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Andrea Stallworth Imafidon
Tuskegee University, Department of Social Work, Tuskegee, AL USA

Black Women: The Disrespected, Forgotten and Neglected Group


Black women are often the forgotten, disrespected, and neglected group. Black women are the most educated group, lowest paid, overly stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed. Black women often experience micro-aggression and racial discrimination within the classroom and in the workplace. Black Social Workers and Students at PWI (Predominately White Institutions) covertly experience the "separate but equal" treatment through systemic racial hiring and admission practices at these institutions. Many Colleges and Universities, social service agencies and organizations, still teach from a Eurocentric, Anti-black theoretical social work framework and mindset. Many White Social Workers perceive Black Women as "Angry," "Non-Compliant," "Problematic," and "Welfare Queens," who are "resistant to change." Black Social workers can quickly be on the other side of the table as clients. We are saddled with mental health stressors, workplace discrimination, and navigating barriers such as systemic racist policies, inequality in pay, and promotions. Black Social Workers have limited resources to provide our Black clients and communities, all while dismantling White Supremacy and Eurocentric ideologies.


Mary Church Terrell, a historical Black American Social Worker, who advocated for Black Women to be their advocate who fearlessly and tirelessly fought to end racial discrimination, once said this:

"Nobody wants to know a colored woman's opinion about her status as that of her group. When she dares express it, no matter how mild or tactful it may be, it is called 'propaganda,' or is labeled 'controversial" –Mary Church Terrell

Black women are often the most disrespected, unprotected, vulnerable, forgotten, and the neglected group as a master-level licensed Black Social Worker and Black Woman faced unfair share of lack of resources, support, micro-aggressions, racial discrimination. As a Director of Field Education and Assistant Professor at a prestigious HBCU, the conscious decision to return to a predominately Black Institution of higher learning to teach and lead future Black Social Workers. We have to better equip them with tools and knowledge to dismantle the ideology and institutes of White Supremacy. To dismantle and undo racism and White Supremacy, Social Workers should assess and identify the root issue of racism from the micro, mezzo, and macro level.

Addressing Cultural Competence and Generational Mistrust of Whiteness in Mental Health Care Field To know where a group has been, we have to see what racist and injustice policies and mental health diagnoses exist for Black Americans. In 1619, Black enslaved people were violently brought to the United States. Black Women did not have agency over their minds and bodies. Black Women were raped by their slave-owners, punished by the slave-owners’ wives by giving birth to biracial children, mentally and emotionally tortured. Many slaves were trying to find a way out through running away or committing suicide because living life as a slave was unbearable.

According to Dr. Douglas Baynton's Research Study: Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History, he wrote about Dr. Samuel Cartwright and his slaves' diagnoses. Dr. Samuel Cartwright, in 1851, claimed that a "disease of the mind" that caused slaves to run away, which he termed "Drapetomania," struck slaves whose masters had "made themselves too familiar with them, treating them as equals." "Dysaesthesia Aethiopis," whose symptoms included a desire to avoid work and cause mischief, was nearly universal among free blacks and a "common occurrence on badly-governed plantations."

Imagine enslaving people due to the color of their skin? Imagine the untreated mental health issues and the effects of generations to come. In Dr. Joy DeGruy's book Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder she stated the following: "PTSS is a theory that explains the etiology of many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African American communities throughout the United States and the Diaspora. It is a condition that exists due to the multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of chattel Slavery. Chattel Slavery is a form of Slavery that predicated on the belief that African Americans were inherently/genetically inferior to whites. Chattel Slavery is then followed by institutionalized racism, perpetuating injury in the Black American community.

Black women have been suffering from PTSS and it has been untreated and passed down from generation to generation. Institutionalized racism perpetuated in the workplace, social service agencies through White Managers, Clinicians, and racist policies. Black women is used as the work mule at work, politics, and other areas, and Black Women are the lowest paid and usually, the last ones hired and the first ones fired.

Black Women as The Welfare Queen

This same ideology has morphed into our social service agencies, organizations, and college and Universities by White Social Workers and Professors. The term "Welfare Queen" was coined during the 1970s by White politicians to have a racial group as the scapegoat to blame Black Women for why everything is wrong with the welfare system and why certain social service agencies funding should be defunded with tighter restrictions to receive benefits. Martha Miller, aka Welfare Queen, was listed as a White Woman on the 1930s Census but racially ambiguous, defrauded by multiple governments and social service agencies of financial resources.

Ms. Miller should have received her penalty instead of pinning Black Women as lazy, scammers, and Welfare Queens. Researchers, lobbyists, media, and Politicians have stereotyped Black Women as the primary beneficiaries' welfare benefits despite being the majority in the workplace, working multiple jobs, and being the primary breadwinner.

"Scholars have shown that the "welfare queen" label is overwhelming used to indicate black women and that the use of the term leads members of the public to support cuts to welfare. Yet contrary to the pernicious "welfare queen" stereotype, black people have never been a majority of welfare recipients, and welfare fraud is exceedingly uncommon. The welfare system has always been more likely to illegally deny benefits to those who fit the criteria than benefits-seekers are to commit fraud." (Stern, S)

The struggle of being part of the disrespected, forgotten, and neglected group, we must shift our attention to our clients and students who are mainly Black Women. Being a Black Woman and Professor, we must empathize with Black Women, especially those we serve as clients. They are usually struggling in various areas such as unemployment, COVID-19, food insecurity, housing, transportation, technology, lack of financial resources to pay for school, and other essential items. When most Americans catch a cold, Black Americans catch the flu because we live in areas that lack quality housing, transportation, quality grocery stores, health care facilities, and more. As a Social Worker, we can easily be the one on the other side of the table as a client, needing assistance, especially during the pandemic due to lacking PPE and other resources.

Black Women in White spaces are barely tolerated and rarely celebrate, which causes further injury when working with Black women and students. Many Black women are tired of being the work mule at work, severely underpaid, handled aggressively by White Clinicians. Many Black clients are labeled difficult and non-compliant by non-Black Social Worker. Since 70% of Social Workers are White, many forego not being culturally competent and inclusive during their practice. Black Women often go untreated because they fear being abused and labeled as crazy by White Social Workers. The latter often discuss their low, underprivileged Black Women cases over cocktails at happy hours at their local suburban restaurants. The lack of cultural competence, sensitivity, and compassion often occurs on a display that further causes learned helplessness, racial injury, and more PTSD within Black Women.

Black Women: The Most Educated, Underpaid and Overworked

Black women have been on the frontlines serving as caregivers, the matriarch, providers, educators, and advocates of the Black Community since our ancestors arrived here in 1619. Black Women are enrolling and attending Colleges and Universities at record-breaking numbers. Black Women attend college for numerous reasons, achieve a better life, obtain better-paying jobs, and help their family members out of poverty.

Black women are the primary breadwinners for their households. Black women are also the lowest paid with student loan debts and lack of job advancements due to racism on the job. Black women make up an overwhelming amount of workers in the workplace. According to the Economic Policy Institute article: Black women's labor market history reveals deep-seated race and gender discrimination. In 1880, 35.4 percent of married black women and 73.3 percent of single black women were in the labor force than 7.3 percent of married white women and 23.8 percent of single white women. Black women's higher participation rates extended over their lifetimes, even after marriage, while white women typically left the labor force after marriage. Black women are the most educated demographic in the United States. Black women earn 50% of Associate and Bachelor degrees' despite Black Women being only 12.7% of the female population. Despite being the part of this illustrious class, Black women are still labeled with negative connotations due to biases, stereotypes, and being boxed in by White Supremacy. These labels and negative images furthermore cause racial hiring practices, low pay, and limiting opportunities even though we hold the most degrees out of women's demographics.

Black women are work mules on the job. Compared to White colleagues, they receive low pay wages and do the same work—Black Women's Equal Pay Day. While Equal Pay Day is in April, it takes Black women four more months to catch up. Black women received just 62% of what non-Hispanic white men received in 2018, which means it takes the typical Black woman nearly seven extra months to received what the average white man took home back on December 31.

Bottom line: On average, Black women earn roughly 38% less than white men every year for doing the same job.

Creating Accessibility to Quality and Cultural Mental Health Care

We have learned that Black Women are often the sole providers, caregivers, and matriarch of their families, which causes ongoing and underlying mental health and physical health issues. While we are busy taking care of others, we often neglect our care due to the busyness of life and lack of accessible cultural-based mental health care. Culturally, we created a stigma and self-barrier to seeking help outside of the Black Church, Community, and Neighborhood. Many have a mistrusting relationship when seeking professional help because 70% of Social Workers are White and lack the cultural competency to provide a culturally appropriate treatment plan to provide quality of care. There is no one size fit all treatment care plan.

We have to advocate for Black Social Workers to educate, inspire, and be a change agent within our own family and sister-friendly circles to create safe spaces for our Black Women to feel trusting and vulnerable to seek professional clinical help. Black Social Workers must make our mental health and physical health care a priority to make sure we are holistic healthy to care for our clients dignified, professional, and ethically.

Black clients, it is okay to seek professional help and no longer suffer in silence. Black Social workers have to make ourselves readily available to serve our Black clients with dignity, respect, and professionalism. We cannot allow White Supremacy dismiss and minimize the Black Experience. Black Social Workers are essential in every Black space client to live and have cultural and inclusive mental health treatment. Black Social Workers must normalize and make mental health accessible to all Black people, especially Black Women. Mental Health care is not a luxury but a survival tool to help Black Women and future generations of younger Black Women to seek refuge, restoration, and healing.


Banks, N. (2019). Black women's labor market history reveals deep-seated race and gender discrimination. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://www.epi.org/blog/black-womens-labor-market-history-reveals-deep-seated-race-and-gender-discrimination/
Black Women's Equal Pay Day 2020. Retrieved September 28, 2020, www.equalpaytoday.org/blackwomens-equal-pay-day
Degruy, J. (2019). POST TRAUMATIC SLAVE SYNDROME. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.joydegruy.com/post-traumatic-slave-syndrome
Says, J., & *, N. (2020, April 04). Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/woman-suffrage/disability-justification-inequality-american-history/
Stern, S. (2020, April 17). COVID-19 and Welfare Queen. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/scott-w-stern-covid-19-and-welfare-queens