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A Black Brother Needs Love, Too

Published on June 17, 2021.

Protect Black Women is that rare slogan that crossed over from t-shirts and Twitter to the halls of power in Washington and beyond. In 2020, after the high-profile police killing of Breonna Taylor and after nearly 1 million Black women were pushed out of the labor market by the pandemic, the phrase became popularized by activists and athletes, entertainers and journalists. Rapper Megan Thee Stallion famously featured the words as a backdrop for a “Saturday Night Live” performance. It is potent shorthand, encapsulating a range of issues that harm Black women such as workplace racism, sex trafficking, high rates of maternal mortality, and police violence.

By the end of 2020, the idea had taken hold, particularly in the news media. Black women were applauded for their ability to organize and mobilize voters and credited for delivering the White House to Joe Biden. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) continued to elevate Black women by introducing the Protect Black Women and Girls Act of 2020. Elected and appointed to important roles—including Vice President Kamala Harris, Chair of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Cecilia Rouse, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge—it appears that Black women may have the clout needed to play a significant role in shaping policy.

How will they use it? Will they make more and stronger calls to protect Black women? Or will they use their influence to extend these calls to protect Black men and highlight the similar yet unique barriers that our brothers face?

The current cultural focus on intersectionality, which examines the effects of bias on women (Black and white) by comparing outcomes to those of white men, may be distorting the perception of what public policies and research are needed. First, using white men as the baseline reference group doesn't capture the struggles of Black men. Second, it papers over the similar barriers Black women and men face related to discrimination in the workplace and violence and death at the hands of police officers.

For example, Black workers (men and women) faced similar discrimination in the workplace; both have distressingly high youth unemployment rates that depresses Black lifetime earnings and both were the last hired as the economy tried to rebound from a deadly pandemic. And yet, presumably swayed by calls to protect Black women, during interviews journalists asked me to focus on the unemployment rate among Black women. While many were aware that Black men and women had similar unemployment rates, which as of May 2021 (PDF), were 9.8% and 8.2% respectively, journalists wanted to report on the number of Black women who left the labor force.

Original Article: https://www.rand.org/blog/2021/06/a-black-brother-needs-love-too.html

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