With all of the achievements women have made, not all of us are moving together, as a matter of fact, there are a lot that have been left behind. Education in the United States is a privilege not a right, having a place to live, food and security has also become a privilege and not a right. As of 2010 46 million Americans are living in poverty with unprecedented numbers living in extreme poverty. Single Mothers are twice as likely to be as poor as single Fathers, according to the USDA 35.1% of households headed by single Moms were “Food Insecure.” They didn’t have enough food at all times for an active healthy life. Women who are victims of domestic violence lose an estimated 8 million paid days of work each year forcing them deeper into the poverty cycle. Respectively women with breast cancer are 11% likely to die if they live in a low-income community with no access to healthcare.
Depression is a toxic by-product of poverty for women. Low-income women are more likely to develop postpartum depression and deliver pre mature babies. They are aslo more likely to be diagnosed with other menal health disorders. All of these numbers become higher when a single woman of color is the head of the household. 13.5% of White women, 27.5% of Black women and 24.7% of Hispanic women were living below the povery line in 2009.
It is unfathomable to think that this could be happening in the United States. This is a country where women who live in countries where being a women is a dangerous thing are looking to us as a beacon of hope. How can we offer hope if we are hopeless. Our capitalistic system favors the multi-millionaires and those living in the high tax brackets. The first cuts that come down to trim the economy are ALWAYS social programs that help women in poverty get on their feet. Our current administration threatens to cut nutrition programs for single women and their children, there are massive cuts to programs that keep women safe from domestic violence not to mention reproductive rights and healthcare. When women are thrown to the streets they are at risk for rape, murder and trafficking and so are their children. Education is unattainable when you can’t survive on your own. With the gutting of immigration laws it makes it increasingly harder for Hispanic women to make it through. DACA is at risk of being eliminated which in turn will increase the desperation of many looking for a better future.
Another problem the United States has is the mass incarceration of women but mostly women of color. According to the Southern Coalition for Justice African American women are three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated. The number of incarcerated women has increased by 800 percent in the last three decades. Fact: 1 in every 100 African American women are in prison, African-American women are seven times more likely to be incarcerated than White women. The war on drugs and the mandatory minimun sentencing has had a negative impact on the African American community. Mental illness, race, class coupled with police brutality has proven to be one of the number one culprits of the jailing of African American wonen.
Sandra Bland was one of the most heartbreaking casualties of the disproportionate Justice system that always gave African American women no chance at a future. Sandra grew up in a poverty stricken segregated area of Texas, as a young woman she inundated herself with her church and school activities. Sandra had a history of traffic tickets, fines and arrests, mentally she was breaking down and she couldn’t afford care. She became depressed and had suicidal thoughts. She later got pregnant and suffered a miscarriage. In July Sandy was pulled over and brutalized by a Texas State Trooper. In the county jail she told a guard she was feeling depressed, put on suicide watch, but no one came in for any intervention. She was charged with assaulting an oficer. A few days later she refused her breakfast and begged to be able to use the phone. After that, Sandra Bland was found hanging from her bathroom in her cell with a noose around her neck. But there is footage that suggests otherwise. Sandra Bland repeatedly begged for her life as officers bound and beat her until she was inconcious. Sandra died in 2015 from something that could have been prevented. She is the perfect example of how women, especially women of color with mental illness are dehumanized and treated as throw away human beings.
The mental heath system in this country has failed so many women and left them in isolated poverty. We have become less the land of opportunity and more of a wasteland of women. We have failed in bringing hope to the hopeless.
Just this month Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the Sandra Bland Act which mandates that county jails divert people with mental health and susbtance abuse issues to treatment instead of jail time. It will make it easier for a personal bond if they have a mental illness or intellectual disability. It also makes it easier for independent law enforcement agencies to invesigate jail deaths. This law took effect September 1, 2017-a little too late.