Courtesy of RIPI
The Race, Inequality, and Policy Initiative (RIPI) kicked off their spring 2022 speaker series on Feb. 23 with a virtual event called “Black Women and de ‘Rona”. RIPI Director and Wake Forest Politics Department Associate Chair Dr. Betina Wilkinson spoke with Wake Forest Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Department Chair Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachery about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Black women.
RIPI is an initiative that aims to embody Pro Humanitate by educating the Wake Forest community primarily on how domestic policies and institutions perpetuate inequality based on race, ethnicity and gender.
RIPI’s work is multidisciplinary and involves faculty members across many departments. “Black Women and de ‘Rona” was made possible by the collaboration of the Intercultural Center, the African American Studies program, the Department of Politics and International Affairs and the Department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies.
The event’s speaker, Jordan-Zachery, has published six books on Black feminism and will soon release two books that focus on the experiences of Black women during the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation was centered around this particular facet of her research.
“This semester, we are focusing on women of color and policy issues,” Wilkinson said. “Each semester’s speaker series seeks to address and enhance our understanding of the racial, ethnic and gender inequities and inequalities that exist in the U.S.”
Jordan-Zachery began by discussing how stereotypes impact Black women, especially through the use of certain language. She focused on how these existing stereotypes led to higher consequences for Black women than any other group in terms of their jobs, families and health care during the pandemic. She pointed out that the pandemic took many Black and brown women away from their families because they were considered essential workers. She also noted that older Black women were often tasked with caring for young children if a primary guardian passed away due to COVID-19, putting even more stress on Black families during an already trying time.
She also spoke on the increased obstacles for Black women seeking healthcare. Prior to the pandemic, it was already difficult for Black women to obtain access to healthcare, but the spread of COVID-19 made it even more challenging. This obstacle to healthcare had dire consequences — Black people were 1.7 times more likely to die during the pandemic than white people. According to Jordan-Zachery, over the past couple of years, it has also become more difficult for Black women to gain access to prenatal care or therapy in a time when they need it most, according to Jordan-Zachery.
After the conversation, senior Edna Ulysse moderated a Q&A session where students got the opportunity to ask Jordan-Zachery questions about her research and how the Wake Forest community can challenge existing stereotypes. Jordan-Zachery emphasized the importance of always remembering the humanity of Black women, particularly in difficult times.
“Black women’s humanity is often forgotten,” Jordan-Zachery said. “We need to move away from asking questions about who deserves what and move towards asking questions about humanity.”
RIPI will continue to host events both in person and virtually during the semester. Their next event “Race, Gender and Voting: A Presentation by Dr. Lorrie Frasure” will be held on April 13 at 4 p.m. in the ZSR Auditorium. Students can learn more about RIPI’s work by engaging with the virtual library on their website: ripi.wfu.edu.