Black women have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. According to recent statistics, Black people have been dying at a higher rate from the coronavirus epidemic than other ethnic groups. The economic inequalities became apparent when a survey was conducted in early April by Sheryl Sandburg’s (Chief Operating Officer at Facebook) company, Lean In.
According to the Lean In survey, Black women were twice as likely to be laid off, furloughed, or experience reduced pay as a result of COVID-19 than white men. Additionally, Black women were more likely than white men to not be able to pay for their basic necessities for more than a month if they lost their income. These statistics are concerning.
There is a pay gap between men and women, but when the additional effects of race and gender come into play, the gap grows even wider. Black women and Black men expressed the highest concern in the survey about their ability to afford basic living necessities in light of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, Black-owned businesses have been financially affected by the pandemic as well. This became apparent with the disproportionate distribution of the Paycheck Protection Loan. Studies have shown that smaller businesses—especially those that are Black-owned—were shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program. The disparities became even more apparent when larger companies began returning multi-million dollar loans. Their actions launched speculations about how the funds from these economic relief programs were actually being distributed.
Since many states have been under stay-at-home orders, a lot of smaller businesses have had to close their doors completely, contributing to increased unemployment. Due to the structural disparities between Black and white communities, the financial impact of these closures could be more pronounced in the Black community. The institutional and structural disparities between Black and white communities, which existed long before the pandemic, will be even more evident in the weeks, months and years to come.
There is a stark, pre-existing, wealth gap between Black and white households. This wealth gap means that Black households have fewer assets and less liquidity to respond to an emergency. Prior to COVID-19, the typical Black household had a net worth of $17,100 respectively, while the typical white household had a net worth of $171,000. In addition, Black households have far less liquidity than their white counterparts. Without financial liquidity, Black households may not be able to sustain long-term negative financial impact. Black households could struggle to maintain their financial footing both during and after the pandemic.
In addition, structural racism could increase exposure and susceptibility to the virus in Black and Brown communities. There has been a long precedent of public policy that restricts communities of color to areas with higher pollution and less access to healthier foods. This is in addition to poorer access to an adequate health system and health insurance. Communities of color tend to have less access to adequate healthcare.
Black women in particular, will face greater challenges in getting back to “normal”, as many of the service jobs held disproportionately by Black women may disappear, along with any government or state assistance. The key to repairing the damage and providing a brighter outlook will lie in understanding the elements that came together to create this crisis in the first place.
Black women business leaders like UWG CEO, Monique L. Nelson, who personally called each of the company’s employees to make sure they were all ok during the crisis, and Raj Register, Head of Brand Strategy and Growth Audience Marketing at Ford, who has pledged that the company will not abandon their commitments to Black women during this crisis are providing a ray of hope.
From becoming our children’s at-home educational instructors, to caring for ill loved ones, to providing, even as resources seem to be drying up, Black women are leaders. We have always risen. We’ll rise again.
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