Anthony Marqusee: Using the Racial Wage Gap To Support Anti-Racism

Anthony (left) at a Giving Project session

After participating in the 2018-19 Immigration Justice Giving Project, Anthony Marqusee wanted to keep the momentum going. “I started thinking about other ways I could contribute resources to social change while also finding meaning for myself,” says Anthony. Below, we’re sharing a reflection Anthony wrote about this challenge.

by Anthony Marquesee

Participating in the Giving Project this year was an energizing and educational experience for me. After my project ended, I started thinking about other ways I could contribute resources to social change while also finding meaning for myself. Back in May I was mulling this challenge over and thought about the racial wage gap (the differences in earnings across racial groups in the US). What if I took the gap between what employers pay Black and white workers, and donated that amount to causes promoting racial justice?

I decided to try it, using my income for the one month period ending on Juneteenth (the holiday celebrating the emancipation of slaves in the US). I figured that donating through this method would both support a worthy cause, and also help “bring home” the true size of the wage gap. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average Black American worker receives 73.3% of the average wage for a white worker, so I multiplied (100%-73.3%=26.7%) by my income for the month.

I donated the money to two community groups based in my neighborhood (Human Rights Coalition PA and Black & Brown Workers Co-op), and two one-time fundraisers that I heard about through acquaintances (BLISS Meadows and Let’s Help Uwizeyimana Angelique Finish College!).

In the end I felt that taking on this challenge was very fruitful. I learned more about the many Black liberation efforts that are ongoing today, and I was able to more deeply feel the reality of the racial wage gap. Like many people, I am inundated with facts and statistics about social issues, and I realized I had become numb to some of the reality behind the numbers. If you had told me before, “the wage gap is 26.7%,” I would have said, “that’s a lot.” But it wasn’t until I was actually giving up my own money that I realized, “wait, that actually is a lot.” I felt the injustice more deeply, and simultaneously felt I was doing something to support people working to end it.

I will share more about the process I used to choose the 26.7% number, and I also welcome any feedback on this project idea (and would love it if anyone felt inspired to try it themselves, on whatever scale works for them). Happy Juneteenth!

Note: see Anthony’s original post for footnotes on how they applied the wage gap numbers to their own income.

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