Black Women Voting Bloc, Political Rock
By Gwen McKinney,
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.
Lessons abound in that battle cry of a multiracial band of women who locked arms against apartheid in 1956. Some 20,000-strong, they defied spouses, convention and the dangerous era, resisting and rising up until the walls of apartheid South Africa came tumbling down.
Fast forward 60 years to the world’s most celebrated democracy.
Witness our rock, embodied in Black women who showed up to the solid rhythm of 93 percent – the largest voting bloc of any demographic group for either major presidential nominee.
Perhaps our resounding voice inspired the call for a Women’s March on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. An initiative that sprung up from Facebook, they initially called for “A Million Women March” but had to withdraw that pithy title because Black women had been there and done that in a 1997 Philadelphia demonstration.
This viral movement, like so many social media creations, seems absent an institutional structure or core. But their preamble is an impassioned call to arms.
“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore…We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
Sounds good. But my eyebrows arch. Dating back to the Suffrage movement, Black and White women alliances have been tricky. In spirit there’s much common ground, but the path forward tends to be punctuated with contradictions and allegiances that undermine our very reason for unity.
Despite my skepticism, we have no choice but to give this thing a chance. In the time of Trump, politics as usual won’t work. Our response must be proportional to what has become an un-normalized reality.
Black women have set the standard. Our choices and actions have always been unambiguous, underscored in the November 8 election. Whether cast as a vote against Trump or for Hillary Clinton, we aligned in the best interests of our country. We nationally outperformed higher educated and lower educated; professional and working class; blue, pink and White collar, across all gender, racial and ethnic groups.
Unlike our White sisters, our politics are not informed by our marital status (single White women performed almost 20 points higher for Clinton). Ours is not a choice between crashing a glass ceiling or plummeting into an abyss of White male authoritarianism.
White women forged predictable bedfellows, joining their husbands and fathers in the Trump upset – 53.5 percent overall (65 percent among non-college educated White women). Our voting bloc transcended class, geography and educational status in the Black community. So not by accident, the runner-up for the largest solid voting bloc was among Black men who showed up 80 percent against Trump.
Our vision of making America great defies appeals to the aggrieved White working class or a reversal to the past. Carrying grievances that predate any election cycle, our view of national greatness envisions a future where opportunity and equality thrive for everyone.
Regardless of educational or economic status, Black women remain consigned to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. Look no further than 2015 median hourly wage gap. White men earned $21 per hour compared to $17 for White women, $15 for Black men and $13 for Black women (Hispanic men and women $14 and $12, respectively).
Slugged by the double whammy of race and gender discrimination— whether wage earners, annual employees or business owners – we work three times as hard to get one-third as much.
Black women sounded an alarm in the presidential election. Our “women’s issues” are defined by life and death propositions: over-policing and gun violence that is terrorizing our communities; mass incarceration tracking our kids in a prison pipeline; health inequities condemning us to live sicker and die quicker; and the ever-spreading wealth gap following us from the womb to the tomb.
For all the reasons that Trump voters went the wrong way, we traveled north. Democrats (small “d”) and bridge-builders, we reject the wedges and divides that are a standard feature of Trumpism. America’s greatness is not calculated by zero-sum game mathematics. Opportunity and equity have a trickle-up effect.
The desperation of the White working class can only be fixed by an assault at the root.
When White men struggling in the hollowed out “rust belt” get a fever, we (who live there too) catch pneumonia. Leave us in the cold at your peril. Economic dislocation is a contagious disease.
White women – and all people of good will – join with us! Black women have persevered in rough and turbulent waters since the dawning of America. Together address our leaking vessels; avoid the shipwreck by locking arms to meet the surging tide.
And all boats will rise.