Black women have long been the cornerstone of care in America. We raised this nation, caring for others’ children — first under duress, then out of necessity. Now, it’s Black, brown and immigrant women risking their health to provide for their families during the coronavirus pandemic, and disproportionately caring for America’s children and elders.
America’s recovery – and our liberation – hinges on building a robust care system where everyone who needs care can easily and affordably access it, and where all care providers receive the respect and compensation they deserve.
Closing the staggering wealth gap between Black and white families means addressing anti-Blackness in all the ways it manifests in our economy. At home, Black women are often both the breadwinner and caregiver, with most unpaid responsibilities falling to us. As care workers, we hold the sixth fastest-growing job in a rapidly aging nation. This care allows people to continue working and financially supporting their families.
Much of families’ care needs fall disproportionately on Black women’s shoulders — partly because that’s how it’s always been. Starting during chattel slavery, white men and women have used physical violence and discriminatory laws to devalue caregiving and exclude domestic workers from fair wages and labor protections. Today, care jobs remain poverty jobs (median annual earnings are about $25,280 for home health and personal care aides and $24,230 for childcare workers) and lack benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans and childcare. The very people who care for our nation cannot afford high-quality care for their own families.
“I hope you’ll still laugh at my jokes when I have dementia,” I said to my husband Ryan on an evening walk not long after my thirty-fourth birthday....