And Ain’t I Your Base?

Shout out to the 98% of Black Women in Alabama who went out yesterday and carried this entire country over the finish line.

Absolutely and unequivocally, I honor you. I thank you.

Shout out to the Black voters in Alabama who went out yesterday and stood up to the voter suppression, who stood up to the nonsense, who voted common sense and did the right thing and carried a state over the finish line toward some sort of common sense and decency yesterday.

I’m taking the time to honor ya’ll because it doesn’t look like our party is going to. Time and again, Black voters have come out to support the values that the Democratic party has espoused to, only to have our efforts be ignored.

I love my senior senator but, I’ve really gotta say, this post from her on Facebook irks me:

What is this “we”? I’ve got a really big problem with the “we” here. Because the “we” makes that 98% of Black women who came out to vote the right way invisible, unwanted or heard; while also making the 63% of white women who came out to vote for Roy Moore also invisible, almost forgiven. Clemency is granted in the “we”.  Absolution is granted in the “we”. I’m all about broadening the base, wrapping our arms around the many to create a better body politic… but not right now. Right now, there is no “we” because “we” aren’t on the same page.

The supposed “sisterhood” is nonexistent. There is a very clear, very real divide between one group and the other. The exit polling shows that 52% of college-educated white women and 73% of white women without a college education voted for Roy Moore last night. That means that a majority of white women, who represented 31% of the total voting population last night, voted for Roy Moore despite everything we know about him and what he stands for.

And that’s…. unconscionable. As many of my favorite thinkers have pointed out, if a wide majority of Black women had voted for an alleged child molester/sexual predator in an election, pundits on cable television would be speculating on the moral degradation of the Black community, openly questioning our values, pointing fingers toward broken family structure, lack of education, etc etc etc.

And that’s why I’m angry about the “We.” Who are “We” if we aren’t being reflective? Who are “We” if we aren’t recognizing the people who did their part? Who are “We” if we aren’t going back to some sort of drawing board to figure out how the hell we are going to better message to the women who woke up yesterday and cast their vote against their own interest?

We’ve got a problem.

We’ve got a problem and I’m not actually sure that my party is equipped to handle it.

You’ll recall that 53% of white women voted for The Unspeakable Wretch during the last election. They did it despite knowing everything we know about the man, including, but not limited to, knowing that he has absolutely no respect for women of any kind, let alone being grossly unequipped to actually perform his job with any sort of minimal aptitude. They also did it in the context of a complicated, flawed, and yes, weak Democratic candidate with messaging that was confused and unremarkable. We learned that while white women in elite coastal communities went for the Democratic platform with wide margins, their counterparts in rural communities and mid-western communities were less than impressed. It’s easy to dismiss it as too small of a sample size. “It’s just Alabama,” I was told more than once today. No no, dearies. It’s not just Alabama. I’m sure there are other states where the split would have looked similar. The messaging that we’re using, the policies we’re touching on, our methodology of outreach is not working with this population. Despite a hell of a lot of energy, resources and talent thrown in their direction we aren’t actually gaining anything. There is a hell of a lot of land between the coasts and in 13 months of chaos, buffoonery, and failure of leadership, we haven’t figured out how to talk to the people, the women, who live there.

On the other end of the spectrum, last November, despite hearing a reluctance from the weak candidate to say Black lives matter, despite being passed over to have a person of color on the big ticket, despite a long history of harmful “reform” policies the gutted our communities by the candidate’s husband (and his appointed leaders), even having our children be called “super predictors” by the candidate, her husband and their powerful surrogates in the past, Black women came out and voted for our survival, supporting a candidate who didn’t love us. We did it though we have seemingly little voice or power in our party. This November, we were presented with a candidate who just wasn’t particularly interesting, is a straight-up, status quo, party kind of guy. He harbors little passion for the issues facing Black people in Alabama. He was just the sane alternative to Moore. Again, we voted our survival.

Time and again, we’re taken for granted, our issues wrapped into some sort of broader, sanitized message made more palatable for the demographic more coveted by officials: white women.

Here we are, 13 months later, and what have we learned? White women in America are not having a monolithic experience. Creating a party platform and focusing on the narrow interest on the white women of elite coastal communities does not actually speak to the experience of a large swath of women. Though there are concerns that are shared by a wide range of women, and there are excellent policies that help women in many communities and situations, the way we communicate those concerns matters more than we realize. We keep bringing cudgels to scalpel situations.

We’ve also learned that, though rarely rewarded for our loyalty, Black women show up for the Democratic party. We are consistent, we vote in higher numbers than our counterparts, we do our own translation of what policies mean for us (even when they aren’t targeted for us), and we show up for candidates who don’t look like us, don’t love us, and pop into our communities for saviorism or photo-op, taking what they need only to leave for greener pastures. We aren’t groomed, trained or encouraged to seek offices of power (outside of our very specific, gerrymandered districts, anyway). We are not supported equally if we do, indeed, achieve a spot. We don’t have a full seat at the party table. We should, but we don’t.

In the face of this context looking toward 2018, where we have a very real chance of flipping a House, and looking for 2020, where it is absolutely critical that we take back the White House, I have just one question: Ain’t I your base, Democratic party? Ain’t I a woman? A woman who votes? A woman who has always shown up, despite everything, for you?

Ain’t I your base? Ain’t I the woman you should be talking to?

Before you huddle in your meetings, crafting yet another message that broadens your appeal to a demographic who isn’t fully interested in you (because, to be clear, you treat them like a monolith, which is problematic), shouldn’t you also spend a little time on me? Black women aren’t living a monolithic experience, either. Won’t you step into my kitchen? Won’t you ask me a few questions? Won’t you come see what I care about?

Ain’t I your base?

You can’t do 2018 or 2020 without me. You’ll need everyone you can get, but you can’t do it without me. Ain’t it time you come see me? Ain’t it time you start listening to me?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. This made the news in my little corner of the great white north, I literally rolled down the windows in my car and hollered for joy, yelled out my thanks to these voters who made history the other morning…. Probably startling a few awake. You are ? correct, there needs to be more questions asked, more conversations had (I’m not a US politics guru by any means). I wish I had the words and ability to articulate like you but I do have a share button so I’ve passed your voice on in my corner of the world.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing! You’re always such a wonderful supporter! I hope this is a watershed moment for us but, honestly, I’m not so sure. Especially because net neutrality died yesterday and this tax bill is going to go through. It’s a rough end to the year.

  2. Trish says:

    May I print this and mail it to Dem. politicians?

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Sure, if you want to! I’m sure the intern who reads it won’t be impressed!

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