Dear Black Women, It’s Time To Get Out The Vote & Save The Country…Again

October 25, 2018  |  

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Black women have organized and shown up to the polls in record numbers, ultimately saving the Union and advancing progressive candidates into political seats across the United States.

On November 6, millions of Black women will again head out to the polls, but this time in record numbers Black women are heading up the ballot as candidates in historic elections.

And political advocacy groups like MoveOn, are backing progressive Black female candidates, giving them the financial and political support needed to make change. The group has endorsed over 40 Black female progressive candidates for the upcoming midterm elections, raising over $1 million dollars in donations for said candidates.

“As we know representation matters now more than it ever was before. It’s important to have our faces–Black women, not just at the table, but running the table,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the National Spokesperson and Senior Advisor for MoveOn.

“Black women have been central, not just to the progressive movement that we’re seeing right now, but to the Democratic Party,” Jean-Pierre said.

For years now, Back women have been the boldest voices in the progressive movement, making their stake as advocates and activists. Our voices, central in the narrative that America needed to be more inclusive and forward thinking in its treatment of citizens. We tried in the presidential election of 2016 and succeeded in Alabama in 2017.

“Just go back to 2016, you had Black women as the highest voting group for Hillary Clinton and if you go a year ago to December of 2017 for the special election of Doug Jones, Black women won that election for Doug Jones, ” Jean-Pierre said. “We would not have a Democrat in Alabama right now as a U.S. Senator if it wasn’t for Black women coming out as 98 percent of the spokeshare.”

But what Black women voters need in 2018 is a return on the investment. Politicians who not only run and win because of our backing, but continue to mobilize in making our voices heard to meet our interests once they are elected.

We’ve fought for a seat at the table. We’ve run the table. Now it’s time to eat.

Maternal Mortality Rates

Midsection of pregnant Black woman holding belly

In America race contributes to an important public health crisis as Black women face a more significant health risk when it comes to maternal mortality rates.

According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers: 44 deaths per 100,00 live births. The numbers are also compounded by location. In New York City, black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers, according to a 2006-2010 study by the New York Department of Health.

Higher maternal mortality rates are seen across Black women of all socio-economic status, while contributing outside factors such as the wealth gap, racism, discrimination and access to healthcare play a role.

The issue also correlates to the medical community’s treatment of Black women and their inability to believe Black women’s depth and breadth of pain, leading to misdiagnosis, or no diagnosis at all.

LGBTQ Rights

Lesbian couple kissing in their kitchen

Black trans women are killed at the highest rate over any other group in the LGBTQ community. 2017 marked the deadliest year on record for trans people, especially for Black trans women, according to a report by Trans People of Color Coalition and the Human Rights Campaign.

In 2018, 22 trans deaths were reported according to research by the Human Rights Campaign. Out of that number, 16 were Black trans women.  Black members of the LGBTQ also have compounded issues that affect their livelihood, including lack of access to resources like housing and health care.

While getting out the vote is important, it would be remiss to not address the difficulties that LGBTQ voters face at the polls due to some state’s strict voter ID laws, which require up-to-date photo identification. The National Center for Transgender Equality Fund has a detailed list about what do if you are LGBTQ and receive pushback at the polls.

Abortion

After Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, many abortion rights activists felt the needle moving closer to the complete eradication of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 groundbreaking case which affirms the constitutional right to access safe and legal abortions in the United States.

While the undoing of Roe v. Wade requires e a long battle to the Supreme Court bench, Black women have to pay attention to the midterm elections because states have the power to limit and or regulate the process of abortion, prior to the procedure and leading up to.

According to a 2014 report by the CDC, non-Hispanic black women had the highest abortion rate (26.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (391 abortions per 1,000 live births), compared to Non-Hispanic white women had the lowest abortion rate (7.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) and ratio (121 abortions per 1,000 live births). However, even though the rate is high, the numbers have drastically declined over the last few years.

Though the rate for Black women is the highest, the numbers are not without reason. Wealth equity is low in the Black community, which then directly correlates to access of preventative methods like birth control and contraceptives. But, lack of access to legal abortions can have far worse effects on Black women’s health, including seeking out illegal and dangerous pregnancy terminating methods.

Pay Equality

Though 80 percent of Black mothers are the primary breadwinners for their households, Black women, whether they have children or not, only make $.63 cents to the $1 of what white men make. To put the number into context, Black women would have to work until August 2018, to make what a white man was paid at the end of December 2017.

The intersection of racism, sexism and discrimination, contribute to the factor that Black women are also paid less than their Black men and white women. Black women also make up the majority population of service occupations (food workers, domestic work, health care assistance) but make less per week than a Black woman working full-time in all other occupations. This is why a fair living wage is crucial, as it impacts Black women and their families directly.

Education

Though education is perceived to be the great equalizer, Black women with higher education consistently make less than their white counterparts. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black women accounted for 68 percent of associate’s degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of master’s degrees and 65 percent of doctorate degrees awarded to Black students during that time frame. A report by Demos found that the median white adult who dropped out of high school has 70 percent more wealth than the median black adult with some college education.

The harsh reality of relying on education alone will not lift Black families out of poverty and calls for candidates who will address the issue with funding and programming to close the wealth gap in America. This would also include a commitment to lowering the cost of college, which would help offset the pile up of student loan debt.

Mass Incarceration

While the school to prison pipeline has focused largely on Black men, Black women are also affected at an alarming rate. A 2016 report by the Vera Institute of Justice shows that since 1970, the number of women held in local jails has increased from under 8,000 to nearly 110,000. Approximately two-thirds of women in jail are of color: 44 percent are Black, 15 percent are Hispanic, and five percent are of other racial/ethnic backgrounds. Thirty-six percent of women in jail identify as White.

The spike in numbers is contributed to the fact that women are more likely to commit non-violent crimes or minor offenses such as drug possession. Candidates who are vested in jail and prison reform will need to back policies which enforce the persecution of low-level crimes, assigning adequate legal counsel at the beginning stages of a case, and alternative or diversion programs, instead of prosecution.

Immigration

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 28: Protesters demonstrate in Freedom Plaza against family detentions and to demand the end of criminalizing efforts of asylum seekers and immigrants June 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. More than 1,000 women from 47 states took part in the march that will end later today at the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Black migration to the states has dramatically increased over 36 years, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2016, there were 4.2 million black immigrants living in the U.S., up from 816,000 in 1980. The majority of Black immigrants in America hail from Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Trinidad and Tobago. Black migrants also hold high percentages of education and employment in America.

However, in terms of undocumented citizens, Black migrants make up 7 percent of non-citizens, but account for 20 percent of those facing deportation on criminal grounds. The deportation process leaves many families under a single parent household to shoulder the burden of economic pursuit. And with the Trump administration’s termination of the DACA program for new applicants, roughly 11,000 DACA recipients come from the countries that make up the largest population of Black migrants in the U.S. That means 36,000 Black migrants lost out on the chance to apply for the program. Given the numbers, it’s time to look at candidates who seek comprehensive immigration reform at the local and federal level.

Universal Child Care

Mother folding son (2yrs)

The sections above point out the underlying issues working Black mothers face to obtain wealth and wellness, but childcare is also a financial and emotional burden many working Black mothers face. As Black women have been primary domestic workers in this country since slavery, Black families intensely feel the strain as they often rely on patchwork care givers (reaching out to family members for help) to offset the financial costs of efficient child care.

Research has shown the positive effects of childcare, including increasing the child’s school readiness, which will no doubt positively impact children in the long run. Politicians should look into laws that provide access  to affordable, high-quality child care, including pre schooling for families, as well as providing more compensation and training for child care workers.

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