Race, Gender and Economic Justice in the U.S.

March 9, 2010 posted by Jacqueline Mumbey*

This afternoon, NCRW co-sponsored a CSW side event with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, The Opportunity Agenda, and the Human Rights Project of the Urban Justice Center. The discussion sought to give a “face” to the current debates on the economic crisis.

Shyama Venkateswar, Director of Research and Programs at NCRW, started off the discussion by revealing the disparities that exist in the U.S. Women in general have born the brunt of the crisis -- current estimates show that women are 35% more likely to be poor. The impact on women and persons of color is just as outstanding: for every dollar earned by a white family, the black family earns only one dime.

Speaking of the origins of the economic crisis, Radhika Balakrishnan, Executive Director of the Center of Women’s Global Leadership, cited the government’s failure to enforce the Master Guidelines. Under the Master Guidelines, the State is obligated to protect and ensure the economic and social rights of its people. With widening income and wealth gaps, it is apparent that the state has failed to live up to its obligations.

Juhu Thukral, Director of Law and Advocacy at The Opportunity Agenda, echoed similar sentiments, expressing frustration with the lack of progress made even when the economy was secure. Take, for instance, the gender wage gap. As of the end of 2000, women still earned 77 cents on the man’s dollar, with Black women earning 67 cents, Latinas 57 cents, and Asian women earning 93 cents. These numbers have not changed much in the past decade.

Ejim Dike, Director of the Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center, recommended a “putting people first” philosophy to counteract these disturbing trends. She pointed out that for women and persons of color an economic crisis has been raging for at least four decades, due in part to a lack of jobs. As of December 2009, 15.3 million unemployed people were competing for 2.3 million jobs. Given these figures, it is quite clear that job creation is critical towards addressing the crisis.

Not to be defeated by these frustrating trends and data points, the panelists offered feasible solutions to working our economy—and society—out of this economic mess.

Radhika Balakrishnan stated that it is up to the activists to hold the government accountable. Any solution should have a trickledown effect if it is to bring about the desired outcome. As such, she emphasized the need for targeted policies. Juhu Thukral emphasized the need to combine stronger (targeted) policies with better discussions on race and gender (transparency). Ejim Dike reaffirmed the need for more robust social safety nets. She also added that targeted responses make it easier to monitor who are benefiting from these solution-specific policies.

The discussion emphasized the need for us to return to a participatory approach. Giving a “face” to the economic crisis could very well be the beginning of the recovery.

*Jacqueline Mumbey is a Communications intern with the National Council for Research on Women

To read a liveblog of the event, click here.

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