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  • Writer's pictureDé Bryant, Ph.D.

Part I: Black Women, Double Burdens.

Conventional social justice yardsticks measure whether there is less paternalism (feminism) and racial arrogance (Civil Rights Movement). The arch has, indeed, shifted toward recognizing the power of women in public spheres. Witness the political realignment in the recent mid-term elections. Women reshaped the political landscape by casting our votes and by becoming elected officials.

At the same time, the gender-based wage gap still exists; women must work until Tuesday of the next work week to earn what men earned in the previous week. Non-white women must work even longer. In regards to having significant influence on corporate culture, in 2018 only 24 Fortune 500 companies were led by women; there were no black women CEOs in 2018. (Ursula Burns ran Xerox from 2009-2016, so there are lessons to be gleaned her story.)

However, the rift in contemporary feminism is still about race. The movement relies on the support of Black women but does not address race as a priority.  In 2017 millions of women and our allies marched to gain rights and protections in 600 rallies around the world. Here in South Bend over 1,000 people took to the streets. Yet, our local Women's March for all its passion and determination and chants of solidarity was a microcosm of the problem facing third wave feminism. Images from that day showed a sea of white faces and the faces of the same 12 Black women, cycling in endless loops through the various social media platforms.

The gender gap persists in the movement for Black lives. Black women face the double burden of being stereotyped as much by black males as by whites. We can draw inspiration from the new generation of Black, female intellectuals. Beverly Guy-Sheftall edited an anthology contains stories by Black women carrying the burden of competing identities, across generations, and around the world. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor interrogates the evolution of black feminism since the Combahee River Collective in How We Get Free. N. K. Jemisin's speculative fiction How Long 'Til Black Future Month? provides compelling heuristics if, for the length of a story, one is willing to suspend cherished ideas.  


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