White House Tackles Economic Inequality & Violence Against Women Of Color In Sweeping Initiative

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From the stunning attack against a teenage girl by a White male school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina last month, to Sandra Bland, who died in a jail cell after a questionable arrest this summer, to Dajerria Becton, 15, who was body slammed by a White cop at a Texas pool party over the summer, violence against girls and women of color in the U.S. is a longstanding problem that needs to be addressed.

That is one reason the White House Council on Women and Girls is hosting a day-long forum today at Wake Forest University. The event will focus on empowering and increasing opportunity for women and girls of color and their peers, officials say.

“Overall, this conference is about recognizing that there are no easy answers to these challenges,” Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said on a conference call Thursday. “We’ve made a lot of progress, and continuing on that path means we need to be more dedicated, more thoughtful, and more rigorous than ever.”

The Council on Women and Girls released a progress report, “Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color,” as a follow-up to the 2014 report, and announced independent commitments to help close opportunity gaps faced by women and girls, including those of color.

The effort is part of two independent commitments. One involves a $100 million, 5-year-funding initiative by Prosperity Together to improve economic prosperity for low-income women. The second involves an $18 million funding commitment by the Collaborative to Advance Equity through Research—an affiliation of American colleges, universities, research organizations, publishers and public interest institutions led by Wake Forest University—to support existing and new research efforts about women and girls of color, the White House says.

Besides violence, the council has identified five data-driven issue areas where interventions can help women and girls of color. School discipline is a major problem at a time when Black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or ethnicity and at higher rates than White boys and White girls, the White House notes.

The findings also suggest that the U.S. needs to address the school-to-prison pipeline. While African-American girls comprise about 14 percent of the United States population, they make up 32 percent of juvenile arrests, delinquency petitions, detentions, and post-adjudication placements, the White House says in a press release.

The initiative also calls for increasing access to STEM education and careers, stemming the rates of teen pregnancies, and knocking down barriers and increasing opportunities for women of color.

Jarrett notes that the problems did not start in a vacuum.

“From negative portrayals of women in hip-hop culture to few images of women of color in leadership roles, our media and popular culture too often do not give girls of color a positive view of themselves, everyone else a positive view of them, and a vision for their future,” Jarrett said on the call. “And that needs to change.”

Melissa Harris-Perry, professor and director at the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest, who attended the press call, echoed those sentiments. The school is part of a group of about 24 colleges, universities and public interest organizations that collectively announced $18 million in commitments to support and improve academic research for women and girls of color.

“Without that foundation of research, we can’t know how to make meaningful interventions in the lives of women and girls of color in a way that ensures we are advancing equity,” Harris-Perry said.

We’re glad the administration is dealing with critical issues surrounding economic inequality and violence against Black women and girls. Rooted in the founding of the nation, the problem will not go away without radical change.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

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