It’s shaping up to be the year of the Black woman voter — and it’s about time the rest of the country knows what we’ve known all along — Black women are the heart and soul of a thriving opposition.
In Doug Jones’ senate bid in Alabama, in Ralph Northam’s race for Virginia governor (and even in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run), Black women voters turned out in droves and tipped the scale in these races.
In fact, Black women have been heading to the polls (in greater numbers than Black men and all other demographics) consistently for decades and, today, Black women are organizing themselves politically like never before. Black women candidates like Stacey Abrams, who is running to be Georgia’s next governor, are throwing their hats in the ring — and they are winning.
If political participation is a natural extension of an on-the-ground opposition, then Black women are the opposition’s not-so-secret weapon. However, our dependability as a voting bloc hasn’t translated to progress on issues that matter to us. For instance, the number of Black women in prison is twice as high as that of White women. Black women are paid a mere 62.5 cents for every dollar earned by a White male.
So where do we Black women, progressive movement trailblazers and social justice activists, go from here?
The 2018 midterm election cycle is a critical moment for us. We finally have an opportunity to elect candidates dedicated to real change on the issues that truly matter to our community. But we must also hold them accountable for their promises to bring better jobs, reform our criminal justice system and increase safety and security in our communities.
To harness and amplify the ascendant political power of Black women, Color Of Change PAC, the political arm of the nation’s largest online racial justice group, is working to train and gather Black women in many of the most politically competitive areas of the country. The PAC has already endorsed candidates in many of these races, including four leading Black women.
Color Of Change PAC is also investing in and empowering Black women to form political action networks in their communities. We are hosting Black Women’s Brunches, spaces for women to educate and mobilize themselves in the wake of the upcoming elections. We’re also conducting large-scale volunteer trainings — including one this upcoming weekend in Jacksonville, Florida.
This grassroots effort ensures that the politicians we elect are from our communities, share our values and are held accountable to us. What do we want? For starters, we demand that our representatives end money bail. We demand that prosecutors stop putting our children in adult jails and start holding police officers accountable when they break the law. We demand the end to unnecessary prosecutions.
It’s clear we cannot wait. Since the 2016 election, the United States has moved backwards. The government continues to destroy families by separating children from their parents —a practice our community knows all too well. The government inhibits access to prosecutor information and is blatantly indifferent to a corrupt criminal justice system that kills and brutalizes Brown and Black bodies at an alarming rate –without remorse. If we do not elevate our voices through our vote, we, as Black women, run the risk of losing power in a sea of pink hats and protest signs.
Because of our sheer numbers and power, we can hold elected officials accountable for their indifference toward our homes, families and communities.
We have lost too many voices already: Sandra Bland, Sasha Garden, Mya Hall, Shantel Davis, Miriam Carey. In their names, join us and be a part of a wave that is harnessing our collective voice through activism and through one of our most powerful acts: our vote.
Arisha Hatch is the director of Color Of Change PAC, the political arm of the nation’s largest online racial justice group.