“YesDo you want to thank black women? Write off student debt, all of that. Black women have more student debt than any other group in America. Record your words of appreciation. Politics is our language of love, ”Rep. Ayanna Pressley tweeted on January 19. As a black woman with student debt, I totally agree. This is why I joined the Biden Jubilee 100 debt strike demanding that President Biden cancel all student debt in his first 100 days.
Black women in the United States have been publicly acknowledged and credited with playing a monumental role in the 2020 presidential, state and local elections. Most notably, Georgia’s “blue wave” made history, as Stacey Abrams and other black women led the charge in organizing and mobilizing voters across the state. Time and time again, we have seen black women rise up, fight and mobilize against systemic structures and policies that alienate and marginalize the most disenfranchised communities, including our own.
As Rep. Pressley’s tweet points out, black women are selflessly investing in the work that has enabled this country to move forward towards more equitable practices, laws and policies, and in return, we are taken for granted or we. receive empty praise. Black women are to be thanked for tangible practices that address how oppressive, racist and sexist policies marginalize us further. Policies need to be changed.
Highly subject to both racism and sexism, black women are particularly susceptible to violence (ranging from micro-attacks to murder by the police), disease, abuse and poverty. Data proves what black women have courageously called and called for decades: According to a 2015 Violence Policy Center study, black women are 20% more likely to be raped in their lifetimes and more than two and a half times more likely to be raped. be murdered by men than their white counterparts. Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, and 22.5% of black women live in poverty, compared to 19.4% of black men and 9% of white women. These racial and gender disparities are the result of a system built on the traditions of anti-darkness and sexism inherent in this country, which date back to founding principles that denied full equality of blacks and women, or even our own. humanity.
Racial and gender discrimination permeates all systems, and education is no exception. Student loan debt in America is one of the many ways black women are negatively affected by policies that have not only failed, but are, as pointed out by Rep Pressley, violent — violent in their disproportionate targeting of marginalized people.
Just a few decades ago, higher education was free or low cost in California, where I live, and the same is true, to varying degrees, across the country. As historians have shown, public education has come under attack following a right-wing and racist backlash, making it expensive and inaccessible to many people. Black Americans have been forced into a grueling dilemma: Most careers that offer living wages require a degree, but graduation is expensive. Considering that many black families are already disadvantaged due to income inequality and the lack of intergenerational wealth that ultimately stems from slavery and Jim Crow, saving for college is unrealistic for many black families, who are forced to contract loans. The burden of student debt puts social mobility beyond the reach of black families.
In addition to race being a factor in the inability to pay for college, so is gender. Women hold two-thirds of student loan debt, with black women having the most student loan debt of any other ethnic group. The gender pay gap puts women at an even greater disadvantage, making it harder for us to afford to go to college and repay the accumulated debt. Black women are paid 61 cents for every dollar earned by their white counterparts. Over a 40-year period, that’s a difference of almost a million dollars. Over time, black women’s student loan debts escalate rapidly, compounded by disparities and predatory lending practices. After 12 years, the typical white man has paid off 44% of his student loan balance, while the typical black borrower’s balance increases by 13%. A black woman’s inability to pay results in an increased balance as interest accumulates.
Being a black woman and a single mother, I am no stranger to these discriminatory practices and the resulting debt trap. Although I have a PhD and a well-paying career, my $ 220,000 student loan debt is debilitating and makes survival difficult. Rent in Los Angeles is around $ 3,000 for a three-bedroom apartment. I can’t afford to pay this and cover my monthly student loan payments. In addition to student loan debt, I also have $ 10,000 in debt that I acquired by juggling part-time and underpaid jobs before I graduated. As I was paying off this debt, my only option for myself and my children was to move in with my mom. Homeownership is a dream of mine, but I’m afraid it will never be a reality for me. I’m afraid if things don’t change, that won’t be a reality for my children either. This is how debt works. It affects entire families across generations, making it nearly impossible for black women who are single mothers to leave anything but debts for their children.
The point is, I can’t pay this debt, and I shouldn’t have to. That’s why I went on strike, along with 99 other people. We call ourselves the Biden Jubilee 100. I strike not only for myself and my children, but for all black women and their children weighed down by predatory and unfair debt. We, the Biden Jubilee 100, are on strike to demand the complete cancellation of all student loan debt and tuition-free college for all, to ensure that future generations do not have to mortgage their future to have a chance to improve their life, or just get by.
Eliminating student debt will not absolve the United States of its responsibility to end racist and sexist discriminatory systems that harm black women; this would show that the country is determined to initiate this process. Black women are publicly known for continuously showing off and saving this nation from self-destruction. We are spending a tremendous amount of work to save a nation riddled with failed policies that perpetuate our victimization, pain and death. This damage cannot be repaired without a profound structural change. “Do you want to thank black women?” Write off student debt, all of that. It’s a beginning.