When Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama senate race in December, Black women were proclaimed saviors.
A whopping 98 percent of Black women voted for Jones, putting the one-time long shot ahead of accused pedophile, Judge Roy Moore.
While the Twitter memes and congratulatory hashtags went viral, the reality is that Black women have a track record of being civically engaged, leading movements, and voting the moral conscience of the nation.
We fight sexual abuse, from Anita Hill’s movement-creating testimony to Tarana Burke‘s #MeToo campaign.
We run and win elected offices, from the days of Shirley Chisholm‘s historic presidential bid to Keisha Lance Bottoms‘s Atlanta Mayoral win.
We innovate to create influential media and business, from Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN to Shonda Rhimes‘ Shondaland.
Still, we are often left behind and given the short end of the stick. Looking at how we fair in this country, one simply needs to acknowledge the stats:
Black women earn 63 cents on the dollar for their labor, compared to men.
Black mothers are dying at an alarming rate during and post-pregnancy, leaving them with the highest maternal morbidity rates in the country, compared to white women.
Black women still only comprise 13 percent of female characters on prime-time television.
These are issues that sit directly at the intersection of race and gender, requiring organized action and/or policy change to see any substantial difference.
So who will fight for Black women’s issues—besides Black women?
Towards a more inclusive Women’s March
On the first anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington, the single largest one-day protest in United States history, the country is also looking back to see how much progress was made.
The recently published book “Together We Rise” by the Women’s March organizers, retells the story of the march from insiders.
They say after D.C., thousands more women gathered locally for organizing meetings.
Then there was the October Women’s Convention in Detroit, which according to leaders was purposefully selected in a predominantly Black city undergoing renewal, and themed after Rep. Maxine Waters‘ rallying cry to “reclaim our time.”
Scholarships were given to local women from financially challenged and marginalized communities to attend. There was a session on white women confronting whiteness and privilege, and a panel on Black women’s community organizing power.
Although there were notable women of color throughout the program, a quick scan of the main hall appeared to show caucasian women were still the majority. So why weren’t more of us there?
Women’s March leaders like Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez and Janaye Ingram tried to center Black women in the conversation on purpose.
Despite criticisms last year that the Women’s March could never purposefully and properly include us, Mallory says the presence of Black women wasn’t an option.
“If we’re going to sort of change what feminism looks like, its not going to happen because we asked white women to do it,” said Mallory in an interview with theGrio. “We have to bust the door down and show up and take over.”
Mallory has acknowledged there have been tensions in the Women’s March leadership, precisely because of inconsistencies on addressing racism and including issues impacting women of color.
“We didn’t just go take a seat at a table that was already there,” said Mallory. “We built the table and at times we had to jump on top of it and say ‘Yo our issues are important.'”
The tensions allegedly have led to split up in the group’s leadership, with the creation of a new organization called March On. March On’s founder, Vanessa Wruble, says this group is explicitly focused on getting people elected, while describing the Women’s March as being more focus on race and social justice issues.
Power To The Polls
Other organizers of the Women’s March, however insist that they can play hardball on all fronts. They’ll host their own #PowerToThePolls event tomorrow in Las Vegas, focused on channeling “the energy and activism of the Women’s March into tangible strategies and concrete wins in 2018.”
As we look at all that Black women have contributed, to this country and to the leadership of the Women’s March, we hope that Women’s March Inc. will be loud and proud about why fighting for Black women’s issues matters, even if it turns some people off.
Perhaps it’s time to redefine a new sisterhood, where Black women who feel excluded, from what seems like a mainstream movement, will see tangible results that show black women are getting more than lip service.
Until then, we will remain unapologetic about positioning Black women in the women’s movement, galvanizing our political power, and challenging any woman who may be ignorant about why it’s necessary for our issues to matter.
In order to keep marching forward, they’re going to need to keeping fighting for us.