Why America’s Women Of Color Have Lost Ground Since The Great Recession

Picture a small office with three employees: Jake, a white man; Anita, a Latina woman whose husband lost his job a year ago; and Crystal, a black single mother. Even though all three have similar duties, Jake takes home $1000 per paycheck, while Crystal gets $700 and Anita earns $600. The office also used to employ Anne, another black woman, but she was laid off during hard times in 2009. Crystal and Anita are fortunate to still have their jobs, but their wages put their yearly earnings below the federally measured “poverty line.” Unable to get by on their wages alone, their families also need help from public benefits.

This scenario is imaginary, but it gets at general trends and truths. The recent Great Recession brought hard times to most Americans, but it was especially devastating for women of color. Today, black women and Latinas face worse job and wage prospects and experience higher poverty rates and greater difficulties in gaining access to health care. Many female-headed households have depleted their “rainy day” savings and depend on a patchwork of low wages and bare-bones supplements like Food Stamps and unemployment insurance to make ends meet. The 2009 recession and slow economic growth since then have derailed many women’s previously modest economic progress. Today, America’s women of color are, overall, significantly worse off than they were before the economic crisis hit.

Eroding Financial Security

Black and Hispanic women suffered big income losses during and after the Great Recession.

  • In 2009 alone, black females holding jobs dropped from 58.8 to 54.6 percent, while Latinas holding employment fell from 51.9 to 50.1 percent. Today, 13.8 percent of black women and 12.3 percent of Latinas are looking for jobs they cannot find (and their rates of unemployment exceed the national average by 6.2 and 4.7 percentage points respectively).
  • Already struggling households headed by black women and Latinas have plunged into poverty. From 2007 to 2011, the percentage of black female-headed households in poverty jumped from 43.9 to 47.3 percent. The numbers are worse for Latina-headed households, for whom the percentage in poverty grew from 46.6 to 49.1 percent.

Household wealth – the value of assets, minus debts owed – also matters. The Great Recession depleted the accumulated wealth of U.S. households across the board, but hit black and Latino households the hardest. Today, the typical white man – the one in the middle of the overall national distribution of all white men – has a net worth of $43,800. But the net worth of the typical single Latina women is a mere $120 and it is only $100 dollars for the typical single black woman. Another way to think of this situation is to realize that nearly half of single women of color have zero or negative net worth, meaning their debts equal or exceed their total assets. Such women had little accumulated wealth before the recession and now have less, a situation sure to have lasting adverse effects on the financial security of these women and their families.

Limited Access to Health Insurance

As black and Hispanic women’s economic fortunes have declined, it has become harder for many to get access to good quality health care. Private health insurance coverage for black women has decreased from 54.1 to 50 percent since 2007, largely because women who lost jobs also lost employer-backed health insurance. For Latina women, the story has been similar, as private health coverage has fallen from 45.2 to 41.6 percent since 2007.

Some emergency provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect in early 2010, offering health coverage to some Americans who lost jobs. Government-provided health insurance increased coverage in 2010 from 36.7 to 40.9 percent for black women and from 31.1 to 36.3 percent for Latinas. But federal help is temporary and many states do not offer Medicaid to people close to the poverty line. Today, close to one in five Latinas and more than one in four black women remain without any health insurance coverage. Research shows that people without insurance often put off needed health checkups and may delay life-saving care until too late.

A Hostile Political Landscape

Why have black and Latina women fallen so far behind, even as the country has begun to recover from the effects of the recession? Part of the explanation lays in state-level political dynamics hurtful to low-income people. Ten million uninsured women earn incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which would qualify them for Medicaid under the 2014 expansion. Yet four million of these women will continue to live without any form of health insurance or access to Medicaid, because they are unfortunate enough to reside in one of the up to two dozen states whose governments are refusing to participate in the planned expansion of Medicaid. These states include Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, states where women of color have some of the lowest average incomes, even when they work full-time at difficult jobs like home health aide.

Despite the historic presidency of Barack Obama, America’s women of color are also losing political leverage. Since 2009, 11 states have adopted photo ID laws that disproportionately burden otherwise eligible low-income, black, and Latino voters. Many of them cannot afford cars and do not have drivers’ licenses, and states make it difficult to obtain alternative forms of photo identification. Twenty-five percent of blacks eligible to vote and 16 percent of Latinos eligible to vote lack a valid photo ID, compared with only 8 percent of whites.

In addition to facing barriers to voting, black and Latina women rarely appear on the ballot for public offices whose incumbents make crucial decisions about the economy and social benefits. Black and Latina women only fill 23 of the 535 seats in the U.S. Congress, and they fill only 322 of the 7,382 state legislative seats. Until more women of color vote and serve in office, policymakers will likely remain uninterested in addressing their extraordinary economic difficulties. Latinas and black women and the families that depend upon them will continue to fall behind, even as the rest of America recovers from the Great Recession.

A Practical Guide on How to Confront Hate

Tina Kempin Reuter, Ph.D., director of the UAB Institute for Human Rights Photo Credit: UAB

In the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Tina Kempin Reuter, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Institute for Human Rights offers some practical tips on how to confront hate.

Know your human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the key document guiding human rights advocacy. It is based on the universality, inalienability, and indivisibility of human rights and is founded on the core values of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity.

“Knowing one’s human rights is an important step that often gets forgotten,” Reuter said. “Learning the content and extent of basic human rights will give people the tools and language needed to address certain issues. Discrimination, suppression, racism, marginalization, and violence against individuals or groups are human rights violations that must be confronted.”

Reuter urges reporting human rights violations to the authorities such as the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice or other entities such as the American Civil Liberties Union. If an incident occurs in the workplace, inform your human resources representative or a diversity officer. At UAB, students, faculty, and staff can contact the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. You can learn more about international human rights by visiting the United Nations Human Rights website and by reading the UAB Institute for Human Rights blog, where faculty and students write about international human rights issues.

Speak up in the face of injustice

Once you know what human rights and human rights violations are, Reuter encourages everyone to pay attention and speak up in the face of injustice. Pay attention to what happens in your everyday life. Document, record and monitor what is going on around you, and if you see injustice, say something.

“The goal is to make everyday suppression of a specific group based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability status just as unacceptable as the violence and hatred that has occurred in Charlottesville,” Reuter said. “It’s these normal, hidden human rights violations that are particularly dangerous to our society and that we have to confront together.”

Be aware of your own biases

One of the ways to overcome biases and stereotypes is to engage with those who are different. Research shows that interpersonal contact is one of the best ways to reduce prejudice. This theory is called contact hypothesis. The theory suggests that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority groups.

“It is incredibly important to be aware of your own biases,” Reuter said. “We all have them. Realize if you cross the street when a person of a different race walks toward you. Notice if you assume that someone is less competent because she is a woman, a person of color or Muslim. Think about systemic racism and structural violence in your own environment, and find ways to confront them. Actively learn about how our society has grown to marginalize some to the benefit of others. I encourage people to reach out and make new friends outside of their race, religion and gender.”

Join a movement or a cause that fits your passions and interests

Join a movement, and talk with others who feel the same. Look for a rally in your community. Organize a vigil. Participate in a discussion. Engage with others. Get together formally or informally. Look for opportunities to talk. The UAB Institute for Human Rights is a part of the StandAsOne Coalition. If you are a UAB student, you can join the Students for Human Rights club.

“Not all of us are born to be activists or community organizers,” Reuter said. “We cannot all become Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Leymah Gboweee; but we all can contribute by supporting the movement. Think about what you are good at and how your skills and talent can be used to move a cause forward.”

Call your representatives

One of the most effective ways to achieve policy change is to call local and state representatives. Reuter says calling is much more impactful than writing an email, Facebook message or letter. She advises anyone contacting their local representative to be polite to the staff, which is who you will most likely get on the line. Their staff members do not have influence on the decision-making process, but they will record your call and do not mind taking opposing views as long as the conversation is civil.

Educate others

This step does not have to be formal. You can educate others by leading by example, or by bringing a friend along to a conversation you are having. It can happen person to person, on social media or on any other platform you use to connect with others. Creating art, poems and performances are incredible ways to get your point across to people who might find that formal ways of education do not resonate with them.

“It is such a privilege to be an educator,” Reuter said. “It is one of my favorite parts of my job to talk to students about issues that affect the world and to encourage them to learn more about these topics. It’s something that everyone can do. Teach your children and young relatives about kindness, human rights, and peace building. Teach them also about systemic suppression, racism and the way our society has oppressed minorities. Talk to them about what bothers you and what you would like to achieve. You don’t have to be a professor or teacher to educate others.”


One of the fastest and easiest opportunities to make an impact is to donate to an organization that fights for human rights or civil rights.

There are a number of organizations dedicated to ensuring the preservation of individual rights and liberties, one of which is the UAB Institute for Human Rights. You can learn more about the Institute here.

Take care of yourself

Confronting issues such as hatred, violence, and suppression can take a mental and physical toll on anyone. Reuter says it is important to know what you can and cannot do, what you are willing to do, and what your priorities are.

“Focus on the local level. Start in your own community,” Reuter said. “That world is changed person by person, but don’t forget to take care of your needs. When you start to feel overwhelmed, shut down Facebook, Twitter, cable news and other forms of media. Enjoy time with your friends and family. Be kind to yourself, and realize that real progress takes patience.”

What Racists and Child Rape Apologists Have in Common


I remember interviewing two women back to back for a federal research project. Both women were black. They were mother and daughter. They told me, a stranger, about their story of someone raping them.  Yet, they never told one another. On that day, they both asked me not to share any details with the other.

These interviews took place in a major city that was heavily protested in 2015. Covered by all the three letter major news networks, breaking news, trending on social media, #BlackLivesMatter. But a decade prior, we were interviewing women who were slowly dying in that city. They were in a state of existing as a direct result of rape/sexual abuse.  There would be no protests for them.

No breaking news.

No hashtags.

No one would ever be outraged about the fact that someone or several folks raped them over and over again. And now, it was killing them a little bit each day.

I know your fear

I understand your fear.  Black men are often accused of raping white women as stated by the shooter who killed 9 parishioners in a Charleston South Carolina church.  The fact is rape is like other crimes. It is intra-racial.  White men are more likely to rape white women. And on and on. See keep in mind, people are more likely to be raped by people that they know. That masked stranger in the bush stuff is rare by comparison.

But y’all can’t let our fear of racism keep us from addressing this monster in our community. Beat them back on this like we beat back that other racist crap.

FYI…I hear y’all talking. “We have other things to worry about in the community.”  

Estimated 3.1 million Black rape victims and 5.9 million Black survivors of other forms of sexual violence. These don’t even include people who will take the secret to the grave.  Y’all, these numbers are too high for folks to be playing and procrastinating?

Seems like all you have to do is make one simple statement:

The problem of black men who prey upon black girls/boys must be discussed and addressed. Just that statement forces hell to come undone. I don’t think that the child rape apologists realize just how much they have in common with the racists that they despise. Yet, they use the same techniques.



“But what about black on black crime?”

“What about black on white crime?”

Child Rape Apologists:

“But what about girls who “date” older men?”

“What about white men who aren’t held accountable?”

Neither group would be concerned about these issues outside of using them for the purposes of distraction.  They aren’t concerned about the accuracy of the information.  They aren’t concerned about the victims.  Their sole reason for bringing up these points is to distract people attempting to solve a problem from coming up with a solution.

Victim blaming


“The kid ran from the police.”

 “The man stood still.” “The woman looked him in the eyes too long.”

“The child had a toy gun.”

Child Rape Apologists:

 “She looked 18.”

“These girls know what they are getting into.”

 “Hey, that is the legal age in some states. She is old enough to know better.”

“Looking like that, at 15, what did she expect?”

Biased Victim characterization

Both of them tend to misname the victims.

Racists:  Those people are thugs, juveniles, (racial slurs) Everything and anything but children.

Child Rape Apologists:  Those girls are fast, hoes, sneaky, liars, grown, (slurs).  Everything and anything but children.


Racists: In cases of police brutality which is the main focus of #BlackLivesMatter, perpetrators are rarely held accountable, their victims are numerous.  Their victims aren’t accurately counted. The system is engineered against victims.

Likewise, it is extremely hard to get a conviction in a child rape case.

Child rape apologists:  Perpetrators are rarely held accountable, their victims are numerous.   Their victims aren’t accurately counted because most do not come forward. The system is engineered against victims.

Sexual Violence Victims

As we fight against police brutality we at least have the benefit of technology on our side.

But, see we can’t arm little girls and boys with cameras everywhere they go.  Our only hope is to make the adults smarter.  (I literally sighed after writing that sentence)

Fellow people, all I keep thinking as I bounce around and read your postings on various social media platforms with your victim blaming, distractions, and bold characterizations; is how bold you all are.

You say what you say with such conviction and you don’t even know anything.

What you don’t know

I’m not talking facts, figures, and stats.

I mean, I often want to tell these folks, “You don’t even know whether or not your mother is a Survivor.”

Do you know that?

What about your Sister?  Your best friend?

How about your father? Brother?

Your children?  Nieces? Nephews? Cousins?

Promiscuity, low self esteem, depression, substance use can all be side effects of sexual abuse, you know. You knew that they were hurting, but you just couldn’t figure it out. You just couldn’t reach them. View below a survivor telling her truth:

Teaching for Change

Why are you a teacher, and what is the point of doing the job you do? Teachers really need to think about those questions and hopefully reflect beyond the surface answers of wanting to “inspire” students. I doubt any of us really got into teaching to “fill gaps in the labour market” or decided that their true passion in life was watching students fill out multiple choice tests.

For most of us, I would say that at some level we decided to be a teacher to affect change in the lives of students and the communities in which we serve. We felt a connection to a profession in which we could work with children and youth to promote qualities that may have been lacking in the world as we saw it.

change-4-1imepycHowever, for any of us that have been teaching for any length of time. you have probably seen how the inequalities of our world have impacted our students and their ability to learn. Poverty, racism, sexism, ableism, colonialism and homophobia, amongst many more forms of oppression, infiltrate the walls of our schools and shape the real world experiences of our students.

Regardless if our students come from a place of privilege or oppression, these issues impact our classrooms and challenge us to confront them to ensure that the students we care for can overcome these issues as well as not perpetuate them as they move from youth to adults.

For teachers, it means that we cannot be ignorant to how these issues impact education and the lives of our students. Teaching is an inherently political act as the decisions we make from choosing to ignore these issues or confronting them demonstrates to our students the attitude we should have towards the major issues of our times.

If we want our students to have a chance of following their passions in life and to take on the major social and environmental issues of our time, we need to demonstrate a sense of courageous teaching that is not afraid to speak out against the issues that impact education and our students. Teachers must act in a way that promotes the ideals we strive for that would create a more democratic and equitable world for all.

That is why it is necessary that teachers eliminate the ideas of objectivity and neutrality from their practice. As one of the greatest educators of the 20th century, Paulo Freire said, “washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral”. As we see governments take on more austerity measures against education systems and demonize teachers in the media, it is essential that we assert ourselves as a profession that has the power to change society.

It is my hope that if you are a teacher reading this, you will join me in embracing a radical vision of what your teaching practice and the education system you work in could be. Teachers, in partnership with their union and other ally organizations, must understand the power we can have if we understand the principles of social justice and democracy. When you signed up to be a teacher, you also signed up to advocate for your students. I hope you’ll join me, and many other teachers, advocating for a more just and equitable world free from oppression for all people.

Until that day happens, teachers must engage in the long-term struggle for justice both in and outside of their classrooms. Social justice must be a centerpiece for why we teach and we must advocate for social justice as a framework for understanding teaching and education to our elected officials, unions and all others concerned with making the world a better place.

The 5th Woman Stage Production is a Voice for Women

Primary cast of the Knoxville, TN stage play The 5th Woman
Primary cast of the Knoxville, TN stage play The 5th Woman

I am always excited to hear about driven individuals who are doing courageous things. However, I am also intrigued by the arts and production. Add to that my hope for social justice, and you know why I had to interview the producers of the upcoming play The 5th Woman. The production is an ensemble stage play appearing for one night only April 25, 2014 in Knoxville, TN.

One of the primary cast members told me about the production, and I was excited, intrigued, and hopeful. I made contact with one half of the executive production team, Marcus Carmon, owner of Carmon Sense Productions. He provided some answers to my questions and deepened my understanding of the social justice message embodied in the 5th Woman. With the power of media and arts to tell stories and change minds, with Women’s History Month 2014 just ending with the close of March, I thought it important to share this interview.

1798188_10102065747352635_1240342696_nWhat is Carmon Sense?
Carmon Sense Productions is an entertainment company created in 2009 by myself Marcus Carmon and my wife Rhea. Our vision is to bring a mix of original and diverse art productions to the city of Knoxville which is already an art-rich city.

Where is it based?
Carmon Sense Productions is based in Knoxville, TN.

What is the origin of The 5th Woman stage production?
My wife Rhea Carmon originally thought about doing a one woman show many years ago but it wasn’t brought up much. Less than a year ago she got together with the other ladies in the show (Dominique Boyd, Jessica Sessions, Shekita Arnold, Lauren Elysse) and the one-woman show grew into something bigger, better and powerful. It grew to become The 5th Woman.

What social justice themes are the core of the production?
The ladies address issues and themes that all women share in common. Sexism, motherhood, love, relationships, social pressures and more. The core message is about women loving each other. Caring about each other and being selfless enough to lend an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. It’s a positive and honest message in a world where women are often portrayed in the media as being catty and unable to get along with one another.

In presenting each woman, what is the message for the audience?
Each of the dynamic artists has a unique yet familiar voice that will reach persons in the audience who also think and share similar perspectives. Whatever story you have to tell as a woman, tell it. The days have passed when the struggles of women, personally or publicly, are silenced due to chauvinistic values. Every type of woman or person is guaranteed to be touched by the message in the 5th Woman.

swhelper.org speaks to many helping professionals. Why would they benefit from seeing the 5th Woman?
I think it is always good for professionals to engage with art. Art often imitates life and is intertwined in the way that a lot of companies market and do business. The 5th Woman will show that all women and people in general are different and must be treated accordingly. This practice and thought is definitely useful in a social setting where sensitivity concerns can be problematic.

How can folks who are not able to see the opening night get a chance to experience the production?
The 5th Woman will only run for one night April 25, 2014 at the Ula Doughty Carousel Theater on the campus of the University of Tennessee Knoxville. However, depending on the public demand the ladies would love to give an encore performance.

Do you have other things to communicate about the 5th Woman?
The 5th Woman is a theatrical poetry production that combines that grace and beauty of dance, the melodic harmony of song, the power of theatre and the undeniable force of the spoken word to create a unique presentation of artistic expression. The production takes place on the University of Tennessee Campus April 25, 2014 and tickets are $15 for students and $20 for the general public. [Available Here]

Do you have other upcoming productions slated for Carmon Sense?
Carmon Sense Productions is looking to start on its first web series this fall. We are also currently creating a musical inspired by the Harlem Renaissance. We are looking to do a lot more film and intermingle it with stage performances.


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