9The Case for Radical Sabbaticals

Problem Statement: In Pursuit of Rest

From the Crown Act to the notion of the “strong Black woman,” Western cultures’ infatuation with glaring at the bodies, features and selective (survival) behaviors of Black women demonstrate the hypervisible experiences—reduced often to “exotic” parts of our humanity, or the parts that can be commercialized, exploited, and targeted. But systemic racism also invisiblizes the full impact of the “strong Black woman” trope; until movies like 12 Years a Slave, mass culture had not fully appreciated the exhausting existence of an enslaved girl or woman, who often not only had to work as hard as their male counterparts in the day, but also faced normalized sexual brutality from slave owners—and physical and psychological abuse from slave owner’s wives. Compared with other women in the United States, Black women have always had the highest labor participation. In 1880, 35.4 percent of married Black women and 73.3 percent of single Black women were in the labor force. This is in comparison to just 7.3 percent of married white women and 23.8 percent of single white women. As white women typically left the labor market after marriage, Black women continued to work over the course of their full lives—an extension of the devaluation of Black women as mothers and their own caregiving needs at home. It is worth noting that most Black women had to take on the role of co‐breadwinners, as blatant discriminatory practices ...

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