The Democratic Party has experienced an 11 percent drop in support from black women, while “the percentage of black women who said neither party represents them jumped from 13 percent in 2016 to 21 percent in 2017,” according to the 2017 Power of the Sister Vote poll, conducted by the Black Women’s Roundtable, an intergenerational public policy network, in partnership with Essence magazine.
The poll results were revealed Wednesday during the Congressional Black Caucus’ Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
Please watch the in-depth panel conversation below in its entirety:
The brilliant Avis Jones-DeWeever made it clear that 53 years after Mississippi freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer cried the words, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” more black women in the United States are ready to take on the white savior of political parties: the Democrats.
As I’ve written previously, the Democratic Party is hell-bent on coddling the so-called white working class—as if these particular poor white folks who voted for Donald Trump aren’t just economically frustrated white supremacists—instead of focusing on and building with disenfranchised and oppressed communities who have remained doggedly loyal despite being taken for granted and advantage of time and time again.
While this conversation is not new, and even though 94 percent of black women decided to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, there still seems to be a prevailing train of thought that the shift in allegiance can be attributed to millennial black women who have lost the stars in their eyes.
For example: The New Republic quotes Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) as saying that young black women have been jarred by the bigots in the White House because things were “well” under President Barack Obama:
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat in the Congressional Black Caucus, addressed the news after the poll’s release at the Washington Convention Center. “I respect independents. I understand independents,” she told the crowd, arguing that her party needs to do more to communicate its values. “I’ve never said I’m in the Democratic Party because I like to party,” she said. “I’m in there because of values.”
Speaking to reporters, Jackson Lee attributed the decline in support to younger voters. “Every generation has a different way of looking at life,” she said. Today’s young people came of age under President Barack Obama when “all was well,” so now the Democratic Party needs to “talk values” particularly to younger black women.
“All was well.”
Jackson Lee is not alone in this thinking, which is infantilizing at best, but we need to be clear here.
The Movement for Black Lives became the throbbing pulse of this country—indeed, the world—during the Obama administration not because all was well but because our children were—and continue to be—slain in the streets by white supremacists wielding badges, guns and state-sanctioned murderous power.
In the case of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, black police officers actively participated in a state-sanctioned lynching that occurred in a city with a black mayor, in a nation with a black president—both of whom had the audacity to call traumatized black people “thugs” for destroying property, while hopscotching around the fact that thugs in blue killed a man.
All was not well.
All was not well when Sandra Bland was effectively killed by the state for refusing to bow to a white man in uniform who quivered with rage at her freedom. State Trooper Brian Encinia did not pull the trigger, but Bland’s blood is on his hands.
All was not well when Democratic bulldog Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor, pushed for the shutdown of public schools primarily serving black students to balance his budget, while participating in the coverup of the police execution of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
All was not well when Oklahoma City Police Officer Daniel Holtzclaw raped 12 black women and one black girl, and Democrats stumping for votes failed to call out predators in uniform that hunt black women simply because they can.
All is not well when black women in the Deep South do not have access to reproductive health care, but establishment Democrat Nancy Pelosi has the gall to say that reproductive justice should not be a make-or-break issue for Democratic candidates.
When median wealth for single black women is only $100, compared with approximately $41,000 for single white women; when, in 2013, black girls became the fastest-growing juvenile-incarceration population, all is not well.
All is not well when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is blatantly misrepresenting his record on marijuana reform, while black people continue to be disproportionately impacted by draconian laws that enable the carceral state known as the new Jim Crow.
No, many black women who understand these things understand that all has never been well within the Democratic Party. It has long been clear that resisting white supremacists like Donald Trump and his sociopolitical criminal enterprise, while insisting that a party that campaigns primarily on being better than the opposition is our only hope, is life-threatening.
This is about much more than “values” and loss of political innocence, though liberals continue to intentionally frame it that way; this is about strategic, institutional, violent oppression that continues to decimate entire communities. This is about the Democratic Party’s refusal to expend political capital on black women because it has been given every reason to believe that black women will continue to vote blue because the alternative is too reprehensible to fathom.
No, all is not well. Black women are rising up and saying that this nation is sick and the sickness is contagious.
Positioning centrism as radicalism when contrasted with white nationalism is sick.
Expecting black women to strategize themselves into early graves in repeated, relentless but ultimately futile attempts to save a nation from itself with no hard commitments in return is sick.
It is no longer enough to trot out black faces with white politics and call it progress.
It is no longer enough to prop up black women in placebo positions of power while the same vulture capitalists hold the purse strings and the same black-robe-wearing white supremacists on the bench hold the prison-door keys. It is no longer enough for Democrats to pretend that “we have a fine home here,” when black women are still made to enter through the back door and disappear when company comes over.
For many black women, it hasn’t been enough for a very long time.
The only people surprised by the results of the 2017 Power of the Sister Vote poll are those who haven’t been paying attention to the black women on the ground risking their very lives because they can see, feel and taste a different world not built on their cracked backs.
These are the liberals in power who didn’t pay attention—while black women paid in blood—even when it would have cost them nothing. Now, hopefully, it will.
If this poll is to serve as any indication, it already has.