By Jhumpa Bhattacharya | Ms. Magazine

The COVID-19 crisis has revealed how deeply flawed our social safety net is.

In the last four weeks, close to 22 million people have applied for unemployment, and families across America are sleepless at night wondering how they will keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

It is increasingly clear that what people need most is a direct, sustained, unrestricted cash benefit. The question on many people’s mind is, “How do we get there?

The answer: Start with Black women.

Policymaking does not happen in a vacuum. Multiple factors determine which policies can get passed—and which can’t—and among the main drivers of policymaking are narratives. More than just stories, narratives contribute to our understanding of the world. They are our cultural frames of reference and mental models, and play a significant role in how leaders create and implement policies.

Black women have been the subject of the most horrid, false, and damaging narrative—the myth of the “welfare queen”—which depicts them as promiscuous, dishonest and undeserving of public benefit programs. Politicians have used this narrative to systematically dismantle and divest from our social safety net. And this narrative also places hurdles in the movement toward Guaranteed Income.

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