018 survey, women of color are not only significantly underrepresented, they are far less likely than others to be promoted to manager, more likely to face everyday discrimination and less likely to receive support from their managers. The researchers surveyed 279 companies employing more than 13 million people and talked to 64,000 employees on their workplace experiences. More than 90% of the companies polled said prioritizing gender and racial diversity leads to better business results. Yet only 42% of employees surveyed said they see gender diversity as a company priority and only 22% see racial diversity as a company priority” (Forbes) Corporations know that racism and sexism is an issue within their companies. This discrimination that widely effects the lives of black women in a multitude of ways needs to need acted upon if change is ever to occur., Black women are stuck in a never-ending cycle the only brings hardship to them. We see this portrayed in Ruth, for she has to work extra hard doing inadequate jobs in order for their family to have a potential future. “Lena – I’ll work … I’ll work twenty hours a day in all the kitchens in Chicago… I’ll strap my baby on my back if I have to and scrub all the floors in America and wash all the sheets in America if I have to – but we got to MOVE! We got to get OUT OF HERE!!” (Hansberry 140) Black women worked for a purpose. They wanted a better life for their family, so that they could get out of the cycle of poverty, and do and want more with their lives. In A Raisin in the Sun, we learned that Mama’s husband worked himself to death to achieve this goal, and am positive that Ruth would do the same thing.

Black women face many barriers in education without any guaranteed future benefit, according to some studies. “Studies show that segregated schools made up mostly of black students tend to be poorly funded and are often more likely to employ punitive tactics such as suspension and expulsion than integrated or mostly white schools. Research has also found that black girls are up to six times more likely to be disciplined in schools than boys or girls of any other race, putting them at disproportionate risk for “pushout,” or being funneled out of the educational system into the criminal justice system, due to barriers such as racism and sexism. Those same barriers also contribute to that fact that only one-quarter of black women go on to get a four-year degree after high school, and that if they do reach college, they are more likely to need to take out student loans. After leaving college, black women also report having more difficulty paying these loans back” (AAUW). This discrimination not only limits a black women’s educational opportunities but also causes negative impacts their careers down the road. Sad to say, but, black women cannot just rely on education to help equalize economic issues regarding racism and sexism no matter how closely they follow societal guidelines on how to ‘be more successful’. Sixty years ago, the education or the career of a black women wasn’t enough to substance themselves or their family. “Walter: Me and Ruth done made some sacrifices for you-why can’t you do something for the family? Ruth: Walter, don’t be dragging me in it. Walter: You are in it- Don’t you get up and go work in somebody’s kitchen for the last three years to help pot clothes in her back?” (Hansberry 37) Many black women resorted to domestic work in rich white homes when their education fails them. It was a form on slavery in itself. The cycle just repeated like their ancestors before them.

Black women should be able to live their lives just as equal and fair as everyone else around them. They face so many economic and societal problems that I could never handle and hopefully, overcome. Everyone needs to know the truth. The facts. We need to act if we ever want change and justice. We can’t fix what has happened in the past, but focus on what we need to change to achieve a better life for ALL in the future.

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