photo via Mindfood.com
Over the last couple of weeks, Viola Davis went viral on Twitter and Instagram after a video surfaced again of her talking about how people are telling her that she’s the black Meryl Streep. Viola pointed out the difference between payment opportunities for black women and those of white women in Hollywood. Viola Davis isn’t the Black Meryl Streep. She is a phenomenal woman, actress, wife, and mother who shouldn’t be labeled as anymore other than herself. As black women, we need to know our worth and understand the value we bring to the table.
Viola Davis is an Academy award winner, Emmy winner, and Tony award winner, but she doesn’t get the same opportunities and pay as others. No matter the awards, black women and men still have to work much harder to get the same roles as their white counterparts. Viola Davis had an eight-minute scene with Meryl Streep in the movie Doubt and stole the entire film. She is a world-class actress and she should be getting the same opportunities and pay that reflect that.
It’s disheartening that despite all her accolades, she still has to struggle to get the roles she wants and the pay she deserves. Everything that Viola said in her video is 100% accurate, and it’s even more frustrating that women, especially black women, aren’t allowed to say things like gender pay aloud without being labeled “divas” or “difficult”.
I remember when Scandal was on television and there was a scene between Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and her dad Rowan Pope (Joe Morton). The scene is very accurate today. In the scene, Olivia and her dad are at the airport after the news of Olivia and the president’s scandal comes out. Rowan is explaining his thoughts about the situation. As he goes on, he reminds Olivia what he has always taught her, “You have to be twice as good as them to get half what they have”!
And this quote is very relevant to today’s times of black women and even black men having to work harder than others to receive more opportunities. As black women, we can have the same qualifications as someone else and still not be valued in the workplace.The sad truth is that women of color, and specifically black women, are not paid what they are worth for doing the same work. Every little black girl deserves to grow up knowing they can achieve anything they want and get paid fairly for it.
Back in November 2019, Oscar winning actress and comedian Mo’Nique filed a lawsuit against Netflix over racial and gender discrimination. She called them out in January 2018 for offering her less than what was offered to white women and men for the same type of original stand-up specials. When the lawsuit came out, Mo’Nique released a statement on Instagram, saying she had a choice to make. “I could accept what I felt was pay discrimination or I could stand up for those who came before me and those who will come after me.” Mo’Nique has been saying that black women in this industry have always been mistreated for many years when it comes to pay.
Even though gender pay for black women is a big issue throughout Hollywood, it is also an issue in everyday jobs in the U.S. I remember I had an interview with a company where I was asked my worth. When I told them, the employer paused, smiled, and said no thank you after already choosing me for the job.
The employer basically told me that it was too much for this particular job. But I did my research and found out that what I asked for was the regular salary for this specific job. It was something that I had to be confident about and realize it was okay because I know that I am worth more than what they were trying to give me. It has been challenging at times to tell companies or employers the pay I deserve or ask for more, but I know it’s the right thing to do.
Throughout the years, we have always heard about white women in Hollywood advocating for same pay as their white male co-stars, but never really heard how they campaign for black women to earn more.
This August is #BlackWomenEqualPayDay- showing how far into 2020 black women must work to earn what white men made in 2019. Black women disproportionately are heads of household, with responsibilities to lift up their families and their entire communities. Our work is consistently undervalued in every industry. We have to work twice as hard, wait longer for promotions, and justify getting paid what we deserve.
It takes black women on average 20 months to make what white, non- Hispanic men make in 12 months. Black women earn 61 cents for every $1 earned by white men. On average, Black Women are paid 39% less than white men and 21% less than white women in the U.S. Black women shouldn’t have to play catch up. Because of this, we have to get comfortable sharing salaries and negotiating offers/raises.
It is encouraging to see Violas Davis, Gabrielle Union, Tracee Ellis Ross, and so many other talented black women in the entertainment industry creating opportunities for themselves when others won’t. Pay Black Women, Value Black Women, and Support Black Women. Period.