African American women speak out about racial, gender inequalities in Memphis

Beverly Bonds teaches a Black Studies class at the University of Memphis. She listens to her students present about places in Memphis that tell a story of African American Culture.

Beverly G. Bond, a Memphis native, grew up consciously aware of how race influenced people’s assumptions of who she was or who she could become.

Bond, now an associate professor at the University of Memphis, received her doctorate in African American studies, and she currently teaches courses in the Black studies program at the U of M.

“I grew up in a very strong black community and in a family of strong black women,” Bond said. “This background has always influenced my view on being an African American woman in the city.”


Photo Credit: Memphis Music Hall of Fame

Black women in the U.S. have dual minority status which means they are in minority groups based on both their gender and ethnicity.

American women earn an average of 81 percent of what their male counter parts make according to the International Labor Organization. In addition, the wealth of white households in America, according to Pew Research, was 13 times the medium wealth of black households in the U.S. Salaries are just one example of how African American women fall into two large minority groups.

Journalist and founder of Socially Twisted Media, Rhonnie Brewer is an example of someone with dual minority status.

“As a woman you are already at a disadvantage in the working south,” Brewer said. “As an African American woman, you are even more looked down upon.”

Brewer moved to Memphis from California because she said she thought being in a city with a larger African American population would be easier. She said she quickly found out that was not the case.

“One of my white coworkers told me while we were live that he would pay money to see my breasts.” — Rhonnie Brewer

She said an example of the issues she faced happened live on air between her and a co-worker during the “Free the Nipple” feminist rally in Memphis.

“One of my white coworkers told me while we were live that he would pay money to see my breasts,” Brewer said. “They said it as if they assumed I was supposed to laugh and think it was funny. They did not stop making jokes for the entire hour that the show was on.”

Brewer said she felt looked at as “less-than,” in a way that wasn’t likely to happen to a man or a white woman.

“If you look at the unsaid and hidden social hierarchy it goes: white men, white women, black men and black women.” — Beverly Bond.

Brewer said this was just one incident of many she’s experienced since moving to Memphis that has left her feeling like African American women have to fight to hard to earn any respect.

This, however, isn’t a new issue, or one that changes quickly.

Women’s rights have been a fight throughout history. White women finally won the right to vote in 1919, but black women had to wait nearly 40 years later for their voting rights. Not only did Black women take a back seat in the fight for women’s rights, but Black women also often took on subordinate roles to their male counterparts in fight for Black civil rights.

“If you look at the unsaid and hidden social hierarchy it goes: white men, white women, black men and black women,” Bond said.

It is still a problem today even though legislation such as the Civil Rights Act and the Women’s Rights Act of 1964 were passed long ago.

U of M sociology professor Wanda Rushing teaches a class called, “African American and White Women in the South.” She said progress on the issues of Black women’s rights and civil rights may not be as far along was people would like to think.

“There’s still a gap in wages and earnings, this keeps women from truly being equal,” Rushing said.

She said although the law suggests otherwise, women in universities don’t get equal pay, but because people are standing up in their own ways, things are changing.

“People try to explain it differently,” Rushing said. “Are there people out there marching the streets everyday? No. But they talk about it and circulate material about it.”

African American women have fought through the years for equal rights through protests, rallies, marches and advocacy, but the move toward equality has been long and arduous.

Although a gallop poll from 1999 suggests that 58 percent of Americans consider the Civil Rights Act of 1963 one of the most important events of the 20th century, in 2014, 61 percent of black Americans said that discrimination will always exist compared to only 44 percent of whites in a CBS News poll.

“How other people define you—that’s important for them, it’s not necessarily important for me,” Bond said. “But it takes a long time to learn that.”

Please follow and like us:

About the Author

Memphis Mirror
The Memphis Mirror is a project of the Multimedia News Lab, which is the capstone news journalism class at the University of Memphis. The goal of the project is to hold a mirror to the city of Memphis and reflect the various cultures, religions, identities, abilities and truths the city has to offer. At the Mirror, we rely on various media platforms—like audio, video, maps, photography and infographics—to tell the stories of our city.

Be the first to comment on "African American women speak out about racial, gender inequalities in Memphis"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


Copyright © 2018 University of Memphis Department of Journalism All Rights Reserved.