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Serena Williams lives above the problems that plague most black females in the U.S.

Serena Williams wants black women like herself to make more money. Trouble is, she works in an industry where if one is successful they can earn more money than the majority of Americans.  Most black females in America are very much unlike Serena Williams. To that end, Williams wrote an article for Fortune magazine for Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, where she talks about many inequities that face black women today. She talks about some of the problems.

“In many cases, these women are the heads of households. Single mothers. The issue isn’t just that black women hold lower-paying jobs. They earn less even in fields of technology, finance, entertainment, law, and medicine.”

In technology and medicine, most blacks have clerical or office support roles. At Google, blacks represent less than five percent of tech positions that require a degree.

As Williams notes in her article, black women are 37 cents behind men in the pay gap - for every dollar a man makes, black women make 63 cents. “Even black women who have earned graduate degrees get paid less at every level. This is as true in inner cities as it is in Silicon Valley.”

Here are some of the other factors that disproportionately affect black women in America:

This is only part of the story. Most black women who get bachelor’s and masters degrees do not pursue any of the hard sciences, like biology, chemistry, math, or engineering. Typically, black males and females get degrees in the social sciences because they don’t require higher level math. But degrees in the hard sciences are necessary to become doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and engineers.

Advanced degree schools are highly competitive as well. In all areas of study and related jobs where Indians, Pakistanis, Asians and whites and blacks compete for the same jobs, blacks cannot compete, because entrance exam testing does not account for race.

Perhaps one reason why blacks don't achieve as much is because other blacks label them because of what they say, their opinions, how they act, and what they wear. In a sense, they are not free as whites are to have an opinion or even dress differently. It’s common to see a white student dress differently in school and be celebrated for his or her creativity. But try to do that if you are black, whether male or female.

An example of this is when Paris Dennard voiced support for Pres. Donald Trump in his comments after the violent Charlottsville protest. Democratic strategist Keith Boykin questioned the color of his skin, or whether he was black. In other words, because he is black, he was supposed to say something else. Other blacks on youtube criticized Dennard because of the suit and tie that he wore, claiming it was not black enough. What they really meant was that his clothing did not live up to the standard set by black athletes who often have unlimited funds to pay for clothing. There is an unwritten standard of dress for blacks that really does not exist for whites.

But much of what Williams says about racial problems is accurate:

  • She was told she could not accomplish her goals because of the color of her skin;

  • She’s been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court;

Williams: “The cycles of poverty, discrimination, and sexism are much, much harder to break than the record for Grand Slam titles. For every black woman that rises through the ranks to a position of power, there are too many others who are still struggling. Most black women across our country do not have the same support that I did, and so they often don’t speak out about what is just, fair and appropriate in the workplace. When they do, they are often punished for it."

The injustices probably still do hurt. But the fact remains that it is blacks who disrespect other blacks who wish to speak correct English and do not adapt themselves to substandard English spoken in the inner city. It is also other black people who criticize blacks who wish to succeed scholastically; often it’s people are the schools that they attend. They are persecuted because they don’t belong.

Blacks in the inner city also often want to be known more for what they wear than for how well they do in school. Black females in school also must learn how to defend themselves because at some point during their middle or high school experience, they are going to have to: fights in high schools often center around boys.

These incidents happen where blacks as a race are the majority, not the minority in public schools. In Philadelphia, a public high school had to close because of a brawl among black girls. In another conflict in Athens, GA, a black male was killed during an after school fight that started in the high school. Both high schools have a majority black population. These are near constant incidents among black teen populations at high schools. Another occurred at Cheltenham High School in Montgomery County, PA. There were reports of a dozen fights at the school during the previous month before the incident in May of 2017.

Rap artists who are emulated by young black teens are not known for their scholastic achievement; rather, they are known for being aggressive, angry, profane. They call women hoes, and in general talk down to women. It’s not exactly an uplifting message for teens in the inner city. But the angry black male rap artist has become an important part of black culture.

As Williams' father relates, one time he was at the Compton, CA public tennis courts attempting to use them when a gang of black men threatened him. Most tennis prodigies don’t have to overcome situations like that.

What the Williams sisters did have was a father and mother, both of whom wanted them to succeed and were there to make sure it happened. That is perhaps the most important ingredient in their success and the reason why Serena is “in the rare position to be financially successful beyond (her) imagination." The fact that the majority of black youth don't have fathers in the home like the Williams sisters did means it will be hard for black women to achieve the same pay that other races achieve.

© 2017 Larry Ingram

(Originally published Aug. 30, 2017)

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