Commentary

NC Council for Women: Let’s get to work tackling systemic racism

Members of the NC Council for Women Advisory Board

Long before COVID-19 ravaged the state, systemic racism exacted a destructive toll on health and safety, education, and economic security for North Carolina’s communities of color, and particularly for Black Americans.

For women, the dual and intersecting streams of racism and sexism render them doubly disadvantaged by structures and institutions that award power and opportunity on the basis of a white, male status quo.

We see the impacts of these systemic inequities in our work all the time. Our research has shown that in our state, maternal mortality is three times higher for Black women than for white women, and our infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the nation. In the economy, Black and Native women earn 62 cents for every dollar white men make; Latinx women earn just 49 cents for every dollar white men make. And that was before the pandemic.

Black North Carolinians make up 22% of our state’s population but account for 30% and 33% of the virus’s cases and deaths, respectively. Latinx individuals account for only 10% of our population but comprise 39% of COVID cases in the state.

So, too, has the pandemic exacerbated gender inequality. Domestic violence rates are on the rise as women are trapped at home with abusers. Compared with male parents, women have been disproportionately saddled with childcare during school closures — and it’s harder still for single moms. Read more