It’s Time To Build Lasting Power for Black Women

It’s Time To Build Lasting Power for Black Women

By Pete Buttigieg, ESSENCE

2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE PETE BUTTIGIEG HAS RELEASED A NEW COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO BUILD AND SECURE POWER FOR BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA.

Throughout history–and especially in the last three years–we’ve watched Black women lead powerful movements for justice, organizing the Women’s March, insisting on the importance of Black lives, and galvanizing the #MeToo movement. And in 2018, our nation mobilized at the ballot box and marked historic gains for women in Congress–largely driven by Black women.

As important as it is to fight discrimination together, it is also important to recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to achieving gender justice is not enough. It’s not enough to guarantee reproductive health care when your health concerns aren’t taken seriously in the first place. It’s not enough to raise wages when the neighborhood you live in has placed you on the wrong end of a generations-long wealth gap. And it’s not enough to ask someone to overcome injustice by simply toughening up and leaning in. Oppression is not a setback to push through—it’s a system to be torn down. Racist and sexist policies were put in place intentionally–often the result of policies enacted within living memory–and we must be equally intentional about dismantling them.

Black women have always led the way on this, experiencing the consequences of our national shortcomings while also putting forward the solutions to deal with them. It’s time Washington summoned the courage to deliver real solutions as well. That’s why I’m proposing a women’s agenda for the 21st century, to ensure that every woman, and in particular Black women, can build lasting economic, political, and social power.

First, we will work to create safe and inclusive communities for Black women, especially Black trans women. This means strengthening anti-discrimination laws and securing organizing rights, particularly for domestic workers. It also means investing $10 billion to end the culture of harassment that has disproportionately targeted women of color, doubling funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and analyzing that EEOC data in a way that recognizes that none of us is defined by a single identity. We’ll expand those protections beyond the workplace by reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, and combating new forms of harassment that target women online.

Second, we will invest in the power of Black women. Policy only works when it’s informed by diverse experiences. That’s why I’m committed to nominating a gender- and racially-diverse Cabinet and making judicial nominations that are at least 50 percent women, and challenging executives across the country to step up as well. We will implement a robust public financing system to make it easier for Black women seeking to run for office themselves. We will also bring about stronger legal protections for women by ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. Recognizing that you can’t be what you can’t see, we’ll lift up the contribution of Black women in America by issuing the $20 bill with the image of Harriet Tubman and establishing a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum on the National Mall.

Third, we will set Black women up for economic success. Today, Black women earn just 62 cents for every dollar paid to a white man. We will close this gap by requiring companies to be transparent about pay disparities and whether women of color are relegated to low-wage positions. We’ll also guarantee a $15 minimum wage and end the tipped minimum wage that shortchanges women in the service industry. We’ll ensure that no woman has to choose between her child or her career by mandating 12 weeks of paid family leave, as well as free childcare for those most in need. Finally, our Walker-Lewis Initiative will invest $10 billion in entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds, including women of color. Collectively, these reforms will put over $500 billion in the pockets of American families every year, benefitting over 25 million children and cutting the poverty rate in half for working women and their families.

Finally, we must prioritize women’s health and reproductive freedom. Right now, more than 10 million women are uninsured, and Black women are uninsured at nearly twice the rate of white women. Addressing that starts with guaranteeing every woman has access to affordable health coverage through Medicare for All Who Want It. We’ll make that coverage comprehensive by writing abortion rights into law and enacting reforms to lower the exceedingly high Black maternal mortality rate. And we will break the silence around mental health, with Mental Health First Aid classes in schools across the country and a three-digit suicide hotline.

Empowering women means different things to different communities. But one thing our communities all share is the urgency of taking action in this moment. It’s time to finally secure the full inclusion and empowerment of all women in our American story.

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