Black lives matter. But for our society to reflect that truth, we must interrogate the legacy of white supremacy, dismantle the racist systems it created, and reform the policies that perpetuate it. As a white woman, I have unwittingly benefitted from these systems. As an advocate for gender justice, I also know that there is no equality for women without equality for Black women.

A movement for gender justice then requires that the world we rebuild in the wake of coronavirus grapples not only with the effects of COVID-19 on women broadly, but how the ongoing pandemics of white supremacy and misogyny have exacerbated it and placed undue burden on Black women.

Our racist criminal justice and policing systems interact with the damage done by  schools that push out Black children, corporate practices that devalue Black workers, a health system that gaslights Black pain, and housing policies that push Black families into low-opportunity neighborhoods. Black women face the compounding burden of misogyny, leaving them more vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault in our schools, workplaces, and criminal justice system;  higher rates of maternal mortality, higher representation in low-paid work, and a greater risk of eviction.

The toxic cocktail of misogyny and white supremacy means that Black women have borne the brunt of the pandemic on multiple fronts – as frontline workers, as caregivers, as breadwinners who have lost their jobs, and as those getting sick, dying from, and mourning loved ones they’ve lost to the virus.

One thing is clear: in the wake of COVID-19 and the movement for Black Lives, we’re not going back to the status quo. Whatever world emerges on the other side will not be the world we left behind.

Consider that even before the pandemic…

  • 219,905 women, girls, transgender people, and gender non-conforming people experienced homelessness in 2018.
  • Caregiving and service sector jobs—performed largely by women of color—left millions living paycheck to paycheck even as corporations raked in record profits.
  • Child care workers – disproportionately Black, brown, and immigrant women – were paid poverty wages for doing work that is the backbone of our economy
  • 32 million workers, including a majority of those in low-paid jobs where women of color are concentrated, lacked even a single paid sick day and only 19 percent of workers had paid family and medical leave.
  • 7 million students attended schools with police, but no counselors. Native American, Pacific Islander, Black and Latina girls were already more likely than white girls to attend high schools with fewer math and science courses. And 14 percent of children nationwide including nearly 20 percent of Black and Latinx students and 37 percent of Native American students lacked the home internet access necessary for distance learning.

The question is not whether we’ll go back. The question is what world we’ll create on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic devastation it has wreaked.

So I’ll say it again, Black lives matter. But only by centering Black women and girls in our answers to these questions can we get to the equitable recovery we desire. Now is the time to envision what a recovery that works for all of us looks like. If we are to get to that world, we must ensure that every single issue that Congress considers as part of relief and recovery centers Black women and girls.

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