Don’t Just Thank Black Women. Follow Us.

Op-Ed Piece By Angela Peoples on Dec. 16, 2017

When I joined the 470,000 other women who walked down Constitution Avenue
toward the National Mall on Jan. 21, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, I
carried a sign saying, “Don’t Forget, White Women Voted for Trump.”

My message stood in stark contrast to the theme of togetherness that dominated
the Women’s March — the pink “pussy hats” and “girl power” placards, and chants
about how women would lead the resistance. This was exactly the point. I made the
sign to communicate that in a world where 53 percent of white women voters chose a
racist, elitist sexual predator for president, the idea that we all want the same thing is
a myth.

The point wasn’t to antagonize the Women’s March participants, who were
mostly white. Rather, I wanted to highlight that on a national level, white women are
not unified in opposition to Trumpism and can’t be counted on to fight it. Instead,
it’s the identity, experience and leadership of black women that we must look to.

Democrats want to position themselves as a pro-woman, pro-immigrant, proequality
party. We do ourselves a disservice if we believe the myth that a majority of
white women voting in the era of Trump are moved by that message. The numbers
don’t lie: For many white women, it’s racial identity, not gender or party, that guides
their choices in the voting booth. As my sign pointed out, in 2016 more than half of
white female voters chose Mr. Trump. A year later, in Virginia, 51 percent of white
women voted for the Republican Ed Gillespie, who lost after running an anti-.
immigrant, white-nationalist-sympathizing, Steve Bannon-backed campaign for

Last week, by late Tuesday evening, we learned that two-thirds of white female
voters in Alabama had once again voted for the Trump agenda, casting ballots for
Roy Moore, a man accused of sexually assaulting teenagers and one with a dismal
record on civil rights who was on tape saying the country was last “great” during

Despite this, the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, was able to score an unlikely
victory thanks to the historic turnout of black voters — specifically, black women. A
full 98 percent cast ballots for Mr. Jones. Ninety-eight percent.

If I had to make another sign after the Alabama election, it would say this: “Bet
on black women. Follow black women. Give power to black women.” I’d wave it in
front of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and every political
start-up’s office, and pass out copies to all those emerging resistance groups.

At a time when others are clinging to or are willing to tolerate political messages
rooted in white nationalism and fear, black women are the voters who’ve
consistently rejected these things. We’re keenly aware that issues that affect us and
our communities are always on the ballot, whether it’s access to lifesaving health
care, the fight to save public schools, or the imminent threat of police violence and
harassment. We know we don’t have the option to sit out elections.

It’s our insight here that Democrats should look to. The issues about which
we’re informed and passionate affect Americans of all races and genders, even if
others may not use their votes as wisely as we do.

We don’t just vote; we lead as well by mobilizing our communities to vote. In
Alabama, leaders like Lenice C. Emanuel of the Alabama Institute for Social Justice
and Felecia Lucky of the Black Belt Community Foundation spent years building the
infrastructure that led to Tuesday night’s victory. In Virginia, projects like In Charge:
Black Women Taking Action tapped into the turnout power of black women to
engage over 300 black female volunteers and contact nearly 5,000 voters in the final
three weeks before Election Day.

BlackPAC, led by Adrianne Shropshire, was on the ground before the elections
in Virginia and in Alabama, with an army of canvassers. Other groups led by black
women, like the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Project, Woke Vote and
Southerners on New Ground, do this work across the country and need support.

Instead of taking this political talent, enthusiasm and energy for granted — and
instead of wasting energy on white voters who don’t share its values — the
Democratic Party should invest in amplifying black women’s proven dedication to
the party. As a first step, perhaps some would-be candidates who think of themselves
as “next in line” should step aside and make space for more black women like
Tishaura Jones in St. Louis and Stacey Abrams in Georgia.

Black women are being widely credited for saving the day in Alabama, and that
credit is one small step in the right direction. But we don’t need thanks — we need
you to get out of the way and follow our lead.

(Angela Peoples is the founder and principal strategist of the political consulting group

Source: The New York Times

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