Tiffany D. Cross, Opinion contributor
Published 5:00 a.m. ET July 10, 2020 | Updated 10:01 a.m. ET July 10, 2020
Many states are planning on drastically different elections this year and mail-in ballots could be a big game changer.
We need all the support we can get from white women as we reimagine America. It will take everyone to decisively remove a racist from the White House.
One might think that at this point, Joe Biden choosing a Black woman as his running mate is a foregone conclusion. However, with a Democratic Party hesitant to lose the mysterious “swing voter” in a post-Donald Trump America functioning under the familiar dark cloud of emboldened armed white supremacists, I am offering no such prediction — just thoughts and prayers.
White voters may eventually be the minority constituency, but we’re not there yet. Ergo, electing a Black woman as the first t crack the glass ceiling at the most senior level of government will require some white women allies. And judging by the history of the feminist movement and previous underwhelming displays of solidarity, I have concerns about how this may pan out.
The relationship of the feminist movement and Black activism has long been peppered with mistrust. “We” didn’t “suddenly” arrive at this moment of change. Black women have been working, fighting, voting, running, building and sacrificing for a moment such as this for centuries. We have waged and won political and social battles, mostly absent the support of many white women. Which is why I can’t always support the feminist coalition at large. Both the movement and the news media’s coverage of it have long seemed overwhelmingly preoccupied with the suffering of white women.
Feminism is a story of white women
For most of my life the faces of the movement were white women. Gloria Steinem was the face of feminism, but not Shirley Chisholm. I was an adult by the time Angela Davis was regarded as a feminist. Even now, as many in the media prepare to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution by declaring that it’s when women got the right to vote — the omission of Black women is painful. Practically speaking, given that they were sidelined by the suffragist movement and kept from voting by restrictive state laws, 1920 is when white women got the right to vote. Not us. However, once Black women did secure our own path to the ballot box, we wielded that power with great authority. And continue to do so today.
A report from the Reflective Democracy Campaign found that in the 2018 congressional elections, there was a 105% increase in candidates who were women of color. They made up 4% of candidates and 5% of the winners. The 116th Congress is the most diverse the country has ever seen. Meanwhile, white men comprise 30% of the population but still hold 62% of elected offices at the local, state and federal levels. The political structure still overwhelmingly favors white men as the ruling class. And white women have been their biggest enablers.
This is why Trump has resorted to the only thing he has ever been able to run on — stoking fear among his base of white supporters, particularly white suburban women, in an effort to win re-election. But will they be frightened? Or disgusted? In 2016, an estimated 52% of the white female vote went to Trump. And let’s be honest, the president is just punctuating the same racist points he made before finding his way to the White House. They always knew who he was.
Take Roy Moore, who was accused of sexually predatory behavior. He secured a majority of white women voters in Alabama’s 2017 Senate race. In the Georgia governor’s race in 2018, nearly 75% of white women outpaced even white men voting for anti-choice candidate Republican Brian Kemp. A whopping 97% of Black women supported his opponent, Stacey Abrams, an African American who had served in the state legislature and was a staunch protector of women’s reproductive rights. During the 2018 midterms, white female support for the Republican Party dipped only slightly. Not nearly enough.
So now that the presidential election is coinciding with a racial reckoning centuries in the making, what will happen when candidates start to focus on people of color in their stump speeches? Which is long overdue, by the way. The Democratic Party has not won a majority of white voters since the 1960s.
Obama was a floor, not a ceiling
Biden choosing a Black woman as his running mate could potentially cast a wide net of influence legislatively if the VP pick adopts a comprehensive agenda that addresses housing, criminal justice reform, education, voting rights and more. Additionally, should Biden win the presidency and keep his word to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court, the judiciary could shift depending on how many appointments become available during his first term. And if a new crop of Democratic congressional nominees goes on to win in November, moderate Biden could be facing an increasingly progressive and even more diverse Congress if he beats Trump.
Will white women welcome this new terrain?
The demographics of the country are changing and new voters are entering the electorate. For them, President Barack Obama’s historic presidency was their floor, not their ceiling. Previously, young Black people and other voters of color could only envision the possible. And, for many, even that seemed out of reach. At this moment, people of color are reimagining America. And that blank slate has them seeing the impossible. Is it impossible for the bulk of white women to support this changing America?
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I hope not. It will take everyone to decisively remove a racist from the White House as voters will be facing an unholy trinity at the ballot box: GOP-led voter suppression, foreign election interference that specifically targets Black voters, and the devastating impact of COVID-19. Yet can we depend on many of these white women to vote in their self-interest? It aligns with ours, but still, that is the question.
As long as there are more Amy Coopers than there are Taylor Swifts, both racism and sexism will continue to dominate our laws and policies at all levels of government. It’s a system under which we all suffer.
Tiffany D. Cross, former Washington Bureau Chief of BET news, is a political analyst who appears on MSNBC, CNN and SiriusXM. Her new book, “Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy,” was published this week. Follow her on Twitter: @TiffanyDCross
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/07/10/black-women-2020-election-need-white-women-allies-column/5398311002/
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