Does Our Vote Even Matter? Report Shows How Black Women Are Forgotten In American Politics

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December 9, 2013 ‐ By Ann Brown

Have black women been forgotten by the political machine even though they vote in high numbers? Yes, say many. According to a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) entitled “The State of African-American Women in the United States,” the crossroads of racial and gender disparities meet at the experience of black women. Yet, in the last presidential election, black women had the highest voter turnout of any comparable group in the country.

Despite experiencing socioeconomic inequity more than anyone else, African American women vote more than all others (and generally in favor of the Democratic candidate). This is important for two reasons notes Theodore R. Johnson in Salon. First, the policy concerns of African American women have gone largely unaddressed. Second, although there is evidence of the black electorate leader, there is not much effort by candidates to work hard for those votes. And the Republican Party assumes it is impossible to grab the black vote. The Democratic Party knows it can depend on overwhelming support from the black community.

In a 2011 poll from the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation, the issues that black women were most concerned about included employment/personal finances, healthcare, and crime. Even exit polls from last month’s Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections highlight the same concerns.

Stats will tell you these concerns are not being met. The CAP report reveals that 1 in 4 black women are uninsured. In education, African American women are underrepresented in college degrees, have the slowest increase in graduation rates of all women, and are the most severely underrepresented in technical fields, reports Salon. Economically, black women have a higher rate of unemployment than white women. This rate rose in 2013. Also, black women’s income is less than all men and white women, and their poverty rate is the highest in the country.

Even will all these disparities, the Washington-Kaiser poll discovered that nearly 3 in 4 black women felt it was a good time to be a black woman in America, and 85 percent say they are happy with their lives in general.

“Perhaps most interesting, black female entrepreneurs are the fastest growing segment of the women-owned business market. They are starting up at six times the national average, grew in number by 258 percent over the last 15 years, and generated nearly $45 billion of revenue this year,” reports Salon.

The surprising thing is that even with this political alienation, black women still vote.  A Harvard Journal of African American Policy paper titled, “Political Cynicism and the Black Vote,” points to an important difference in black voting behavior. The authors theorize that unlike other races, when black voters have high cynical attitudes – such as the feeling of political alienation – they vote in higher numbers. So this could explain why black women voting rates consistently rise despite their political alienation.

“The political alienation of black women may prove beneficial to the winners who are swept into office from their high turnout, but the failure to adequately address the disparities they experience dooms any attempt at sound social policy,” notes Johnson in Salon.

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