“Listen to Black women,” #SayHerName or #BlackLivesMatter are hashtags, mottos, words emblazoned in a bold font on T-shirts, social media posts or tote bags. For some, those words stay there, laying flat, as a two-dimensional way to feign support for women at the core of the culture, economy, politics and history of Pittsburgh and the nation as a whole. For many others — mostly Black women and femmes — those words are a way of life.
As COVID-19 persists, Black women are on the frontlines and forefront, if not on the front pages of newspapers. The systemic racial and gender inequities of this country including in health care are magnified due to the pandemic. In keeping with the etymology of apocalypse, the veil is being lifted and what we see is injustice.
Women’s Media Center, Essence Magazine and Lean In Foundation are some of the organizations that conducted research on the impact of COVID-19 on Black women, womyn and femmes in the United States. The Essence report released in May also shows the impact of Black women in America, who are disproportionately in high-risk, high-exposure jobs like store clerks and healthcare work: One in four knows someone who has died of the coronavirus, and 44% knows someone who has contracted the virus. Additionally, of the 1,048 respondents, 85% of Black women did not have the technology necessary to support educational needs of children in their care due to the move to online learning.
Early statements of “we’re in this together” and descriptions of COVID-19 as the “great equalizer” ring as hollow as “Most Livable City.” Pittsburgh is not a most livable city, as we see time and time again. After the City of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission released a report on race and gender inequities in September 2019, the swift and powerful response from the Black community focused on the erasure of Black women and femmes in the process. Although not initially intended to be a report on the “state of Black women” in Pittsburgh, due to the huge disparities faced by Black women, the report’s findings focused on Black women and how inhospitable the city is to our wellbeing on nearly every measure.
(Graphic by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)
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