After an anxiety-riddled race, the 2020 presidential election is over as Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate was officially hailed the president-elect on Saturday.
Black women helped usher in this election to claim victory for the fractured republic we live in. The numbers are clear, 91 percent of Black women voted for Joe Biden on Election Day, according to a NBC News exit poll, again the highest demographic by gender and race. And while there was dancing and jubilation over the weekend, we have reminded elected officials time and time again, our votes are not for free. And at this present moment, we can’t give anything up for free.
“Democracy doesn’t begin and end on election day, in fact it begins,” said Glynda Carr, President and CEO of Higher Heights For America, one of the nation’s largest organizations building collective power around Black women voters and Black women political candidates. “And so the work of Black women, Black women organizers, Black women led organizations moving into the next administration and in regards to elected leaders across the country is to do two things: hold elected officials accountable on the issues that are important to Black women, our families and our communities.”
With Vice President elect Kamala Harris making history as the first Black woman in the executive branch of government, the hope is that a potential and willing ear sits in the room to hear our needs, wishes and concerns.
“She, not only her qualifications as a local elected official, a statewide executive, a federal elected and now a member of the administration….but at the end of the day, she will approach this work intersectionally by the nature of who she is. Just the very being of who she is will put a discussion around race and gender on everything that this administration does. And that’s what happens when you have diversity at decision making tables.”
We no longer want tokenism leadership to reflect our ideals.
Yes Kamala Harris’ historic win is something that Black women and other communities of color are celebrating in overwhelming numbers. However, the Biden-Harris White House now holds the power to choose cabinet members and aides who come from different political ideologies who have worked in the Black Lives Matter movement. The Democratic party for far too long has taken the Black vote, and the Black women vote in particular for granted. It’s past due time to listen to queer Black women, Black femmes, Black trans women, Black disabled persons, poor Black people and produce policy that will get us all free: together.
COVID-19 is killing us.
There are over 230,000 people in America who died from COVID-19 this year, with Black people suffering disproportionately. The reasons are varied, but include the fact that Black people hold front-facing and essential worker roles at higher numbers, putting them at greater risk of catching covid-19. Black communities also suffer from health disparities and pre-existing conditions, as well as lack of efficient medical coverage. In August, a Brookings Institute report found that COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death for Black people in the United States. On Monday Biden’s transition team announced a coronavirus task force, signaling that political leaders who listen to reason and science will filter in as the Trump administration filters out.
Pay Black women. Period.
Across all industries, Black women are paid less than their Black male counterparts and are paid less than white people in totality. Black women make 62 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This year on August 13, we celebrated Black Women Equal Pay Day, signaling how long it would take for a Black women to make the same salary white, non-Hispanic men earned in 2019. Economic security is not the only way to gain better outcomes, but it is one way to access quality of life determinants in different areas including health care, education, housing. Closing the gap would also lead to creating capitol for beginning a business, creating our own banks, schools and cultural centers.
Prison reform and police reform cannot wait.
Black women no longer have the stomach to hold vigil for their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, uncles, fathers and brothers who were killed by police violence. Our Blackness and our humanity is not up for debate, they are linked. Black women account for the rising jail population, while Black men make up the largest population in jail. Black communities are disproportionately affected by police violence, both Black men and women are killed at excessive rates by the police. Biden has said that he plans to invest more money into law enforcement, which will only contribute to the cycle of violence. Biden and Harris have an opportunity to restore trust within their naysayers who believe they will only further a police-state. There is currently a bill stalled on the floor of the Senate, which includes sweeping police reform legislation. The Biden-Harris administration has an opportunity to fight for the soul of the nation, as Biden’s campaign mantra states.
The maternal mortality rate is birthed from medical racism.
Black women are dying pre and post childbirth at alarming rates. Black women are three to four times more likely to experience a pregnancy related death than white women. But the root of this stems from medical racism and the continued attack on our bodies. Historically Black women’s autonomy proved to be non-existent as many of the medical procedures used today in obstetrics and gynecology were derived from non consensual experiments on Black female slaves. In 2018, Harris introduced legislation which has neither advanced in the House or the Senate. As more Black medical and health care professionals like Lauren Underwood and Cori Bush, the fight to help save the lives of Black mothers should be front and center.
Black women are not a monolith and we may not always agree on where our energies should lie, but if there’s one thing Black women place their bedrock faith in, it’s community and the preservation of our families which hold our legacies.