Should Congress do more to protect Black women and girls?
A group of bipartisan representatives think so. And I’m inclined to agree. Plus: The book to send you into 2022 with confidence and clarity.
House Democrats had a big night last night. They passed a bill to combat Islamophobia that earned the public support of President Joe Biden and has a companion bill in the Senate. Members also voted to hold former chief of staff to Donald T**** in contempt for his refusal to comply with a subpoena from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. And they also voted to lift the debt ceiling so the government can pay our country’s bills, including the more than 90 percent that were racked up during the previous adminstration.
Additionally, a group of bipartisan members — Democratic Reps. Robin Kelly of Illinois, Yvette D. Clarke of New York, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey and Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania — introduced another piece of legislation that caught my attention. It’s called the Protect Black Women and Girls Act and it proposes the formation of an interagency task force that would examine the conditions and experiences of Black women and girls across a range of areas.
“It is long past time for this country to acknowledge the disturbing treatement Black women and girls endure, but acknowledgement will not be enough,” Rep. Kelly said in a statement to Supercreator News. “We must dedicate federal resources to examining the causes of these issues and commit ourselves to improving the education, healthcare, economic opportunity and civil rights available to American Black women and girls.”
The task force would also promote community-based methods for lowering harm to Black women and girls and increasing accountability from the public and private sectors. And it would also direct the US Commission to conduct a study and collect data on the effects of specified factors on this community.
“My mind immediately goes back to how Black women and girls have had to be caretakers of white children as slaves and how so many of our ancestors helped raise the people who make policies against us,” Melissa Kimble, founder of #blkcreatives, said to me over the phone this afternoon as we discussed the role of Black women and girls in American economics, society and culture. “When I think about it in that context, Black women and girls are legitimately part of a lot free labor and most of our economic structure has been built on the backs of us. I still feel like that continues to exist today in all forms and in all ways, unfortunately.”
Black women are the most educated group in the US but are paid an average of 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men. In other words, Black women have to work nearly an extra year and a half to make what white men make in a year. Over the course of the average Black woman’s career, she will lose nearly $1 million as a result.
I wrote about the implicit bias and racial disparities Black women face during pregnancy and childbirth last week. But the entire health care system fails this population. Black women are more likely to be uninsured, have less money to seek quality care when they need it and experience higher rates of preventable diseases and chronic health conditions including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. And many women who work in predominately white spaces often suffer in silence to avoid being labeled as “angry” and considered anti-team or burdened with the responsibility of pacifying guilty peers — tasks that each endanger their own mental well-being.
America is pathetic at protecting women in general and Black women specifically against violence too, whether it’s at home, at school, on the job, and in their neighborhoods. According to the 2020 Status of Black Women in the US report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than two-fifths of Black women experience intimate partner violence during their lifetimes, compared to 31.5 percent of all women. (And those Black women who survive experience heightened risk of criminalization, especially if they’re low-income.) Black girls are disciplined at higher rates than all other groups of girls within public schools as well. And Black women of all ages were twice as likely to be imprisoned in state federal prisons as white women in 2014. The imbalance among Black women aged 18 or 19 is worse, as they were four times as likely to be imprisoned as white women.
More Black women are running for elected office, but they’re still underrepresented despite personifying one of the most civically engaged demographics. Of course, Vice President Kamala Harris serves as the first Black and Asian American women to hold her office. 16 new Black women were elected to Congress and the numbers of women in state legislators is up by nearly 50 percent, according to a report released by the Higher Heights Leadership Fund and the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers Univeristy in October. 12 Black women have held mayorships in the top 100 most populous cities since mid-2014. But just 17 Black women have held statewide elected executive offices. No Black woman has ever been elected governor either. New York Attorney General Letitia James could have been the first in The Empire State, but last week she decided end her candidacy to run for reelection. The distinction could go to Stacey Abrams who, after becoming the first Black woman nominated by major party in 2018, is running for the top spot in Georgia in 2022 to redeem her narrow defeat almost three years ago.
To add insult to injury, Black women receive an overwhelming amount of harassment and threats after they win their elections. In a study of abusive tweets targeting women journalists and politicians in the US and UK in 2017, Amnesty International found that Black women were 84 percent “more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets.”
These are institutional failures that require institutional reforms. And in their absence, Kimble told me Black women and girls have had to rely on themselves and each other. “The way that women, especially when it comes to my mother’s side of the family, were raised to be the ones to do everything on their own was something that I had to recognize I picked up from previous generations,” she said. “That’s not to say anything bad about them because it was definitely a mode of survival. But I think to that point, having to learn what is ‘survival mode’ and what is the opposite of that has been a challenge.”
This experience also infiltrates the creative process. “If you don’t really deal and confront with your own personal issues, it will always show up in the creative process,” Kimble, who describes creative work as constantly holding a mirror up to yourself, said. “And you’ll think, ‘Why do I get nervous every time I get ready to send rates?’ or ‘Why do I not have any confidence when someone gives me a compliment?’”
That’s why legislation like the Protect Black Women and Girls Act is so important — even if the composition of the current Congress, especially in the Senate where no Black women serve, generates skepticism that enough members would vote to make it the law.
And Kimble thinks it can’t come fast enough.
“It hasn’t existed before. And because of so much of Black women and girls is embedded into the foundation of this country that I think society needs it,” Kimble said. “Because if we’re better supported and acknowledged in ways that actually show that we matter, then we’re all better off for it.”
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Today in Politics
President Biden received his daily intelligence briefing before traveling to Kentucky to survey storm damage from last weekend’s devastating tornadoes and extreme weather in the hardest-hit communities, receive a briefing local leaders and tour an impacted neighborhood. He also delivered spoke in the administration’s response to the disaster. He’s on his way back to the White House now.
First Lady Jill Biden participated this morning in a Forbes “50 Over 50” and Know Your Value event focused on women’s mentorship. She engaged in a fireside chat with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinksi that will air tomorrow morning on Morning Joe. Then the first lady traveled to Wisconsin with US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to visit frontline health care workers who cared for patients throughout the pandemic at Children’s Wisconsin in Milwaukee and victims of the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy. They also visited kids who received a pediatric vaccination and made a brief statement. This evening, they will visit with the families of the victims and first responders from the Waukesha tragedy at the Waukesha City Hall before returning to Washington DC.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff joined the first lady in New York but did not participate in the Forbes event. He did take part in the Wisconsin events and delivered a brief statement.
The House is in recess with no votes scheduled until Jan. 10. Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference.
The Senate is in session. A final vote is expected on a bill to fund the Defense Department for 2022. The Banking Committee held a hearing on disaster recovery assistance and a federal housing grant program. The Commerce Committee heard testimony from airline CEOs. The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the impact corporate monopolies have on competition and innovation.
In The Know
Delta is still the dominant coronavirus variant. The strain represents 96 percent of cases across the country while Omicron is estimated to represent about three percent, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said today during a briefing with reporters. (White House COVID-19 Response Team)
PolitiFact announced its 2021 Lie of the Year. No surprise: “Lies about COVID-19, vaccinations, elections, climate change and war rose to the top of the list,” the project said. “But none came as close to demolishing the highest ideals of American democracy like the collective attempts to downplay and deny the Jan. 6 insurrection, the most serious attack on representative democracy in modern times.” (Angie Drobnic Holan, Bill McCarthy and Amy Sherman / PolitiFact)
Professional sports leagues are experiencing a COVID crisis. 75 NFL players tested positive on Monday and Tuesday while the NBA postponed two games earlier this week involving the Chicago Bulls — its first virus-related postponements of the season. (Mark Maske and Ben Golliver / WaPo)