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On balancing career and family as a woman of color
July 28, 2014 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Michel Martin, in her last week as host of NPR's "Tell Me More," responds to conversations about work/life balance such as Anne-Marie Slaughter's much-commented 2012 "Why Women Still Can't Have It All", (previously) where "the discussion too often ends where it began: with privileged, mostly white women at the forefront."

"Women of every background face challenges when they try to balance careers and families, not least of which is the expectation that they should feel guilty for working outside the home even when they have no choice. But women of color often face additional pressures that white women are far less likely to encounter."

Martin marshals damning statistics as evidence of these additional pressures: black women have fewer resources with which to confront a sphere of familial responsibility that for many is culturally defined more broadly than it is for middle-class white women. Black women doctors, for example, earn 52 cents compared to their white male counterparts, and middle-aged black women have an average of $5 in assets, compared to $42,600 for their white women in the same age range.

Martin concludes, "the silence and the distance between women of different backgrounds and ethnicities must end. Our problems are often different, but we need to seek solutions together."

In an All Things Considered interview with Ari Shapiro, Martin discusses her motivation for writing the National Journal cover story, which she calls her own "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

The cancellation of the network’s only show exclusively dedicated to covering race, education, women and social issues is the subject of its own racially charged debate.
posted by drlith (11 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was pretty shocked by the line that "middle-aged black women have an average of $5 in assets, compared to $42,600 for their white women in the same age range". That has to be a typo, right?

But it's not. Here is the report in question.
Main Findings
  • Single black and Hispanic women have a median wealth of $100 and $120 respectively; the median for single white women is $41,500.
  • While white women in the prime working years of ages 36-49 have a media wealth of $42,600, the media wealth for women of color is only $5.
  • Nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth, the latter of which occurs when debts exceed assets.
  • While 57 percent of single white women own homes, only 33 percent of single black women and 28 percent of single Hispanic women are homeowners.
  • Only 1 percent of single Hispanic women and 4 percent of single black women own business assets compared to 8 percent of single white women.
  • Social Security is the only source of retirement income for more than 25 percent of black women.
  • Prior to age 50, women of color have virtually no wealth at all.
Jesus.
posted by mhoye at 6:56 PM on July 28 [25 favorites]


Great piece. I especially liked these two points:

What's different, in short, for so many minority women, is that they cannot help but see themselves as a part of something larger—perhaps because they know there are obstacles in their lives and the lives of their family members that no amount of "grit" will overcome. . . .

I don't want my white female colleagues to "check" their privilege. I want them to use it—their networks, their assets, their relationships—to form a united front with women of color, and to help improve things for all of us.

posted by sallybrown at 7:04 PM on July 28 [19 favorites]


The cancellation of the network’s only show exclusively dedicated to covering race, education, women and social issues is the subject of its own racially charged debate.

That's a real shame but on the other hand (I say as a fan of public radio and one currently wearing an NPR shirt, yes for reals), given all the times I've heard "Tell Me More" I still don't think I could have identified what their focus was supposed to be.
posted by psoas at 7:13 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Michel Martin wrote a great piece. It's powerful and honest but also kind. She's not blaming anyone for how things are. It's just how they are.

I am sad that Tell Me More is going away. It gave a voice to those who so often didn't get one and even when Martin was angry, she always kept her cool and was always fair. I always enjoyed her perspective and I'll definitely miss it. I'm glad she's still with NPR but it won't be the same.

(I have to say I found it ... ironic, I guess, that NPR was asking Michel Martin to talk about the sorts of economic and workplace issues women of color face during the last week of her show. I know Tell Me More wasn't the only NPR show canceled, but when the news first hit, it was like "yeah, of course they're canceling the black woman's show ..."

I mean, I still like NPR, but way to make it just for white people.

(But in DC, we still have Kojo Nnamdi, at least. And Kojo forever. Kojo is the best.)
posted by darksong at 7:16 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


Kojo is good, but I'm really sad Tell Me More is going away. It never occurred to me to wonder what it's 'focus' was supposed to be.

I love me some Michel Martin, and that show was such a refreshing change from so much of NPR's offerings.
posted by allthinky at 7:32 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


I'm interested that so many people didn't see what the 'focus' of Tell Me More was. It was crystal clear to me that it was a general interest news-magazine where all the stories happened to be about black people.

I found that it covered such a great area of topics, just like Morning Edition or All Things Considered, to be a very respectful way to treat the black audience. It recognized that blacks, same as any other group, have a diverse set of interests and life experiences. The shows refusal to stereotype its audience was its greatest strength and a powerful reminder that most groups, be they race, religion, culture, or gender, are 'just like us'.
posted by bswinburn at 9:05 PM on July 28 [4 favorites]


The National Journal article and the facts and figures within it are staggering.

.

for Tell Me More.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:47 AM on July 29


I'll miss Tell Me More (a lot), but at least the consolation prize is that we'll get to hear Michel Martin bringing staggering facts like these to the wider audiences of All Things Considered or Morning Edition. At least that's how NPR says this will play out. I hope so, as the information in her article needs to reach a wide audience.
posted by HiddenInput at 4:24 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Thank you for digging up that link, mhoye. I was wanting to go look for that study as well but you beat me to it. This is a really good piece.
posted by Stacey at 7:44 AM on July 29


I'm interested that so many people didn't see what the 'focus' of Tell Me More was. It was crystal clear to me that it was a general interest news-magazine where all the stories happened to be about black people.

I'll confess I didn't make that connection at first, but always loved the show for the great stories. When I figured out what connected them, I felt pretty stupid because I'd always think, "Wow, they're doing another story about black people! NPR never does two in a row!" So sad it got canceled.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:14 AM on July 29


My suggestion is that they replace the Friday afternoon "10 minutes of debate by two centrist white guys who barely disagree on anything" (E.J. Dionne and David Brooks) with the awesome Barbershop Roundtable from Tell Me More.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:49 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


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