We all saw what happened in the Alabama senatorial election last Tuesday night.
First Black people (specifically Black women) donned our invisible capes to literally save the day by showing up in record numbers with 98 percent of Black women and 94 percent of Black men casting their ballots against Roy Moore.
The votes pushed Doug Jones into becoming the first Democrat in 25 years to hold that Senate seat. There is indeed power in the Black vote and Tuesday night left no doubt.
While everyone is thanking Black women for staying woke and proving Black votes do matter, what will it mean for the community in the long run?
Charlene Carruthers, strategist and organizer of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) said it best in a tweet posted after the election results.
“Black women are not political mules to be used every time a mediocre candidate needs to win. No amount of verbal appreciation will do us justice. Turn over the money, resources and power, then we can talk,” she said.
The Black community always “shows up and shows out” when and where it matters. Yet, we remain marginalized and disproportionately disadvantaged despite a pronounced loyalty to the Democratic party.
We have seen little in the way of reciprocity, significant policy change and reform as social inequalities continue to plague Black communities at alarming rates. Here are some examples of some areas that affect us most and what Democrats can do to make good on their word.
Problem: A mid-2017 analysis conducted by the Wall Street Journal, found “that only 5 percent of mortgages were offered to African-Americans in 2014, down three percentage points from seven years earlier. Meanwhile, white Americans saw their percentage rise by five points during that same span.” These numbers hold true in 2017.
Solution: Elected officials can create or revamp existing programs specifically targeting families who pay more than 30 percent of their total income toward housing costs (which according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) makes them a “cost-burdened” family), to become eligible for government provided subsidies and grants, making affordable home ownership a real possibility. They can also work with mortgage lending institutions to end discriminatory lending practices and create instruments that work for those who fall within in the low-to-middle income bracket.
Problem: According to the 2016 Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, at grade 12, the white-black achievement gap in reading was larger in 2013 (30 points) than in 1992 (24 points). On average, there is a 30-point difference between the scores of white and Black children on the same reading assessment and standardized testing instruments. At grade 4, the white-black achievement gap in mathematics remains at 26 points within the same time frame. The total college enrollment rate for white 18- to 24-year-olds in 2013 (42 percent) was higher than the rates for their Black and Hispanic peers (34 percent each).
Solution: If held accountable, elected officials can fully fund “My Brother’s Keeper” a public-private mentorship program launched by the Obama administration aimed specifically at ensuring minorities enter and graduate from college. We also need improved coordination between Head Start, The Childcare Development Fund (CCDF), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), three federal early childcare and education programs that have been proven to significantly close the achievement gap from the beginning of a child’s educational life.
Problem: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Health Equity states, “though health indicators such as life expectancy and infant mortality have improved for most Americans, some minorities (African-Americans) experience a disproportionate burden of preventable disease, death, and disability compared with non-minorities.” Black men live on average six years less than white men while Black women live on average four years less than white women. Infant mortality rates are two times higher for Black babies. The primary reason is simple: access to affordable healthcare.
Solution: Reduce the barriers to accessing affordable healthcare by forcing healthcare providers and insurance companies to lower their costs. Elected officials can also pass legislation that adopts a universal healthcare model ensuring all can receive access to healthcare regardless of socio-economic standing and level of income earned.
Problem: In a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research entitled, “The Gender Wage Gap: 2016; Earnings Differences by Gender, Race and Ethnicity” indicates, “real median full-time, year-round earnings increased or stayed unchanged for women in all major race and ethnic groups except Black women.” In its 2017 report, the U.S. Census Bureau states that Black women earned only 62.5 percent of what their white male counterparts earned in 2016.
Solution: The Obama administration established the Equal Pay Rule that would have required large companies to report how much they pay workers by race and gender. The rule was intended to help close the persistent wage gap between men and women, as well as between racial groups, through greater pay transparency. The Trump administration has since halted this effort in one its first acts and has yet to provide an alternative.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters said earlier this year on MSNBC, “we have a responsibility as elected officials to do good public policy for the best interest of all the people.” This includes those Democrats who have been elected into office primarily by black voters. We are looking at you to step up, honor your campaign promises, and keep your word when you say you will address our systemic, structural, and endemic inequalities. We want real and lasting change that translates into reform and legislation. There is no one-way street and that is the big payback.