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Social Justice Leader Tamika Mallory Sheds Light On “The Invisible Black Women”

Real women share accounts where their credibility or mere presence was ignored as a Black woman.

Culture & Entertainment

As always, the most recent episode of Red Table Talk did not disappoint. The topic struck a nerve with the team here xoNecole in particular because we understand that Black women are beautifully capable beings that deserve the same respect that other demographics are handed, sometimes even undeservingly. Social justice leader Tameka Mallory joined the RTT hosts along with several Black women who have been ignored and mistreated—"The Invisible Black Women."


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Accounts varied but the core of all their stories was the same. One woman was on a Delta flight when a man had a medical emergency and she told the crew she was a doctor but was asked if she had her medical diploma with her. However, when a white male came forward and said he was a doctor, they didn't question his credentials at all.

Another woman went to the emergency room as she was four months pregnant and was bleeding. Doctors were dismissive of her in the emergency room and when they finally admitted her hours later the doctor said some pretty terrible things to her. The staff was dismissive of the pain she was experiencing and she ultimately had a miscarriage.

Whether on a scale this big or not, these experiences make us feel small and are sometimes life-threatening. Because sharing stories like these make us feel seen, we asked Black women in our circles for accounts where their intuition, credibility, or mere presence was ignored.

Below two xoNecole readers open up on what happened to them and how they handled this type of racism rarely talked about.

There Was a Very Clear Aura of ‘She's Being Dramatic’

"Similar to the Black women who have experienced neglect in hospital and medical settings, I've also felt ignored and disregarded in that way. Last year, I experienced a miscarriage. I had what doctors called a blighted ovum, which is essentially when a fertilized egg never develops into an embryo. It causes somewhat of a delayed miscarriage, and the day I arrived at the hospital, there was a very clear aura of 'she's being dramatic' when I first came through the emergency room doors doubled over in pain and being escorted via a wheelchair.

"The doctor assigned to me had to internally inspect me to check for hemorrhaging (severe bleeding), and I was in so much pain that she wasn't able to stick the tool where she needed to. It was traumatizing and agonizing, and she just kept rolling her eyes and sighing in frustration despite my pleas that I was in pain and that I wasn't purposefully tensing up, which prevented her from being able to do the inspection.

"Thankfully, a nurse was there (who appeared to be a Latina woman), and she held my hand and spoke to me with much more grace (this was at the peak of COVID, so no family was allowed into the hospital rooms with me). The doctor returned later a little more empathetic, but still very neglectful of the pain and general discomfort I was feeling. It was disappointing, hurtful, and honestly made me never want to go back to a hospital again." Diamond Alexis, 27, Journalist and Social Media Manager

She Was Dismissive, She Judged Me, and She Was Cold

"Unfortunately, I had a similar experience as the woman who had the miscarriage. I went into an emergency room because I was eight weeks pregnant and at 4 a.m. on a Thursday morning I started bleeding. I knew what was happening and went to the nearest hospital. I told them my situation but there was no sense of urgency. I was sitting in the waiting room bleeding, crying and thinking the worst.

"My mother had to ask why we were waiting so long to come to find out this hospital had no OBGYN department and the ultrasound tech wouldn't be in for another hour. I got up to leave and some security guard, a black man, told me I might as well stay because they're going to charge me. I was disgusted, needless to say, they called me right after he made that comment.

"I went to the room to get an ultrasound and waited on results. The doctor, who was a white woman, asked questions as if it was impossible for a black woman in her thirties to only have been pregnant once or to have never had an abortion. She was dismissive, she judged me, and she was cold delivering the news."

"I did have a miscarriage and that experience made everything I was going through worse. Not to mention, I was waiting for my mom to get the car and the security guard told me I couldn't sit in the waiting room. I'm losing my first child, in pain physically and emotionally, and from beginning to end during this hospital visit I felt ignored and unseen." —Amiyah Deziire, Radio Personality/Motivator/Writer

Featured image by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for REVOLT

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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