Updated: Jul 5
In our society, capitalism is often flaunted as the best system in the world. It is supposed to be a system that rewards hard work, individualism, and determination. But what does it do for those who are marginalized, like Black women?
It’s no secret that Black women are disproportionately affected by misogynoir in society, but what about in the economy? Whether we analyze our access to healthcare or our earnings, we always seem to receive the short end of the stick, despite having contributed so much to the construction of America. Therefore, it can be argued that capitalism has been built on the backs of Black women.
Let’s Talk About the History
Black people have the most extended resume in the American economy, but have little to show for it financially. Historically, Black women’s main jobs, or contributions to the economy, have been low-wage agriculture and domestic work due to the aftermath of slavery in America. According to Nina Banks, these “contributions” fueled the notion that Black women should be reduced to service work more than white women.
By the 1950s and 1960s, when white feminists like Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir defined feminism as admission into the workplace, Black women had already accumulated more than two centuries of unpaid and underpaid labor. Even after updated labor laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the rise of Black feminism, that injustice didn't cease. As time has passed, it has just translated into an economic exploitation of Black women, with lower wages, fewer opportunities for advancement or even employment, and little to no representation in leadership roles in the workforce.
What About Now?
Black women, on average, earn less than their white male counterparts. According to a study, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women who work full time, all year round are paid just 64 cents. In that same study, it is reported that Black women also participate in the workforce at a greater rate than white women, but are significantly more likely to live in poverty.
In fact, despite high employment levels—with six in 10 Black women working—Black women suffer a greater poverty rate than most other demographics in the United States. In addition, they often face discrimination in hiring and promotion decisions. As a result, Black women are disproportionately affected by poverty and economic insecurity.
Is Entrepreneurship the Solution for Black Women?
The number of Black women-owned businesses in America is finally on the rise. Black women are becoming entrepreneurs faster than any other race and gender demographic in the United States. Yet, at the same time, Maya Rockeymoore says that Black women are the least likely to have businesses that generate a significant amount of wealth, and the least likely to have any employees other than themselves. Perhaps this increase in entrepreneurial activity happened as a way for Black women to counteract lack of employment and appreciation within the formal labor sector. However, it also manages to highlight a potential pathway to create a solid, small-scale solution for Black women's economic issues: extending and targeting training programs for entrepreneurs to Black women to boost entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, Jasmine Burnett argues that—instead of celebrating individual wealth in Black people—Black people should advocate for the redistribution of wealth. For every successful Black woman that has benefited from capitalism, there are many Black women still suffering from that same system.
Capitalism claims to generate opportunity and upward mobility, but it often leads to exploitation and oppression for Black women. Black women continue to be marginalized socially and economically, putting us at a major disadvantage. As a result, Black women can benefit the most from disrupting capitalism's individualistic and exclusionary system. Whether that solution is entrepreneurship, redistribution of wealth, or another method, the truth remains that we cannot deny the relationship between capitalism and misogynoir.
Asha DuMonthier, Chandra Childers, Ph.D., and Jessica Milli, Ph.D. The Status of Black Women in the United States.
Jasmine Burnett. Collective Success: The Myth of Progress through Black Capitalism.
Lynn Parramore. Can Capitalism Work for Women of Color?
National Partnership for Women and Families. Black Women and the Wage Gap.