A Day Without a Woman, an Influential Director, and a Wrongful Conviction

March 8, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. #DayWithoutAWoman”: For Domestic and Low-Wage Workers, the Stakes Are Higher Than Ever
In Glamour, Ai-Jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, advocates for participation in the International Women’s Day strikes: “We [women] are nearly half of the entire workforce. And we still provide more than 70 percent of the unpaid family care in the United States. We are also a majority of the consumer base (over 70 percent) in this country. It’s our work and our dollars that create wealth for the winners in this economy—from Uber to Walmart. As much as some of us may like our jobs, we still face pay inequity, lack of respect, discrimination, and harassment, and lack of access to opportunity for advancement and security. […] For women in low-wage jobs like domestic work, the stakes are higher than ever. Women make up two-thirds of the nearly 20 million workers in low-wage jobs—defined as jobs that typically pay $10.10 per hour or less, according to a report from the National Women’s Law Center. Women of color are disproportionately concentrated in low-wage jobs; nearly half of all women in the low-wage workforce are women of color. Home care jobs, for example, are the fastest growing occupation in the economy today, and are overwhelmingly dominated by women, disproportionately women of color and immigrants. Their median annual income? $13,000 per year.”

2. Hands on Their Backs
Anna Julia Cooper Center Communication Intern Mankaprr Conteh writes about the ways in which black girls are pushed out of schools: “[When] educators and law-enforcement see black girls as defiant, they’re likely to respond with eye rolls, impatience, and harsh words. They kick them out of class, like we did Angela, leaving her wandering the halls, sometimes stomping, sometimes crying. They suspend, and even expel girls like her. A black girl may get pulled out of her chair and slammed to the ground by a school-resource officer. And when schools turn black girls away, when they criminalize them in this way, they are then primed to be captured by a criminal justice system hell-bent on locking them up. The grip this system has on black girls is hard to loosen. […] The data say that black girls are five times more likely to be suspended than white girls. That they’re the fastest growing population of students experiencing exclusionary discipline. The Department of Education reported that across the spectrum of disciplinary experiences, from in-school suspension to arrest, black girls are the only girls to be grossly overrepresented. In 2012, they made up 16 percent of girl students, but 42 percent of expulsions.”

3. The Provocateur Behind Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Issa Rae
For the New Yorker, Alexis Okeowo on director Melina Matsoukas: “Black feminists have often been forced to pick between being politically black or politically female. ‘It’s an unfair struggle that only black women can understand and relate to,’ Matsoukas said. […] As Matsoukas develops an idea for a video, she spends hours browsing online and through art books and magazines, looking for images that resonate. ‘I treat each video like a thesis project,’ she said. Stacks of old sources are piled behind her couch: books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Noam Chomsky, and C. L. R. James; back issues of Wallpaper; math and science textbooks from college. For the ‘Formation’ video, she found ideas in the work of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Octavia Butler. She began to conceive scenes of black history, from slavery through Mardi Gras parades and the Rodney King protests. ‘I wanted to show—this is black people,’ she said. ‘We triumph, we suffer, we’re drowning, we’re being beaten, we’re dancing, we’re eating, and we’re still here.’ She wrote out a treatment and sent it to Beyoncé in the middle of the night. Within hours, the singer had written back to say that she loved it. […] Female artists, especially, are drawn to Matsoukas because she guides them in bolder directions, attracting new attention. ‘She has the ability to hit the nervous system,’ Malik Sayeed, a cinematographer who worked on ‘Formation’ and ‘Lemonade,’ said.”

4. It’s Not About Bathrooms: Laverne Cox on the Attack Against Trans Rights
Laverne Cox for InStyle: “Over 30 percent of trans people report not eating or drinking so they can avoid going to public bathrooms. Sixty-percent of us have avoided using a public restroom out of fear of being harassed or assaulted. Even when I’m in liberal cities like LA or New York, I would rather not use public bathrooms. But if you leave your house, you have no choice.But don’t be fooled: These bathroom laws aren’t really about bathrooms. When the current administration rescinded the guidelines for how transgender students should be treated in schools, they made it all about bathrooms. But the Obama-era guidelines also included pronoun and name preferences for these young people as well. These are important components of how trans kids should be treated in school, but all that is lost when we sensationalize this issue. It’s not about bathrooms. It’s about the humanity of trans people, about us having the right to exist in a public space. […] As we have this fight, this debate, we must continue to elevate the voices and lived experiences of actual trans people. Trans people cannot be left out of conversations about our own dignity and humanity.”

5.  The Fire on Harvard Avenue
The Intercept’s Liliana Segura shares the story of Angela Garcia, a black mother who was convicted of killing her daughters through junk arson science in a deeply segregated Cleveland: “Over five days of contentious deliberation, jurors became deadlocked, yelling at one another loudly enough to be heard outside their room. According to the Plain Dealer, the conflict arose after one black juror, a middle-aged resident of Cleveland’s east side, saw a photo of Nyeemah and Nijah and ‘immediately noted the dozens of red and blue beads carefully woven into the toddlers’ dark, curly hair.’ The juror knew such a hairstyle took a lot of time and patience — to her, it was evidence that Garcia loved and cared for her kids. The juror held firm, refusing to convict. Others eventually joined her. Black jurors later described to the Plain Dealer how differently they saw the case from their white peers. For example, Garcia’s attempt to give Judy custody of her daughters so she could join the Navy was viewed as admirable sacrifice — an investment in her family’s future — rather than a way to get rid of them. One woman said white jurors had not even heard of security doors, a fixture in low-income neighborhoods but foreign to the suburbs. ‘How do you explain your whole life to someone like that?’ Finally, black jurors were more skeptical of government witnesses, including firefighters, who had ‘a reputation for racism.'”