White women, we need to talk about your votes for Roy Moore
Last night, Democratic candidate Doug Jones accomplished what many presumed was impossible: winning a historic senate election in the staunchly red state of Alabama. His triumph over repeatedly accused sexual predator of teenage girls, Roy Moore, did not come easily; between preliminary polls, a fervent Conservative voter base, and reported voter intimidation tactics throughout the day, the win was rather slim.
Jones’s monumental election – Alabama’s first Democratic win in 25 years – came largely at the hands of Black voters, especially Black women. Despite long lines and acts of suppression that literally sent hundreds of people home, 96% of Black voters arrived in support of Jones. More specifically, Black women once again led the Democratic charge with a whopping 98%, reminding many of their solid support of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Another trend reminiscent of the hellish 2016 presidential election: White women voted overwhelmingly for the Republican candidate (and alleged pedophile). In last night’s case, 63% of white women voted for Moore, despite accumulating accusations of sexual assault and campaign promises that would roll back women’s rights considerably.
Once again, white women — a demographic with unspeakable power to enact change — chose, in droves, to side against their own best interests.
While this phenomenon amongst white women may baffle some progressive voters, it is absolutely nothing new to Black women and non-Black women of color.
In fact, the white female voters’ insistence on aligning themselves with white men for a number of potential reasons (protection, internalized misogyny, preservation of white privilege, the list goes on) stems from the Suffragette Movement itself. While Susan B. Anthony and Frances E. Willard are still largely revered as matriarchs of women’s rights, both specifically voiced their opposition to extending the same rights to Black men. These anti-Black sentiments not only imbued the very movement, but caused a major ripple effect that continues to cultivate White Feminism today — a brand of empowerment that can have catastrophic results.
So with each election, we women of color – especially Black women – brace ourselves for the inevitable reminders that white women, historically, tend to prioritize their proximity to privilege over their gender. And that Black women’s votes will inherently bear extra weight, both statistically and symbolically. With the 2016 presidential election, the numbers didn’t shield us from unjust scrutiny from both pundits and self-proclaimed “liberal” civilians alike.
Now, with Moore’s defeat, we’re witnessing a seismic shift in how we’re being received: Political analysts, celebrities, and Democratic voters across the nation are thanking Black women for securing a victory that once seemed bleak. Today, Black women are being championed for saving an election and preserving some thread of moral decency within our government.
While the sentiment is nice (and, quite frankly, overdue) there are a few important things that we should remember when discussing the results of this most recent election and all others in the future.
For starters, Black women, at large, do not enter the voting booth with the intention of saving the world — as we’ve been credited with doing since Jones was declared the victor.
In fact, that ideology not only unfairly saddles us with battling supremacy on our own (which is simply not our job), but erases the fact that we, too, are constituents with our own interests. We cannot be expected to save the country from itself at every single turn.
Furthermore, the bulk of the focus should not necessarily be on what Black women have always done; it should be on what white women failed to do.
White women failed to stand up to a sexual deviant who campaigned on openly hateful, racist rhetoric. Twice.
Even as we watch an administration crumble at our very feet, there still seems to exist this vestige of hope among so many white women. They believe that standing alongside Conservative men, no matter how toxic, will lead them to prosperity. As women, we’ve far surpassed the time to question why that line of thinking exists. We seriously need to interrogate not only what they feel they are walking towards, but what exactly they are running from by repeatedly voting in this manner.
And lastly, simply thanking Black women for their voting power is not enough.
Seeking out and supporting Black female government officials, journalists, educators, and creators is an excellent start. Most importantly, seriously step up and encourage those around you to vote – and be – better.