Two weeks ago first lady Michelle Obama gave an interview to News One in which she stated that black women are her husband’s most loyal voting base. She is correct. In 2008, black women gave President Obama his largest base of loyal voters.
Despite this fact, once again, with two presidential debates now behind us, and one vice presidential debate having passed, black women and our concerns have yet to be mentioned in either moderators’ questions, or questions from Town Hall participants. This is disappointing because not since when Gwen Ifill of PBS moderated the 2004 vice presidential debate has a question about black women been asked, or our unique issues as a subset of women in America been addressed.
In the second presidential debate, there was one Latina woman who asked a question about immigration. One Caucasian woman asked about equal pay for equal work. No one spoke for the group in America most acutely impacted by bad economic times, failing schools in America, health disparities, AIDS/HIV infections, EEOC discrimination filings, having to hold it down as single heads of households and more. That group of people is black American women.
The fact of the matter is black women wield a lot of political clout as voters in the Democratic party, but still hold few position of prominence and power. Yet, we are expected to go to the polls and have a palpable impact upon the outcome of the 2012 election. As that is the case, then we too, at the very least, should have our agendas and needs addressed in a televised presidential debate by both the president and former governor Romney. So far, that has not happened.
As an author of a book about redefining black women in the 21st century, how we view them, love them, and support their needs, I find this oversight troubling given the fact that President Obama in particular needs to do very well with black women and black voters in my home state of Virginia and other battle ground states.
For Romney, although he will not likely win large numbers of black and brown supporters, he will, should he be elected, be the president of “all” people. Ironically, Mitt Romney — with his pro-business stance — should be trying to court this group of women voters most of all because black women are the fastest growing group of Americans to run or own a small businesses. Not only are more minorities than ever creating small businesses, they are also becoming a significant segment of the population overall. If the Romney campaign does not recognize this, it is a gross oversight on its part or neglect of the worst kind.
This potential voting block could be critical for their side in a very close election year.
After watching the debate last Thursday, I was encouraged by the passion of both candidates on all the issues, but I could not help feeling as a black woman that the things I care about were not even mentioned. If the first lady, who I adore, can figure out that black women have been the most loyal to her husband’s campaign, then I hope she will tell him and his team to address head on some of the issues that uniquely and disproportionately impact black women. After all, our vote counts, too.
Our voice counts as well. And our issues, like all those of all Americans, should be raised and addressed in the national discourse by both presidential hopefuls directly, to demonstrate that we are seen by the parties with the value we hold as important voters.
Sophia A. Nelson is a journalist, award winning author and entrepreneur. Her book, Black Woman Redefined, has been discussed in various media outlets. Follow Sophia A. Nelson on Twitter at@SophiaRedefined.