“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” said Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
This year’s election has been repeated by many as the most important in our lifetimes and in American history. For Black women specifically, this election marks the first time a Black woman holds a seat in the second highest office of the United States.
We live in a country whose history is deeply rooted in the horrors of slavery, and who’s history has routinely attacked, killed and belittled Black women merely for being Black women. This election cycle proves that Black women are tired of not being heard or seen within the political imaginary of the United States. In the 2020 election, 91% of Black women voted for Biden – Harris ticket which proved to put Harris in the white house.
Harris said herself, “I want to speak directly to the Black women in our country. Thank you. You are too often overlooked, and yet are asked time and again to step up and be the backbone of our democracy. We could not have done this without you.”
As Emma Hinclife of Fortune magazine puts it, “of all demographics, Black women most consistently support Democratic candidates.” Vanessa Williams of the Washington Post wrote that in the 2016 election, 94% of Black women voted for then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and in 2008, 95% of the total Black voters voted for President Barack Obama.
Black women have been saving Democrats in general elections for more than the past three cycles, but what has the Democratic party done for Black women as a whole?
This election cannot be a repeat of past elections that promise “progressive reforms,” then become silent when people such as Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Korryn Gaines and many more Black women are killed due to police brutality and systemic anti-Blackness.
Fundamental change is vital to rupture racist stereotyping that goes on in every sector of America.”
It is time that policies of police reform, gender and race equality in the workspace, and notions of Black women being too loud or their hair being too nappy, be brought to the Oval Office. Fundamental change is vital to rupture racist stereotyping that occurs in every sector of America. It is not enough to merely have our faces represented in high ranking offices, but that our voices and thoughts are listened to and incorporated into decision making in the government at the federal and local levels.
For Black women, there is not only an ongoing war against COVID-19 but also a war against anti-black and misogynistic rhetoric and behavior that is deeply cemented in the American way of life. Harris will go down in history for being the first Black women to become the vice president, but we need to have a deeper conversation about why someone with her credibility and experience in politics wasn’t elected the president.
Harris was qualified, but as is the norm in America, Black women have to do 10 times the work needed to even be considered second for the job. This speaks to the way in which American politics has situated old, white and predominately rich men as the only people capable of leading this country. Old, straight, rich, white men should not be the norm when it comes to this country. Generations of this group have downplayed and created the conditions for racism and anti-blackness to spur and spread across geopolitical borders.
So yes, this election was the most important in our lifetimes, but not because we were able to vote a bigoted, racist and sexist president out of office. We all know that America’s history of presidents can check off most of those boxes, many of whom also checked the box for slave owners.
Rather, this election was the most important because it signifies that Black women are not just an important voting bloc. We are and should continue to be the deciding factor in elections. Black women are more than qualified and able to do the work of rebuilding this country. This is not to say that a Black woman’s job is to fix the mess that other people have created in the country, but it is to say that Black women should be respected, understood and heard when it comes to the decision-making calculus in this country.
Like Harris said, she is the first and won’t be the last, and hopefully the work that will be done in the next four years will prove that Black women are here to stay in whatever office they choose to serve in.