Looking at some of today’s challenges for Black women

( – There are some powerful, national images of Black women as successful, accomplished and having arrived but national activists say Black women in America still struggle when it comes to core areas of life, like economics and educating their children.

Women are bearing the brunt of America’s economic recession and there has been a spike in economic insecurity, particularly among low-income women, a recent survey found. Black women earn less than White women and are disproportionately poor.


Seventy-seven percent of low-income women reported living paycheck to paycheck, compared to 49 percent of all Americans, according to 2011 Community Voices for the Economy survey. The survey was commissioned by the Ms. Foundation for Women and questioned 1,515 men and women between March 15-24, 2011.

“If I look at what I call the ‘Michelle Obama’ impact, then we’re getting a lot more positive news because she’s an authentic Black woman and she’s out there so if we look at that, then we’re doing okay. But we still live at that intersection of racism and sexism,” said Janette Robinson Flint, founder and executive director of Black Women for Wellness, an advocacy organization based in Los Angeles.

Yes, more Black women have degrees but they still make the least amount of money and have the least wealth, Ms. Robinson Flint said.

Single White women between ages 36 to 49 have a median wealth of $42,600 while the median wealth for single Black women is $5, according to “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and America’s Future.” The report was issued in 2010 by economists with the Oakland-based Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

Stiff competition for jobs remains a challenge, as Blacks with credentials face higher unemployment rates than their White counterparts, and that wasn’t the case before the recession, said Dr. Valerie Rawlston Wilson, vice president of research for the National Urban League’s Policy Institute.

Although the recession officially ended in 2009, the overall Black unemployment rate continued to rise and so did unemployment among Black women, Dr. Rawlston Wilson said.

Trends have shown spikes in entrepreneurial pursuits since the recession and education and healthcare have remained steady, she observed.

The challenges Black women face economically is connected to the perennial question of why Blacks cannot make any progress after a century of physical bondage, said Dr. Ava Muhammad, an attorney and student minister in the Nation of Islam.

The answers lie within “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” published by the Nation of Islam’s Historical Research Department, Dr. Muhammad said. Volumes 1 and 2 document historical Jewish involvement in slavery and Jim Crow, and Volume 2 specifically documents how Jews gained control of the Black economy.

“Black women are completely focused on meeting their basic needs, which leaves little room for creative thinking and time to develop intellectually or spiritually. Our lack of direction, or at this point our refusal to follow what has been given to us as direction, has resulted in us being so economically destitute that we don’t have the resources that will take us above the survival level of life,” Dr. Muhammad said.

Unfortunately, Blacks run away from confronting the source of their problem, Dr. Muhammad continued. “It is not enough to say, as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches, that a nation can rise no higher than its woman. We must find a path to regain control over the rearing of our children and our girls specifically to restore the original Black woman to a civilized, God-loving, elegant, intelligent, nurturing woman who was the mother of civilization,” Dr. Muhammad said.

In education, the struggle of Black females to navigate poor school systems recently left two mothers branded criminals–one was convicted of a felony and the other faces grand larceny charges, $15,000 in fines and a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Tanya McDowell, a homeless single mother in Norwalk, Connecticut, was arrested April 14 on charges she “stole education” by registering her son outside of her district by using her babysitter’s address. Activists argue she was doing all she could to educate him. The mother also said she sometimes slept in her van and a shelter in the school district.

Since her arrest, 26 students have been dismissed from public schools in Norwalk for allegedly using fake home addresses to attend the school in the district, according to media reports.

“It is wrong for the system to throw the book at Tanya McDowell and then allow 26 other children to quietly go back home when their parents have done the same thing. It’s one thing to say parents don’t care and are not engaged, but clearly Ms. McDowell and Ms. Williams-Bolar were trying,” Gwen Samuels, founder of the Union of Parents in Connecticut, told The Final Call.

The non-profit Ohio Justice & Policy Center took on the Kelly Williams-Bolar case because the criminal justice system shouldn’t be used that way, Attorney David Singleton told The Final Call.

A parole board hearing for Ms. Williams-Bolar is set for this summer and attorneys are pushing for a pardon from the governor and appealing her conviction. “If anything, if there’s a dispute about whether she owes money, take her to civil court but here, she racked up two felony convictions, which could make it very difficult for her to pursue a career, and that just screamed out unfairness to us,” Atty. Singleton said.

Failed education in some inner city communities presents a challenge for women who want quality education for their children but who face criminal charges for not sending their children to school, he argued.

“When you start penalizing parents for wanting to do what’s best for their children we are in a state of crisis and let’s be clear. The most important persons in schools are the children, not the administrators or the teachers,” Ms. Samuels said.

It is the Black women’s instincts that keep her driving to do what’s better for their children, to make them safer and happier, Dr. Muhammad said. Their desire is for a better life but the problem is Black women are often misguided about what “a better life” is and how to get there.

“We actually equate facilities with education. We see White people in the suburbs with big, beautiful schools with state-of-the-art equipment, so we equate that with a better education as though these White teachers are going to do right by our children and not take them on the side and whisper in their ear about how inferior they are,” she said.

Related news:

The Real Housewives of Detroit?  (FCN, 05-04-2011)

Despite widespread appeals, Obama fails to appoint Black woman to Supreme Court  (FCN, 05-11-2010)

Single Black, Latino, Native American women lag far behind White females when it comes to wealth  (FCN, 03-29-2010)

Being A Black Woman In The World – Part 1  (FCN, 03-28-2006)

Being A Black Woman In The World – Part 2 (FCN, 04-18-2006)