Alicia Garza & Carmen Perez, The Root | 5/1/2017, 12:22 p.m.
On Monday, May 1, thousands of people will convene together in communities around the world to commemorate May Day, otherwise known as International Worker’s Day. On this day in 1886, men and women, many of them recent immigrants, organized a nationwide workers strike that led to the creation of the eight-hour workday and other basic protections for workers.
This May Day, that struggle continues as the Movement for Black Lives, wage activists, and those who believe in freedom (“The Majority”) join forces in support of racial, gender, immigrant, disability, queer, economic and environmental justice. This resistance goes Beyond The Moment, beyond moments of outrage, beyond narrow concepts of sanctuary, and beyond barriers between communities that have much at stake and so much in common. We will strike, rally and resist. We will amplify the voices of the unheard, recognize the labor of those who are silenced and marginalized, and lift up those people in this country for whom protection has never been guaranteed.
Malcolm X once said that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.” These words, unfortunately, are still true today. Today and every day, we center and celebrate women and femmes of the past as we stand up for the future of our communities.
The contributions and labor of black women is erased in our stories of social change, in media, in our homes and workplaces, and in our movements. We cannot value what we cannot see. The erasure of black women’s work—by men and white women—and the rendering of that work as invisible, contributes to its ongoing devaluation.
Domestic work is an example of how black women’s work has been devalued. Domestic work is rooted in the legacy of slavery, and today, this industry is largely comprised of women of color and immigrant women. Domestic work is paid and unpaid labor that occurs inside the home, and it is the work that makes all other work possible. And yet, domestic work, because it is done by black women, women of color, and immigrant women, is not valued as work. It is seen as simply “what women are supposed to do.”
We’ve heard that women make 77 cents to every dollar that men make, and yet few address the racial disparities in the wage gaps between women and men (PDF), as well as between women of color and white women, and transgender women and cisgender women.
Historically, Martin Luther King, Jr. is often credited for the Civil Rights Movement, when we know that black women like Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker were its backbone. This legacy, unfortunately, continues today, as the work and contributions of the women of color who organized the Women’s March were dismissed in favor of narratives that credited only white women for the largest mobilization in this nation’s history.
As we celebrate May Day, we also observe that this day is no exception.
During the 1886 Haymarket Uprising, a clash between thousands of workers striking for an eight-hour workday and Chicago police, Lucy Gonzales Parsons, a black, Mexican, and Indigenous woman, was allegedly described by a Chicago official as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.”