Following the big win of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s Senate race, one thing has become increasingly undeniable. Black women voters are a force to reckoned with. Black women are the most dedicated Democratic voting bloc in America.
Yet, Black women are woefully underrepresented in political offices. There are currently 535 members of congress – 18 of them are Black women. Senator Kamala Harris is the only Black woman serving the in the Senate. She is the second Black woman in history elected to the Senate, following the footsteps of Carol Moseley Braun.
This exclusion from the political process is largely due to historic economic and political disenfranchisement of Black communities – that has yet to be dismantled. As a result, even as the Democratic Party touts inclusivity – Black women (a stronghold of the party) still have issues with gaining support and getting the financial backing to run for office.
We are consistently locked out of the process of becoming elected officials. There are a few organizations trying to change that including HigherHeightsForAmerica.org, SheShouldRun.org, ColorPac.org, and VoteRunLead.org.
But we need more!
I will never forget how the Democratic Party left Donna Edwards out to dry when she ran for the Senate in 2016. It was a tragic loss highlighting the pains that Black women running for office face on a continual basis. Joan Walsh’s account of the race says it all:
The insurgent Edwards would have been only the second African-American woman in history to serve in the Senate. Her campaign placed that argument front and center, and in the end, Van Hollen used it against her, with allies decrying “identity politics.” But in “a message to my beloved Democratic Party,” Edwards used her fiery concession speech to warn that Democrats “cannot celebrate inclusion and diversity” while snubbing the multiracial, majority-female base that elects its leaders. “Maryland is on the verge of having an all-male delegation in a so-called progressive state,” Edwards warned. The diverse and grieving crowd of Edwards diehards roared its anger. “Let’s hear it!” an older black woman shouted from the balcony.
As Hillary Clinton rides to the Democratic nomination on the strength of African-American support—and with the backing of almost 80 percent of black women in Democratic primaries—the Democratic Party’s candidate diversity is an issue that will define the party, and may divide it, in years to come. There was a stunning racial gap in the race: Van Hollen won three-quarters of white voters, while Edwards won almost two-thirds of blacks. And among voters who supported Clinton, he beat Edwards by 13 points.
Though polls showed Edwards leading Van Hollen as recently as three weeks ago, the weight of the Democratic machine came down behind him in big and small ways in the closing days.
Following the 2016 elections and recent Alabama Senate race, it’s time for a reality check. I sincerely hope that what happened to Donna Edwards never happens to another Black woman candidate.
Black women are not simply voting to “save America.” We are voting to save ourselves. We are voting to break free from systems of oppression. We are voting to change this country so that one day we will have full access to upward mobility. Because we don’t have the convenience of forgetting America’s painful past. Who better to represent us than ourselves?
The “thank you” to Black women expressed across the internet is great BUT SHOW US THE MONEY!
P.S. Donna Edwards is running for Prince George’s county executive. You can support her race at https://www.donnaforprincegeorges.org. Because local elections matter too.
Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of Our Legaci Press. To reach Jessica, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.