The Future is Female. Believe Women. Nasty Woman.
On a nearly daily basis, I see versions of the above phrases in hashtags, on t-shirts, in articles, on TV shows and in other mediums of mainstream media. These statements are celebrated in progressive circles and are used to fortify and galvanize women to take action in what’s become known as The Resistance. We are “ReSisters”, after all. Get it? Re-SISTERS?
But do you know what phrase I’m noticing doesn’t flow quite as smoothly in Resistance crowds? Elect Black Women.
Elect Black Women evolved from the concepts of Trust Black Women and Thank Black Women.
Trust Black Women is a reproductive justice movement created by SisterSong in 2010 in response to 65 billboards erected in Georgia with the picture of a young Black child and the message “Black Children are an Endangered Species.” Black women who exercised their reproductive rights were horrifically accused of committing genocide. SisterSong developed the Trust Black Women partnership to “increase respect, maintain dignity, and support Black women and girls with implementing reproductive health decisions that are personal, appropriate, accessible, and affordable.”
“Thank Black Women” developed from the knowledge Black women show up and show out at the polls for Democratic candidates, yet are taken for granted in political campaigns and policies. Black women constitute the core base of the Democratic voting bloc, but the issues that face Black and brown communities are rarely centered in political strategies and platforms. The exit polls following the 2016 presidential election showed 94% of Black Women voted for Hillary Clinton, as compared to only 43% of white women. It was a painful moment of reckoning for me, a white, cisgender, heterosexual woman, for sure.
“Thank Black Women” morphed into “Elect Black Women” following Doug Jones’ Senate win in Alabama, where Black women yet again voted en masse for the Democratic candidate. As white people screamed “Thank Black Women”, black organizers rightfully critiqued us and said thanking is not nearly enough. We need to Elect Black Women to positions of power. Higher Heights Leadership fund produced a report showing Black women remain underrepresented in all elected offices. Elect Black Women is a mandate to invest in capacity building for Black women in leadership positions and to stop exploiting their votes and their labor.
Despite all of this context and data supporting why it’s imperative as a democracy that we prioritize Electing Black Women, I’m finding the phrase causes a lot of discomfort in white spaces.
In early 2018, I purchased an Elect Black Women t-shirt, created by Rabble and Rouse, an Atlanta-based, Latinx-owned apparel line designed by my friend Vanessa Toro. Here are some of the reactions I’ve received from white women I’ve encountered when I wear the shirt.
“Why does your shirt have to say BLACK women?”
“We should elect the best and most qualified candidates regardless of race; are you voting for Stacey Abrams just because she’s Black?”
“I’m really worried unqualified Black women will be pushed forward if we keep saying ‘Elect Black Women.’”
“Maybe you should wear a shirt that isn’t so divisive. We need to bring people together to win and I worry white people will get turned off if we focus on race.”
Y’all. No one has ever pushed back when I say “the future is female.” I only get love when I wear another Rabble and Rouse shirt adorned with the statement Believe Women.
I have been very involved in Stacey Abrams’ campaign for Governor here in Georgia. Last week, Abrams, who is a Black woman, achieved a resounding victory in the Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, capturing 76% of the votes cast becoming the first African-American woman in the history of our country to be nominated by a major political party for the position of governor.
There are dozens of smart articles written about the nasty and racially charged primary, about Abrams’ bold new political strategy which centers the new American majority instead of trying to appeal to moderate white voters, and about her wallop of a win and what this means for Georgia Democrats moving forward.
Stacey Abrams is a brilliant woman and a brilliant politician. She is the most qualified candidate in the Governor’s race on either side of the aisle. Abrams is also unapologetically Black and speaks candidly about how her race and her womanhood has impacted her career. This makes many Democrats squeamish and there was a lot of anti-black rhetoric during the primary from her opponents’ team and supporters.
I know several people who only fund women or LGBTQ candidates candidates. Heck, there are long-standing organizations like Emily’s List, Georgia’s WIN List and Georgia Equality who are dedicated to these initiatives. But when someone says we should prioritize electing and empowering Black women suddenly we need to slow it down? This is anti-blackness. It’s misogynoir.
All politicians build their campaigns around their own identities and the identities of their base; yet it’s only called “identity politics” and spun into a negative when a person of color or a LGBTQ+ candidate speaks openly about how their identity has shaped their experiences. We must push back on the offensive notion that celebrating a candidate’s blackness is regressive. We must push back on the ridiculous worry that investing in Black women will somehow open the flood gates to unqualified candidates. Let us not forget, mediocre white men have held positions of power since the founding of this country.
We do not live in a meritocracy. We as white people, as white women, must never forget Black women have to overcome sexism AND racism in their every day lives. Black women are surviving a never-ending gauntlet we can never fully understand or appreciate as white women. But we can believe Black women. We can Trust Black Women. And we can Elect Black women.
I encourage all of us who are white to really sit with why we hesitate or feel uncomfortable with explicitly stating our support for Black women. Especially those of us who are white women. Why are we comfortable with women’s rights in broad terms and claim our allegiance to The Resistance, but not when black women are centered, who are the most marginalized amongst us? I am challenging myself to dig deep and answer this question. Will you?