If you’ve kept up with how black women roll in American politics, what happened in Alabama last night should hardly surprise you. Per usual, black women showed up and showed out at the ballot box, helping Doug Jones win Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat in what was supposed to be a safe victory for Republican candidate Roy Moore.
All against robust voter-suppression efforts.
A Washington Post exit poll shows that 98 percent of black women voted for Jones, compared with the 63 percent of white women who voted for Moore, a man who faces accusations from several women claiming that he sexually assaulted them as teenagers. It is clear that black women are the moral force of America. Let’s keep it 100. Black women knew the stakes were high. Had Moore won, he would have been one more pro-Donald Trump degenerate black people had to contend with.
Black women said, “Nah, we gon’ come out and take care of this mess.”
They have always been enthusiastic about voting, as evidenced by the fact that they have outvoted black men since 1984 (pdf). Social protests, namely the shooting deaths of black men by police officers, have already energized black women to hit the streets. That they would harness that same energy to ensure that a racist woman hater would not win a Senate seat should surprise no one.
“Black women have been leading in grassroots organizing that’s been happening across the South and the nation for several years, particularly since the Trayvon Martin case,” said Bree Newsome, an activist who made international news for scaling a flag post to take down a Confederate flag in South Carolina in 2015. “Many interpret the resistance as having begun in January of 2017, but what we are seeing now is the electoral result of long-term organizing efforts spearheaded by black women. We were actively resisting racism and sexism before Trump and the Alabama Senate race.”
Comparatively, white female voters in Alabama proved, yet again, that they cannot be trusted. Essentially, as they did in the 2016 presidential election, white women chose their race over their gender. Upholding white supremacy and patriarchy is still their priority. It is understandable why so many of us declared that “black women saved America.”
But let’s be real. White women in Alabama did not really want to be saved. They voted for an alleged child molester. In reality, black women care about themselves and their futures. Republicans in the U.S. Senate support a tax bill that purges the middle class and rally behind a president who attacks Obamacare, which black women rely on and white women need, but they’re too blinded by their racism to realize it.
Meanwhile, #BlackWomen is trending on Twitter, celebrating the organizing power of black female voters. Black women took time to remind readers of what the next steps should be:
Speaking of some of the “y’all,” I asked Leah Wright Rigueur, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, why so many white women backed Moore despite his alleged history of sexual assault:
Many do so for complicated reasons, including the fact that they’ve voted Republican their entire life and can’t envision voting for a Democrat. Others do so for less complicated reasons: They support the Republican agenda and therefore will support whatever candidate holds the GOP banner aloft. And then, of course, you have people that will tie themselves in knots to try and rationalize their support of Moore, when, at the end of the day, it boils down to fact that they believe what Moore believes.
Black women didn’t do this just for Jones or America or the Democratic Party. It’s not as if the relationship is reciprocal in the first place. Black women showed up last night because they are the most eager for progressive change, even though they have historically gotten little in return for it. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is the only black woman in the U.S. Senate, and black women make up a mere 3.6 percent of Congress, according to Higher Heights. They make up just 3.7 percent of state legislators nationwide and 14.7 percent of all female state legislators in the country. There are only two black lieutenant governors in the union (both men), and no state has ever elected a black female governor. (Ahem, Democratic National Committee, there is a black woman named Stacey Abrams running for Georgia governor.)
Moreover, black women make 63 cents (pdf) of the white man’s dollar, despite being head of the household for more than 50 percent of families with children under 18. They suffer the highest mortality rates after childbirth, and 12 percent (pdf) are uninsured, twice the rate of white women. It’s as if black women keep investing in the Democrats’ stock but get almost no cashable return.
And while praise for black women on Twitter this morning abounds, people should consider how to look at black female voters beyond being mules for the Democratic Party.
“There’s a difference between ‘Black women should do the work’ and ‘We need to support black women who are doing work,’” said L. Joy Williams, chairwoman of Higher Heights. “It needs to come with resources and actual support, and not just tweets and retweets and a hashtag.”
The days of simply thanking black women for saving the day and giving them nothing in return must end. Black women running for office at all levels need money. Lots of it. The DNC needs to appoint them to positions of power in Washington, D.C., and at the local and state levels.
“The next step is for, not only the DNC, [but] the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], DSCC [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] and all of the Democratic operations ... to evaluate how much of their resources they are going to invest into black women and voters in general way before we get to the end of 2018,” Williams added.
That is the best thank-you the party and America could offer them.