“It was like starting from scratch,” she said.
And Azariah Baker, a 15-year-old in Chicago, is caring for her 70-year-old grandmother, who suffered a stroke in early 2020, and her 2-year-old niece. Her grandmother is the legal guardian for Azariah and her niece, but since the stroke that left her extremely tired with blurred vision and headaches, Azariah has been doing the heavy lifting at home. She woke up at 7 a.m. every day, made everyone breakfast, and then logged into the virtual school at 8 a.m.
When school was out, she worked in a grocery store. Then she came home and cooked dinner. She often felt overwhelmed. “I remember preparing dinner one night and having a panic attack. I was crying, I felt I couldn’t breathe and my heart was racing, ”Azariah said.
“But then my alarm went off about something in the oven,” she said, putting aside her own needs.
These three stories sum up how the pandemic affected the lives of young black women in the United States, even if they were not directly affected by the coronavirus. Black and Hispanic teenagers were more likely to have lost a parent or family member to Covid-19. They have fallen further behind in school than their white counterparts and have had far higher unemployment rates than older adults and young white women over the past year, even in summer when youth employment tends to rise. Some of those who held new jobs or found new jobs became major breadwinners because their family members were more likely to be laid off.
According to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, teenage black and Hispanic girls were more likely than white girls and their male counterparts to take responsibility for home care. At the same time, they led demonstrations for racial justice across the country, especially last summer, and directed their energies to combating and changing systemic inequalities.
“Black girls were at the forefront of racial justice movements, they were important workers, and they were the main caregivers,” said Scheherazade Tillet, a founder and executive director of A Long Walk Home, an organization that empowers black girls in Chicago. “There is no other group that was all of these three things at once.”