By Glynda C. Carr
There’s an on-going conversation on social media these days questioning whether Black voters are going to sit out the 2016 election. From police brutality against people of color to the decades-long decimation that the school-to-prison pipeline has wrought on our communities and the entrenched poverty conditions caused by chronically low wages and inadequate education, Black folks are dealing with a lot these days, and many are frustrated that racial aggression has seemingly become more prevalent and plight in our communities more palpable.
The perceived lack of progress has some Black registered voters—particularly those under 45—saying they plan to stay home on Election Day and instead work to address inequities and dangerous prejudices through community activism. But not voting would be a tragic mistake, because mounting a successful tide-turning effort against the policies and actions damaging Black communities is not an either/or proposition. Yes community activism is necessary, but so too is turning up at the polls in November and casting well-informed votes from the top of the ballot to the bottom. This is the only way we can elect legislators who will work on the national, state and local levels to enact laws and policies that bring peace, parity and opportunity to our communities.
Black women voters have an especially important and powerful role to play in making sure we get elected officials who work to address our concerns. Over the past several elections, we’ve earned the distinction as the country’s most committed voters. Seventy percent of us went to the polls during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, giving Barack Obama the margin he needed to win two presidential terms. And though our voting rate was down in 2014 (as was every other group’s), we were still among the most active voters. In fact, while Black women account for just 6.3 percent of the total U.S. voting age population, we represented 9 percent of the 2014 electorate due to our high voter turnout.
Instead of turning our backs on these historic gains in voter activity, Black women need to figure out how to harness our power toward real change in this country and our communities. To do our part, Higher Heights is launching #BlackWomenVote, a voter-activism campaign which aims to ensure that issues affecting Black women are integral to the national political debate and that Black women are engaged leading up to and beyond the 2016 election. The campaign will provide organizing tools that help women get out the vote among their network, while the newly created Faces and Voices of #BlackWomenVote will dispatch Black women thought leaders, issue experts and community leaders to serve as media spokeswomen to ensure our issues are heard and heeded by politicians now and once they’re in office.
This is a pivotal election year—actually a movement building moment in which we Black women can solidify our electoral power and begin to wield it in ways that have effects well beyond Election Day results.
Glynda C. Carr is the Co-Founder of Higher Heights.