It seems that racism and sexism often go hand in hand. Such is still the case in the United States, despite our advancements in both women’s and minority rights in the last half century. Last year the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice put together a report on the status of black women’s human rights in the South, and the results are grim. These women, despite being US citizens, face the same problems seen in many places around the world, such as the feminization of poverty, a lack of education and healthcare, domestic violence, and high rates of STIs, teen pregnancy, and infant and maternal mortality. The report notes that during the 1990s “infant death rates surpassed those in Panama and Uruguay and percentage of births to teenage mothers was higher than in Uganda and Indonesia” among this population.
Moreover, “A child in the (Alabama) Black Belt is more likely to be born out of wedlock, more likely to come home to poverty, and more likely to die in the first year of life.” One English teacher at a Mississippi High School noted in her class “a handful of girls who see getting impregnated by men of retirement age as a savvy move. In their minds…if having a baby is an eventuality, you might as well have a baby with a man who can afford to keep you. There are girls who … go out regularly looking for those men. I’d hear them saying ‘That’s So and So’s baby daddy.’ I’d see him, and he’s 60 years old, in crazy old man clothes, plaid pants. Not cool at all. He could have, of course, been that girl’s grandfather.”
It is not hard to see how these problems combine: teen pregnancy and lack of healthcare can increase infant mortality. Not to mention that teen pregnancy makes it harder for girls to finish school. This, along with the high incidence of single motherhood, greatly increases women-headed families’ chances of living in poverty since the report states that “the unemployment rate for women in the U.S. with less than a high school degree is 7.8, compared to a rate of 1.1 for women with a professional degree.”
These are only a couple of the many problems touched upon in the report. It shows that even in the United States women’s security is not guaranteed, especially when factors of race and class mix with gender.