According to a recent Essence survey, 93% of Black women in the U.S. say they’ve experienced racism in their lifetime.

The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, have brought forth a moment of national outcry of systemic racism that has plagued the United States for centuries.

Systemic racism, which refers to the structures and procedures in place that put people of color at a disadvantage, creates disparities across all facets of life.

As we watch news coverage of protests in all 50 states and read stories about Black folks who have experienced racism firsthand in their everyday lives, it’s important to shed a light on the disparities that Black women in particular face. Black women currently make up nearly 14% of all women in the U.S., but at the same time are disproportionately affected in areas of economic hardship, maternal mortality, political representation and education.

Statistics give us a sense of what Black women experience as a whole. Three Black female leaders in the Des Moines area shared the human side of these numbers. Perhaps Reyma McCoy McDeid, executive director of Central Iowa Center for Independent Living, summed it up best when she said, "Disparities don’t exist in silos for Black women – they instead compound upon each other."

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Here are some of the comments:
Nancy Mwirotsi:The biggest disparity that people of color face today is being misunderstood and not being given the right credit.

The last few weeks have been really difficult, especially for people of color. A lot of Black people were asking themselves, do I have value? Am I worth it? But I am encouraged by people standing with us and using the power of social media to support what we’re trying to do. Social media is allowing Black women to have a voice.

Reyma McCoy McDeid: The good news is that, for a variety of reasons, society is finally recognizing the imperative pertaining to how systemic inequities impact our country. Now is the time to breach critical conversations about how multiple marginalized people such as Black women who have attained success, in spite of the barriers our race and gender have historically presented, can utilize our position and platform in a manner that supports all Black women to rise in our respective sectors, as well.

Rep. Ruth Ann GainesI vow to continue to work to make the accomplishments and disparities of Black women more visible in this state. I feel I have a long road ahead of me. Read more