Black Women Best: How to Build an Equitable Economy

September 15, 2020

New report argues that the choice to center whiteness in our politics and policymaking fails all people, America’s economic potential, and the COVID-19 recovery


The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have shone a light on an American truth that’s been overlooked for far too long: Through its policy and political choices, the US continues to prioritize the interests of a wealthy, predominantly white few over the well-being of all its people, especially people of color. This is all too true for Black women who have lived for centuries in a system where income gaps, wealth gaps, lack of coverage by worker protection laws, and a host of other socioeconomic indicators have kept them out of power. While the COVID-19 crisis has kept many inside, Black women are on the frontlines of this crisis, as essential workers, as caregivers, and as those losing their jobs amid historic unemployment. Our economy was built in large part upon Black women’s diminished power; it’s time to recognize their role with federal action. 

A new report co-released today by the Roosevelt Institute and Groundwork Collaborative, Black Women Best: The Framework We Need for an Equitable Economy, shows that centering Black women in US politics and policymaking in the short and long term will bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity. Written by Kendra Bozarth (managing director of communications at Roosevelt), Grace Western (policy analyst at Groundwork Collaborative), and Janelle Jones (managing director for policy and research at Groundwork Collaborative), the report further shows that by making policy and political choices through the lens of “Black women best” (an economic principle that argues if Black women can one day thrive in the economy, then it must finally be working for everyone1), policymakers can create real solutions to centuries of systemic exclusion, extraction, and exploitation that have continually undermined economic potential in the US.

In the report, the authors begin by defining a guiding principle of the brief and foundational principle of the moment: Black women best. Next, the authors explain how policymakers can achieve long-overdue action to provide the public with an effective short-term response to the ongoing pandemic. Finally, they offer a long-spanning policy vision that will allow the US to truly reopen its economy and both provide immediate economic security and build long-term economic resiliency.

Insight from the Authors:

“US history has long proven that the choice to center whiteness in our politics and policymaking ultimately leads to a failure in building inclusive and equitable public policies. Enough is enough,” said Jones. “The ‘Black women best’ framework provides a pathway to redesign institutions built on generations of systemic exclusions, which hold back Black women and all of us.” 

“Black women are the most disadvantaged and disempowered group in American society,” said Bozarth. “If we prioritize them in our policy choices, we can remake the systems and institutions that privilege white identity, supremacy, and power. Through ‘Black women best,’ we can build an anti-racist, anti-sexist 21st-century economy.” 

“This moment is not only about recovering from a pandemic and an economic crisis. It is an opportunity for a transformational restructuring of our economy that is built on centuries of systemic exclusions, extractions and exploitations that hold back Black women and also our economy as a whole,” said Western. “Black women should be centered in immediate policy choices throughout this unprecedented pandemic, and also in the long term. Ultimately, economic relief for all—in the form of cash—is needed now.”


1 Coined by Janelle Jones (2020), “Black women best” is an economic principle that argues if Black women—who, since our nation’s founding, have been among the most excluded and exploited by the rules that structure our society—can one day thrive in the economy, then it must finally be working for everyone. “Black women best” refers to both cis and trans women and femme-identified people, which includes anyone who is not a cis or trans woman but who identifies as feminine or is typically read as feminine by others, including those among them who are non-binary and/or gender-nonconforming.

 

About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute is a think tank, a student network, and the nonprofit partner to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum that, together, are learning from the past and working to redefine the future of the American economy. Focusing on corporate and public power, labor and wages, and the economics of race and gender inequality, the Roosevelt Institute unifies experts, invests in young leaders, and advances progressive policies that bring the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor into the 21st century.

 To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.

 

About Groundwork Collaborative

Groundwork Collaborative is a research and policy advocacy organization working to advance a coherent and persuasive progressive economic worldview capable of delivering meaningful opportunity and prosperity for everyone. Groundwork envisions an economic system that produces strong, broadly shared prosperity and power for all people, not just the white, wealthy few. Groundwork works in deep collaboration with economic policy experts, progressive movement leaders, labor leaders, and activists on the frontlines of progressive causes in communities across the country.

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