It’s starting to become a little bit like clockwork. There’s a major national election, and all over social media there are overflowing streams of stories about how for Democrats, Black women voters are a lifeline. That without their over 90% voting bloc, Democratic agendas would die at the ballot box. Then well-meaning non-Black liberals and progressives write “Thank you Black women!” or “Listen to Black women!” or “Black women will save us!”
It’s true that Black women, no matter the age demographic, lead in voting percentages at higher rates than any other racial and gender groups in the country. It’s less reported that Black women are never voting to save “America from itself” — we aren’t voting to save your democracy. We’re voting to save ourselves. We’re using the most powerful collective tool available at our disposal to save our own communities from the racist, racist (yes I said this twice on purpose and not a typo), patriarchal, violent system that we’ve been saddled with by design.
This year in particular, as so many celebrated the election of Joe Biden and the defeat of the racist human horror show that is Donald Trump, one story began bubbling up — that for the first time since 1992, and after nearly 15 years of “almost purple” promises — Georgia was likely to vote for a Democrat for president (as of the time of this writing President-elect Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 14,057 votes in the state, 49.52% overall, a number that is going to be hard for Trump and the GOP to overcome, though they are trying their hardest to distract the media with their lies). More than that, the strong turn out had also forced a double run-off for Georgia’s two Senate seats — keeping alive the admittedly slim, but not yet impossible, margin of hope that the Democrats might still be able to gain control of the Senate and therefore Congress as house warming present for the Biden Administration. Giving us a real chance to finally have decent values in the laws of our federal government.
Black women organizers, like former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams of the organization Fair Fight or LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, and Nsé Ufot, the CEO of the New Georgia Project, became the focal point of this year’s “thank yous” — with Melissa Harris Perry, professor of Black politics and the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University, going as far as to make a biblical joke on Twitter that, “I’d like to see Joe Biden wash Stacey Abrams’ feet with his tears and dry them with his hair.”
When Stacey Abrams lost her 2018 gubernatorial race after rampant voter suppression cost her 55,000 votes — she didn’t just get mad. In a 2019 Vogue feature (aptly titled “Can Stacey Abrams Save American Democracy?”) she told the magazine that she “sat shiva for 10 days” and then she “started plotting.” Her plotting lead her to start the voting rights organization Fair Fight, which along with the efforts of so many other Black women organizers, registered more than 800,000 new voters in Georgia. Abrams told NPR that 45% of these new voters are under the age of 30 and 49% are people of color. But Stacey Abrams and these other powerful women first started organizing to turn Georgia Blue more than a decade ago. Georgia’s demographics don’t match its leadership, that’s a problem of voter suppression, and not a lack of desire. Organizers knew that with increased voter participation, as well as eduction around elections and voter rights — another future was possible.
A thing about America is that we like to celebrate our victories by saying a quick “thank you” and then just as quickly forget the past. But democracy doesn’t work like that. It requires that we remember. It requires that we work. Honestly, it requires that we never stop working. So if you’re excited that Black voters and organizers in cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta, and Indigenous voters/organizers in Wisconsin and Arizona, and Latinx voters/organizers in Arizona and Nevada, saved America from the majority of white people in this country who felt perfectly fine voting an incompetent, dangerous, racist, misogynist, wannabe dictator back into office — please remember these four things.
First, that none of those communities — who overcame forces looking to discount their vote at rates that are unfathomable and positively dystopian to the majority of white Americans — did that work to save you. Second, you can best honor them by championing (and pressuring your elected officials, especially if you live in “moderate” or “swing” districts, to champion) progressive values like economic justice, Medicare4All, Indigenous land rights, worker protection, climate change, and a radical transformation for how we imagine “policing” in this country that isn’t scared of words like “defund.” Third, that none of those values can be enacted until Democrats take control back of the Senate.
And finally, Number Four — much like Stacey Abrams, still stinging less than 10 days from her gubernatorial loss, there are only 55 days left until the Senate Georgia run off and it is time we get to work.
Look, I am not Autostraddle’s strongest political analyst. And that’s OK! We have a lot of very smart humans on our staff, and I’m proud to be their colleague and editor. I also believe in the good of our community to do actionable work. I believe we don’t have to be experts to help. And there’s still a Senate race win in Georgia (two of them, in fact!). So that’s why I am here today.
If you are reading this, and you are not Black, please heed my words: Black women do not need your flowers. We do not need your Thank Yous. Those overly effusive tweets and Instagram posts? We’re good. Being acknowledged is nice, it’s a beginning. But what we need is for you to follow the example that Black women have set for more than the last 200 years: Roll up your sleeves and Get. Back. To. Work.
Here’s a few places where you can start.
“Fair Fight Action engages in voter mobilization and education activities and advocates for progressive issues; in addition Fair Fight Action has mounted significant programs to combat voter suppression in Georgia and nationally.” (Founded by Stacey Abrams)
“We seek to achieve our goals with the following 5 core beliefs in mind: 1) The key to effective civic engagement and community power is understanding, respecting and supporting local infrastructure. 2) Black Voters Matter not only on election day, but on the 364 days between election days as well. This means we must support individuals and organizations that are striving to obtain social justice throughout the year. 3) Black Voters Matter *everywhere*, including rural counties and smaller cities/towns that are often ignored by candidates, elected officials, political parties and the media. 4) In order for Black voters to matter, we must utilize authentic messaging which speaks to our issues, connects with our hopes and affirms our humanity. 5) The leadership, talent and commitment demonstrated by Black women in particular must receive recognition and, more importantly, *investment* in order to flourish and multiply.”
The Black Voters Matter Fund does work in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Mississippi. (Co-founded by LaTosha Brown)
“The New Georgia Project is a nonpartisan effort to register and civically engage Georgians. Georgia’s population is growing and becoming increasingly diverse. Over the past decade, the population of georgia increased 18%. The new american majority – people of color, those 18 to 29 years of age, and unmarried women – is a significant part of that growth. The new American majority makes up 62% of the voting age population in Georgia, but they are only 53% of registered voters.” (CEO Nsé Ufot)
“ProGeorgia brings together the power of existing non-profit groups to work in a more strategic way, with new tools and technology, to change the policies of our state. ProGeorgia is building infrastructure by supporting, connecting, and coordinating civic participation efforts of our non-profit member groups. And ProGeorgia is implementing ways to win policy and electoral battles for progressive social change.” (Executive Director Tamieka Atkins)
“Georgia Strategic Alliance for New Directions and Unified Policies (Georgia STAND-UP), a Think and Act tank for Working Communities, is a Georgia alliance of leaders that represents community, faith, academic, and labor organizations that organize and educate communities about issues related to economic development. With the goal of alleviating poverty and encouraging regional equity through the empowerment of leaders and the inclusion of community benefits, STAND-UP empowers residents to ensure economic development meets the needs of their neighborhoods.” (Executive Director Deborah Scott)