Raina Desai '24, Women of Color Manifesto: We Deserve Better, in association with First Year Seminar: Radical Care, taught by professor Andrea Scott
By Raina Desai ’24 | December 3, 2020
As a woman of color, I have a responsibility to stand up for my people. We are one of the most undervalued groups within society, yet we act as the glue that holds our communities together. We constantly face bias and discrimination, stemming from racism, sexism, social stratification, and ethnic stereotypes. Women in general—but highly amplified among WOC—face a double standard: we must provide domestic care, but also participate in the workforce to support our families. Why aren’t men held to these same standards? Why is care work often viewed as a woman’s duty? We must change the way society views women of color—or better yet, the way society treats women of color. I know that I speak from a place of privilege, but I understand the everyday struggles that women of color face. I understand that we need change. By diversifying the population that performs care work, treating women of color the same as their white counterparts, and eliminating racial and gender stereotypes, we can create an equitable future for women of color.
1. We must diversify the population that performs care work, as it should not be a burden that single-handedly falls on women of color. Historically speaking, enslaved African Americans served as our country’s care workers. Although slavery has been eradicated, care work still heavily falls within the black community, specifically among women. In fact, the top ten occupations held by women of color all fall within the realm of care work: maids, nurses, teachers, housekeepers, etc. Most of this work is unappreciated and undervalued, as these occupations are classified as low-income. Mothers of low-income families—which are disproportionately women of color—are often the sole breadwinners for their families. In fact, 67.5 percent of Black mothers are the primary breadwinners for their families. Women of color are held to this impossible double standard; they perform underpaid care work, but are also expected to earn a living wage to support their families. We must change the way society views care work and those who perform it. Care work is what holds our communities together, maintains our health and well-being, and ensures the reproduction of our communities. We must destigmatize care work; we shouldn’t look down on something that’s so essential to our maintenance and health. It shouldn’t be a duty solely placed on women of color. Care work is such an important tool for maintaining our communities, but it shouldn’t just fall on a small subset of our population. We must diversify the population of care workers to include our white counterparts—both men and women. And better yet, we need to place more value on these workers and all that they do to support our communities.
2. Women of color need to be treated the same as their white counterparts, especially on a basis of earnings and economic stability. Women of color experience the most severe wage gap in America. In fact, women of color typically earn 63 cents for every dollar paid to white men, while white women typically earn 79 cents for every dollar paid to white men. While both women of color and their white counterparts earn less than white men, the first step in eliminating this gender wage gap is focusing on the racial disparity among women. White women earn 16 more cents than women of color—and while this may not seem like much—it can make all the difference when trying to pay for food, education, healthcare, etc. Economic stability should not be dependent on the color of your skin. This racial wage gap is infuriating, especially considering the fact that many Black mothers are the primary breadwinners for their families, while white mothers are typically not. All women need to be treated equally, regardless of where they came from or what they look like. Women of color should have the same opportunities as their white counterparts.
3. We must eliminate the racial and gender stereotypes surrounding women of color. Women of color are often viewed as less qualified than their white and male counterparts within all aspects of life. This false pretense stems from racial and gender stereotypes surrounding women of color: unsophisticated, uneducated, poor, submissive, impotent, weak—just to name a few. In this day and age, it’s shocking that racial and gender stereotypes still exist. These stereotypes are psychologically and emotionally detrimental, affecting an individual’s self-esteem, self-worth, and well-being. In countering racial and gender stereotypes, women of color should be able to share their stories and experiences without being labeled. We must change the way society views women of color, as many of these stereotypes lay far from the truth. We must change the way society treats women of color, especially in the workplace. Race and gender are not indicators of an individual’s skills, ability, and success. Women of color deserve to be treated for who they are—not what people make them out to be.
We deserve better.We deserve to have access to opportunities outside of the realm of care work. We deserve to be treated the same as our white counterparts. We deserve to work, eat, shop, and go about our lives without being labeled by racial and gender stereotypes. Women of color play such a vital role in caring for our communities, yet their work often goes unnoticed. Women of color have been victimized by racism and sexism for far too long. This needs to change. If the color of your skin or gender has entitled you to more, please check your privilege. Many of us—namely women of color—are still fighting for our rights. Join us in our fight for justice and equality. Because we deserve better.